Goal!, written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by A. G. Ford is the story of a group of boys who live in South Africa and love the game of soccer, or rather football. Ajani is the owner of a new federation-size football, his prize for being the best reader in the class. Ajani calls his friends into the street to play football with him, but one friend always has to be on the lookout for bullies. Sure enough, the bullies come into the street unnoticed by Badu, the first friend to sit out and keep watch. Luckily, Ajani kicks his new federation-football into the bucket, hiding it from the eyes of the bullies who think that Ajani and his friends have been playing with Jamal’s old ball. The bullies think they have won and take Jamal’s old ball but as soon as the bullies leave, Ajani and his friends go back to their game of football. The friends feel like they are playing in the World Cup game, and though the streets are not safe, when they play together, they feel unbeatable.
Following the end of the story, there is an Author’s note that is very informative and helpful. Javaherbin points out that “to this day, in the face of poverty, bully rulers, and unsafe alleys, people play soccer. Through war, revolution, and hardship, people play soccer. […] In all corners of the world, people play soccer. Soccer bonds. Soccer makes both young and old feel that they belong, that they matter, and that they can win.” Javaherbin also comments on all the different reasons why the friends of this story play soccer.
The message that the author Javaherbin is trying to portray is a great message that allows students of all backgrounds and cultures to relate to this book, and that is why it is such a great one! Goal! shows the power of a simple game to unite people and inspire them to overcome any hardships or difficulties in their lives for the love of a game and the bond that is created when playing that game. Like Jayaherbin wrote, football (soccer) is played all over the world so it is something that all people can know about and relate to in some way.
The one thing that I dislike about this book was that on the first page, the author called it “soccer” rather than football which is what the characters of this story would call this game. However, on all of the other pages, Javaherbin calls the game “football” which is culturally correct but then inconsistent with the way she began the book. I wonder if the reason why Javaherbin started the book with the use of the word “soccer” was because she knew that this book would be read by an American (or Canadian) audience that would be accustomed to calling this game soccer.
Goal! is well written so that the audience is feeling apprehensive and worried as the boys play football because they are at first unaware of what the boys are on the lookout for and then worried that the bullies will come. When the bullies arrive, the audience is waiting nervously just like Ajani and his friends are for the bullies not to notice the federation-size football and just move on. As they go back to their game, the audience joins in their joy and satisfaction of getting to continue playing the game that they won. Javaherbin does a great job of getting her audience to connect with the story and it really is an uplifting and inspiring story.