Must read: The hunt for the next Messi in Africa

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No two footballing journeys are alike, and Sebastian Abbot’s exploration into the reality of finding the ‘next Messi’ in Africa is yet another example.

The Away Game is the perfect read at home this winter, proving football really is more than a game.

There is plenty to analyse in Abbot’s first and most recognised book, with vivid description providing fascinating insights into all of the characters successes, failures and overall journey.

Published in 2018, the story takes you back to 2007 when the Football Dreams talent search scoured seven African countries in a bid to uncover football’s ‘next best thing’.

The book begins delving deep into FC Barcelona scout and youth director Josep Colomer’s journey in uncovering talent across Africa.

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The story takes place in the geopolitical backdrop of Qatar’s rise as they bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, sharing the ups and downs the talented African footballers face on their rise to the top.

The book takes you on the journey through three different sections, the first looking at the establishment and development of the search, the challenges and implications faced and the ability to uncover African footballers with exciting potential.

The second section focuses in on the players identified with the most footballing potential and their journey from the academy through the ranks.

Specifically the boys in focus include Bernard, a kid who invites comparisons to Barcelona and Argentinian legend Lionel Messi, as well as other future stars Diawandou, Hamza, Ibrahima and Serigne Mbaye.

The final section discusses the players who turn professional, describing their experience while also looking forward to their next future endeavours.

Abbot’s ability to tell a story with vivid description is apparent throughout, constructing a rich and deep image of each moment the characters endure.

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His writing style captivates readers to continue following the story and gain a personal connection with characters dealing with a variance of circumstances.

The book in some elements became confusing, due to the density of issues discussed and the number of different elements each character faced.

The focus on multiple young African footballers also became confusing, due to the chopping and changing of the athletes discussed mixed with dialogue on the country’s political matters and problems.

While sometimes confusing, it was overall effective by Abbot in demonstrating the full picture and keeping readers captivated.

The book provides fantastic insight into a completely different part of world football and is worthy reading for all football fans, especially those interested in a detailed and in-depth look at African youth football and the journey these young footballers embarked on.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Feature Image Credit: Supplied

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Matthew Tsimpikas
Sports lover studying journalism at the Queensland University of Technology. Covering Brisbane Roar FC in the 2020/21 A-League and W-League.
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