First of all, I would just like to say that I do not know much about the game of soccer. I love American football with a passion, but have never really developed an interest for watching soccer matches. Also, I do not usually like to read books about sports. So, why did I read a book about the sport of soccer? Well, I am trying to increase the amount of sports lit that I have available in my classroom for my male students (and female students who like to read about sports). This book came to me as part of a grant that I wrote to supply my classroom shelves with books for boys.
Aside from all of this not liking soccer too much, Mal Peet's The Keeper was a pretty engaging tale. I had read his WWII saga Tamar and loved it, so I decided to give this read a chance. It was not bad. There were some pretty interesting details about South African culture and there were even some supernatural twists. Also included was a bit of a mystery centered around a ghost who comes and trains the main character to become an unbelievably successful soccer keeper (or goalie).
The book is framed in a sort of retrospective. Gato, the main character, is being interviewed by a journalist after winning the World Cup (apparently a huge deal). The story goes back and forth between the present and the past. My favorite parts were centered around the environmental issues facing poverty-stricken South Africans who are forced to engage in the clear cutting of their jungle habitat to make money, even though this means a loss of their traditional way of life. I would have loved to have more of the story focus on this issue and less of the soccer, but then it wouldn't be a sports novel.
Overall, this was an entertaining read. I think that some of my boys (and possibly some female students as well) will get into this story. It kept me reading, and that's saying a lot when it comes to a novel about soccer!