Recently I enquired at our local bookshop if there were any historical novels about the place where we are living. To which the shopowner replied with a twinkle in his eye: Why read fiction? There are so many true good stories out. This place is full of story.
I wonder why Lourens Erasmus decided now was the time to tell his story Soccer Farm? Growing up as a young boy, speaking Tswane and dancing pantsula and loving soccer doesn’t seem something extraordinary for an African boy. But what if you are the White son of a well-respected farmer in the 1980s in South Africa?
Erasmus recounts how his peers all used to play rugby and would copy the verbal assaults of the system whilst he got enchanted by soccer and the community around that beautiful game. With his best friend he starts a soccer team on the farm where they turn a plot of land into a makeshift field. What develops are beautiful friendships in the black community and the hateful repercussions, conversations deep into the night, dangerous adventures, heartbreaking stories of inequality and injustice, like a match were all the odds seems to be against the home team and it is the giants you have to defeat. The pace is fast, the crowd boes and sheers, obstacles are passed, time-outs, but ever that focus that the game has done more than what we can imagine
A very personal story of love for each other and love for the game of soccer and the freedom that makes one play told through the eyes of the child. There is secrecy and open intimidation, victorious comraderie and painful bullying, the magic tric to make the team believe in its chances and the unexpected help to make it happen.
So unforgettable that when a very diverse audience embraced the game during the World Cup years and years after, there is that hope that one could embrace each other, as it happened before, far away from the spotlights on a field where love of the game and each other made a team victorious.
Lourens Erasmus, Soccer Farm (Pretoria: BK Publishing, 2014)