Posts Tagged ‘muslim boys’

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #04


Colin Bateman: Husband. Gardener. Free thinker. Shabab al-Nasr fan.

Sunday 10th May

Dear Diary,
What a strange day. Only a week to go until the tournament, and Amir’s father drops a bombshell like that. I think the boys were all in shock, to be honest. This whole Amir episode really seems to have unsettled them. And I suppose, when you add the pressure of being the reigning champions, they’ve got it all on their shoulders at the moment.
Still, when you can take a free-kick like young Ali, you’ve always got a chance of being on the winning side! What a crackerjack his goal was! I can’t wait for next Sunday! I really hope the boys can do it again!
I just can’t shake this feeling that it might not go according to plan this time…
Yours apprehensively,

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #03


Colin Bateman: Husband. Gardener. Free thinker. Shabab al-Nasr fan.

Sunday 3rd May

Dear Diary,
Today I saw a new star.
No, not in the sky – on the football pitch! The Prince has arrived!
Yes, Amir (‘
prince’ in Arabic, apparently) made his Shabab debut today and, my goodness, what a bag of tricks that lad is. I arrived just in time to see him score a brilliant goal, the first of… well, I don’t even know how many he scored in the end! Oh yes, there are a few boys looking a bit worried now (young Ibrahim, for one), with the tournament a couple of weeks away and the Prince putting in a performance like that.
Oh, and Diary, you’ll never guess what the boy’s last name is…
Zidane! (Did I mention that before?) Anyway, no wonder he’s a football genius, with a name like that!
Bring on the tournament!
Yours excitedly,

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #02


Colin Bateman: Husband. Gardener. Free thinker. Shabab al-Nasr fan.

Sunday 26th April

Dear Diary,
Jolly interesting day today. Mrs Bateman had me get up early to crack on with some pruning I’d been putting off. (No, Diary, that wasn’t the interesting part. Far from it, in fact.) While I was trimming away – and long after mosque school had started, I might add – I encountered young Junayd and Ibrahim, the perennial latecomers, running up the street (young Ibrahim looks more and more bleary-eyed every time I see him. I do hope he’s getting enough sleep and not staying up all night watching
Match of the Day).
So, it being a long time since I’d had a good old chat with the Imam and Coach Saleem, I asked Junayd to pass on an invitation. Anyway, long story short: they all popped round later and informed me of a most intriguing development as regards the Victory Boys’ team… you won’t believe it, Diary… they’ve only gone and signed Zidane!!!
Well, OK, not that Zidane, but a very promising sounding young chap by the name of
Amir Zidane. (Interesting first name – I must look that up on the Internet and find out the meaning). I suppose the only possible problem might be: if he’s really that good, are the other boys’ places in the team secure? I wonder what they’re thinking about their new team-mate!
Sleep well Diary. I know I will, after all that pruning. Never again! Until the next time, anyway…
P.S. The Imam evidently hasn’t been using his time to brush up on his football knowledge. We were talking about transfers and someone mentioned the
Bosman Ruling. He asked, “Is this the same busman who Jossy Marino gets to park his bus in front of the goal in the Chelsea matches?” He said he’d heard about that on the radio and that he’d be happy to report other football news to us in future!
(Don’t give up your day job, Imam Munieb…)
Yours achingly (my sides, at least),

That’s the spirit!

world cup trophy

The World Cup.




european championships trophy


The European Championship.




Yes, the best things in football do seem to come round every four years.



It’s perhaps fitting, then, that after four years of waiting…


four years of wondering…


four years of checking the Kube website


(and that’s just what I’ve been doing)

the sequel to The Victory Boys has arrived!!



Well, not quite arrived – not yet – but it’s so close that you can almost smell it.

And what does it smell like?

Well, it smells like team spirit!



The Victory Boys: Team Spirit.




When fiction comes to life?

Assalamu alaikum; peace be upon you all, and a belated Eid mubarak too.

We held an Eid barbecue at our local mosque yesterday. It was opened up to the whole community; not just the local Muslims, but our neighbours, friends, and a few dignitaries as well.

Wanting it to be special for the children, a number of activities were organised, including a bouncy castle, a tug of war, a Qur’anic recitation event and – I just couldn’t resist this one – a ‘Beat the Goalie’ competition.

'Beat the Goalie': the grand final! My able deputy stares down the barrel...

For such a competition to be a success, there are a few essential ingredients. I can think of five.

(1) Participants.
No problem here. Three penalties per turn, anyone scoring all three to write their names in the Hall of Fame and take their place in the grand final later in the day. The queue to take part was predictably long at all times.

(2) A space.
The majority of the events took place inside the large prayer room, with the bouncy castle at the opposite end. Plenty of space, but a need to be very careful.

(3) A ball.
Easy enough in normal circumstances, but given the surroundings, a sponge ball was deemed to be appropriate.

(4) A goal.
Fortunately, a member of the community bought two of these as a gift for the mosque. They arrived less than 24 hours before the event and one was promptly assembled in time for the big day.

(5) A goalkeeper.
Well, you can guess who took on this role – at least until my knees couldn’t take any more! (I didn’t quite make it to the grand final myself…)

The event unfolded in a manner entirely in keeping with the spirit of The Victory Boys. It is impossible to measure the enjoyment experienced by the children who took part, whether firing blanks in front of goal or bagging a hat-trick of penalties and making yours truly look a little silly in the process. By the end of the activity, the main task was to prevent the enthusiasm of the grown-up spectators from turning it into a competition for themselves!

The second goal was erected today, and now occupies a space at the opposite end of the yard from the first. It is the same yard in which I imagined many of the scenes from the opening pages of my story, with Junayd, Ibrahim & co. tearing around delightedly and giving everything to score between the brick-stack goalposts, consumed for a moment in the joy of sport, and at the same time unknowingly cementing bonds of brotherhood.

The yard, the goals, are ready.

The new goal, born today.

Once upon a time there were brick-stacks for goalposts...

The other end. (Note the bricks in the corner).

Taking a breather at the barbecue, a neighbour pointed out to me the rear of her house, adjacent to the yard. I mentioned The Victory Boys to her, and my hope that her greenhouse would be safe from footballs. She reassured me that she only had a pretty resilient peep of chickens out the back; it was next door’s greenhouse.

Mr Bateman’s house, perhaps?

“Getting it right”; or: “One man’s fine-tuning is another man’s nit-picking”?

(This post continues At the negotiating table)

Assalamu alaikum.

When we left the publishing process at the end of the previous post, it was June 2010 and – to my mind – the script was finally ready to become a book. Presumably it would just take a few weeks to get some pictures drawn, and maybe a month to have a few million copies (!) printed?


In fact, the first task to arise after this point was to come up with fourteen chapter titles. This was a simple enough process: I suggested some, the editor approved or improved them, and we settled on these titles. And then…


…exactly why did it take twelve more months for The Victory Boys to be released?

Well, first of all, as I subsequently had it explained to me, the publishing world does not move quickly. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if one is not aware of the reasons why there should be any delays. In my situation, there was an added complication: the editor with whom I had been working, quite reasonably took up employment elsewhere, meaning that the publishers needed to recruit a new editor. Enter Brother Yosef, who contacted me in January 2011 with great enthusiasm regarding my manuscript.

I had already learned a lot about myself (and the limits of my patience, astaghfirullah) during the preceding months, but now that I had been paired up with a new editor, I saw no reason to endure any further delays. I remember insisting to poor Yosef over the phone, “It’s ready as it is; I don’t want any more changes… it’s just waiting to be printed…”

Quite understandably, coming from a position that I could not fully appreciate at the time, Yosef must have seen things slightly differently. You will often hear the effective football manager/team coach being praised for his “man-management” skills – usually demonstrable when the team’s  (hitherto) off-field hellraiser suddenly takes to turning in match-winning performances – and I think this bodes well for Yosef should he ever fancy himself as the new Saleem (you’ll have to read the book to get that reference!)

Check out the professional (and soothing) tact and diplomacy in this email:

As I have already alluded to elsewhere, Yosef’s input in fine-tuning the text (and pulling out some blatant errors that I had not spotted) was invaluable. In a few instalments we tinkered with the text, sent it back and forth to each other, and eventually arrived somewhere we were both satisfied. This was not always without an element of compromise and reasoned explanation, as can be seen in this excerpt of the edited work-in-progress (click to enlarge):

Yosef and I discuss a point using the MS Word 'comment' function

At the same time, work had begun on commissioning some pictures for the book (Eman Salem the selected illustrator). You might recognise this early sketch of Hasan (those who like to play ‘Spot the Difference’ are free to point out how this picture evolved by the time the typeset version of the book was complete!)

Ultimately, and after an out-of-house designer had been recruited to produce the (very striking!) front cover, the book was finally ready to become a reality. As Yosef put it, in his email of 21st April…


(Not to be continued this time… but comments very welcome!)

At the negotiating table

(This post continues In pursuit of a publisher…)

Assalamu alaikum.

In the preceding post of this series, I alluded to some negotiation regarding the book’s content. In this instalment I shall go into some detail regarding the general dialogue shared between myself and the publisher.

One of the weaknesses of my manuscript – bearing in mind its purported target audience – was that quite often the frustrated reformer/sociologist in me leaked out through the character of Imam Munieb. Thus, scenes of youthful exuberance from the boys would sit alongside reflective outpourings the like (but not the quality) of which might be found in Atif Imtiaz’s ‘Wandering Lonely In A Crowd‘ which reduced the poor beleaguered Imam to a vehicle for those thoughts. This was all too apparent to the outgoing editor and her panel of reviewers. Not surprisingly, this was one of the first features to be lost from the script, and with my full blessing!

The Imam: one-time carrier of his author's baggage

There were also some minor issues regarding the Imam’s speech, which was an interesting topic in itself. For one thing, notwithstanding the genuine uniqueness of Imam Munieb (at least in my experience), some of his characteristics, including his speech, were based heavily on brothers known to me (not imams, I hasten to add!) It was probably due to the fact that these personality traits were not based solely on any one person that I inadvertently allowed his speech quality to fluctuate. One finds that even after the imam’s verbal makeover, he is a genuinely articulate speaker in his second language, but that his word choices and/or grammatical structures are occasionally limited. Furthermore, the Imam (prior to editing) had a greater propensity for slang than the, er, ‘reformed‘ Imam.

The main aspect upon which I dug in my heels related to the book’s ‘prodigal son’. I will not elaborate too much on this because it is central to the plot, but I shall outline at least the nature of the suggestion and my (polite) objection to it. It was simply this: that one of the characters undergoes a (positive) transformation – he is by no means the only character about whom this could be said, but his development is particularly poignant because it describes a movement towards his Lord. It was suggested that this character should publicly reflect upon his transformation so as to put the reader in no doubt as to its significance. However, I felt that understatement was the appropriate pitch to aim for, and that the character’s development – whilst overwhelmingly positive – was more promising than complete. I also felt that the engaged reader would be up to the challenge of inferring my characters’ states; I have read a great many books that virtually instruct the reader about characters and situations, and leave nothing to be surmised.

Without giving too much away, there was also an issue of family dynamics, and I felt that the proposed (somewhat) fairytale ending was not in keeping with the family I had described in the book. Sometimes we take baby steps though we know running to be superior; nonetheless, for one reason or another, we do the former.

I was extremely pleased that the editor, Sister Fatima – who is vastly more experienced than I in this field – was open to my arguments and indeed agreed with my reasoning on these points. So, after a tidy-up here, a rewrite there, the momentum was building. I’d even signed a book contract by June (2010), so surely the book would be out any moment… wouldn’t it?

(To be continued…) (once again!)


The real Imam Munieb… er, sort of.



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