Posts Tagged ‘football book’

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #04

mrbateman

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,
 
Colin

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #03

mrbateman

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,
Colin

Mr Bateman’s Diary: Entry #02

mrbateman

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),
Colin

The Greatest Story Never Told?

Assalamu alaikum.

My Year 9 English teacher was a man named David James. (That was the year they started calling Year 9 Year 9, incidentally. I’d been in Year 2 only months earlier.) I was inclined to like him because he had the same name as a young, upcoming goalkeeper at Watford, who’d been touted for big things.

Anyway, like any good goalkeeper (just ask Peter Schmeichel), David-James-the-English-teacher didn’t mince his words. He seemed rather fond of literature (fortunate, that); coaxed his inaugural Year 9 students into the inaugural Year 9 play (‘The Machine Gunners‘ by Robert Westall); and declared that everybody had at least one novel in them.

Of course, he was referring to ones life story.

Well, the phrase “You haven’t lived!” is perhaps better used on a thirteen-year-old than on most, and sure enough my novel (we were all forced to write one) was accordingly lifeless. Not that I based it on my own life – I seem to recall it was some sort of man-on-the-run story, though I have no memory of where he was running to or what he was running from. And no, Sigmund, none of this is allegorical!

I suspect Mr James was not licking his lips at the prospect of having to read sixty-odd books that all began with the formula, “I was born in [——-] on the [–]th of [——-] 197[-]…” but was hoping rather to see some application of his students’ own experiences in their creative writing. In my case, he would have deduced that nothing particularly interesting had ever happened to me (and he would have been largely correct!)

But let’s assume for a moment that JK Rowling has never disarmed a wizard by shouting “EXPELLIARMUS!” at the top of her voice, and that Jules Verne might not have made it to the centre of the earth before writing his novel. In that case, it must be possible to write about things that fall within the realm of possibility (however improbable) but are quite outside of ones own experience.

In my case, these days at least, whenever I try to think of something beyond “unlikely”, my imagination begins to play lift music and the elevator itself grinds to a halt. I prefer the workmanlike route (the staircase, if you will). It’s extremely familiar and even if I do have to stop for a breath here and there, I’m not likely to get stuck for long. I sometimes toy with the idea of going for something more extravagant, but I’m too much of a simpleton-surrounded-by-modernity to get away with it. Anything I wrote wouldn’t even survive a quick pass round my far more scientifically advanced family (heck, I’m the only one of three brothers-in-law without one of them eye-phone thingies).

So, for me it’s all about characters (see my ‘Mr Bateman’ article if you need convincing): how they behave, the lessons they learn and teach one another, and, more ambitiously, what they try to teach the reader.

Imam Munieb is a case in point. As a good friend commented in a recent email to me,

I really like the character of the Imam Munieb, I wish we had more Imams like him, unfortunately I cannot think of even one Imam that comes close to Imam Munieb’s personality. Maybe our community need more Imam Muniebs.

Anyone reading the first few chapters of the book, however, might well consider this an absurd opinion. The Imam Munieb who we meet at the beginning of the book is far, far removed from the Imam Munieb to whom we wave goodbye at the conclusion. So what is so likeable about his character?

Imam Munieb in mid-positive-influence of Saleem

Well – and for the umpteenth time I apologise for not giving much away here! – for me, it’s because Imam Munieb is willing to undergo a change. He puts his trust in God and is prepared to follow wherever this road takes him. He even seems prepared to risk an element of criticism and ridicule for his actions.

Is this a message for the reader? Yes. But authors read their own books too!

In truth, all the good you find in Imam Munieb’s character is nothing less than a rallying call to myself and anyone who might read the book. It is not autobiographical in the way I might have understood David-James-the-English-teacher to mean back in Year 9 (i.e. me with a different name) but the hunches, feelings and aspirations of the Imam are well grounded in my experience (the difference being that, for the Imam, the limit is my imagination; for me, the limit is my action!)

I have no doubt this is a great deal closer to what Mr James would have liked us to make of our life stories all of those twenty years ago; make it a riveting read, and all the better if you can foster some reflection and purpose at the same time.

So, what of David James’ own life? Well, from the clues I have been able to gather, he made a very successful journey into storytelling (I found some particularly gushing reviews on the Internet) so he must certainly be a master of pulling together his own (and other people’s) experiences to wow an audience.

As for the David James who appears to have had less of an influence on my life: well, he got a transfer to Liverpool FC at the end of Year 9, shortly after the performance of that inaugural play I mentioned. Oh, and he went on to play for England a few (fifty-three) times too.  More importantly, he’s something of a writer himself!

Dinnerdinnerdinnerdinnerdinnerdinnerdinner (Mister) BATEMAN!

Assalamu alaikum.

Q. What is The Victory Boys about?

A. Simple, really: Islam and football. Right?

On the face of it, yes. They’d be the two main categories I’d go with (as is probably clear from the tags I’ve been using!) Indeed, after I had told a (grown-up) friend of mine that I had written the book, and he’d read the preview at Kube, he wrote in a message,
I have already placed an order for it. The book seems to have all the stuff I like, Islam and Football.
(Me too!)

But I hope that the reader will find there is quite a bit more packed into the pages, and I’ve tried to be quite subtle with a lot of the points I wanted to make. After all, if a book becomes too overtly preachy, it risks becoming something of a drag, and may neither reach nor strike a chord with its intended audience.

So, if you need subtlety… who ya gonna call?

Well… not the Ghostbusters; mosque neighbour and superhero of sociability Mr Bateman!

Mr Bateman (surname borrowed from someone I worked with in a department store during university holidays) simply needed to exist for a variety of reasons, even though one may rightly presume that he is neither Muslim, nor a member of the Victory Boys’ football team. By design, he serves a number of functions in the book which I should not like to have made more explicit by other means.

(1) Intercultural/religious ‘mover and shaker’
Mr Bateman is not a Muslim, yet the scenes in which he appears (talking to the Imam, supporting the team, attending an event at the mosque) clearly depict him as an interactive, open-minded and well-liked member of the community. He appears to be quite without prejudice. This would be of little benefit to anyone if his actions were not reciprocated; thus his friendship with Imam Munieb highlights the importance of Muslims having an involvement in their local community regardless of religion, culture, etc.

(2) Positive outlook
It is clear that Mr Bateman thinks the best of people. In his first appearance, one might expect him to chastise the boys (read the book to find out why!) – instead, we find him talking in a most supportive, empathetic and forward-looking manner. Later, it is Mr Bateman who offers an inspiring cameo contribution to a critical team talk. His words also offer an emphatic endorsement of ‘black sheep’ Saleem at a time when it would undoubtedly be difficult for (certain) others to see the good in him.

(3) A little bit outspoken…
Whilst incredibly personable, Mr Bateman is not afraid to voice his opinions. Look out for a short-but-spirited analysis of the state of education, in sharp contrast to Imam Munieb’s views on this topic! Does it matter what either man thinks, in terms of the story? Not really. But this simple scene allows us to witness two people with opposing viewpoints, retaining respect for one another and not transforming a conversation about a topic into something heated and personal.

(4) (Not) the ‘straight’ man
Comedy double acts often feature a ‘straight’ man: someone who is not meant to be funny (but often is, intentionally or otherwise). I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Imam Munieb and Mr Bateman would be likely (or willing) to appear at your local comedy club any time soon, but certainly I like to think they complement each other well in terms of humour. As you might guess, Imam Munieb is the ‘straighter’ of the two, i.e. the one less likely to realise when others – or himself! – are being funny (at least to the English sense of humour). Mr Bateman has a droll and jovial way about him and, whilst he doesn’t say anything side-splittingly hilarious in the book,  one senses a sharpness to his observations.

At least two of these objectives were in my mind before I wrote a single word of the book, so… could I have achieved any of them without Mr Bateman? Possibly, but looking back, I’m very glad he came along. Every community should have at least one Mr Bateman (and ideally many more!)

Funnily enough, the friend who sent me that message has a lot in common with Mr Bateman, especially in terms of his positivity and warmth with others (Masha Allah).

Hopefully, one might become aware of other characters carrying important messages throughout the story. By normalising positive behaviour across the book’s characters, but without seeming trite, I hope Mr Bateman & co. can have a subtle but worthwhile effect on readers… of any age!