When I skimmed through ‘Boots Don’t Lie’ at the All African Bookshop, I knew I had to choose between doing my hair that weekend and buying the book. And then I thought, what is hair if there’s nothing inside the head? (Justify all those book purchases).
I know most people would say ‘WOOW’ can’t cut it for a book review but honestly, that’s how I want to sum this up because I was tremendously ‘WOOW’d’. The 9 years Mariam took to put the book together could only inspire such a response – right from the beautiful cover; to the impeccable quality of writing, to the print quality. The book can have a co-title ‘How to do a book’ – A well-done book.
Mariam’s love affair with football starts when her son breaks a neighbour’s windscreen with a football. Feeling the pinch of having to pay for the damage and the need to create space for her son to play freely, she launches into football social-prenuership, establishing Junior Stars Football Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. All the while, she is unsure of how it will turn out or the destination of such a journey. But still, she does it with such bravery, cheerfulness and humour. Even with little knowledge of the sport, Mariam is not deterred. Although at first she can’t play, she doesn’t leave it at that or dismiss herself. And that taught me that you can learn anything, as long as you’re willing.
She solicits money from family, friends and well-wishers to sustain the football activities. She organises matches for children, the youth, women, and even grandmothers. I so loved the idea of the grandmothers’ football trainings because when it comes to sports, we are geared to think of the young, but how pleasurable and recreational is it for grandmothers to play football!
The book, however, does not come off with the attitude of ‘I did it and you can if only you try harder, or believe in yourself’. Mariam takes you through the journey – with all that comes with it. She opens the door to the kitchen at the back and unashamedly tells you of the migraines, feelings of insufficiency, doubts, zero income from the activities and everything that can and did go wrong. That to me is the most liberating thing about storytelling. She had so many reasons to give up but she didn’t.
Alongside her journey with football, she also talks about herself, her origins and her family. I loved that her children are involved in the activities, especially when setting up Junior Stars; that they share their opinions. Her 10-year-old, Hannah, writes: I know that you see my mother as a hardworking woman who likes sport and who wrote a book and empowers women. But my mummy is also funny and silly. That really warmed my heart. That they see her, that they are inspired by her determination and hard work. One time, when her son thinks of quitting a football camp she and her husband have worked hard to enrol him in, she is not quick to scold him, even though she is angry. She instead acknowledges his feelings and goes on to encourage him in the kindest manner.
In this book, Mariam inspires, motivates, challenges and empowers every reader, young and old, to stretch out and walk on uncomfortable paths; to live fully. She says, “I believe in using my skills to make myself, my family and the world a better place.”
She will make you laugh in many instances; like how she describes her amateur goalkeeping endeavours which nearly make her break her fingers and she chooses her fingers over winning a match. She is also warm, in a way that you can feel through the letters she paints her story with.
Mariam doesn’t just dream big, she does ‘big’. One time, she goes to a counselling centre to seek counselling as she had had miscarriages but she ends up enrolling for a certificate in counselling. That is the type of person Mariam is – one who makes things happen – with such fervour, skill and gusto. She says, “In my world, if I wanted something, I did everything possible to make it happen. No matter how long it took, I tried my best to follow through to the end.” And indeed, she goes on to earn a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Real Madrid Graduate School!
Together with her family, she also creates a sports centre that she hopes would become the first sports university in Africa! Think about how many football lovers there are on the continent against the resources, training centres, and courses offered in sports management. That would be a massive continental win.
We celebrate and cheer you on, daughter of Africa!
The book is available at All African Bookshop, Nuria Kenya, Rafu Books, Prestige Bookshop, and Kant Stationers.
In Uganda: Aristoc Bookshop, Mukono Bookshop.