Aan de Bal by Lieneke Dijkzeul

Aan de Bal
Lieneke Dijkzeul
(cover art by Martijn van der Linden)
Lemniscaat 2006
€15.95

Book review | Aan de Bal by Liekene Dijkzeul | 4 stars

★★★★☆

Synopsis (English translation below)*

Rahmane groeit op in een klein dorp in Afrika. Zijn familie is arm en Rahmane helpt zijn vader op het land. Alleen op zondag is er tijd om te voetballen met zijn vrienden.

Ze hebben geen echte bal en bij gebrek aan schoenen voetballen ze op hun blote voeten, maar hun plezier in het spel is er niet minder om.

Als er op een dag een scout langskomt en Rahmane selecteert om in de stad een opleiding tot professioneel voetballer te volgen, heeft Rahmane het gevoel alsof zijn droom uitkomt – hij krijgt de kans om aan een leven in armoede te ontsnappen en zijn familie een betere toekomst te bieden.

Rahmane grows up in a small village in Africa. His family is poor and Rahmane helps his father with farming. Only on Sundays there is time to play soccer with his friends.

They don’t have a proper ball, and because they lack shoes, they play barefooted, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

When someday a scout comes by and selects Rahmane to come to the big city to be trained as a professional soccer player, Rahmane feels like his dreams are coming true – he is has the opportunity to escape a life of poverty and offer his family a better future.

Review

The first thing I love about this book is that there is no romance in it whatsoever, proving that good books don’t need romance. Instead it’s about the friendship of a couple of boys, as they get the opportunity of a life time.

Throughout the book this friendship brings out a lot of feelings; happiness at an amazing pass, sadness and frustration at betrayals and more. New friendships are forged, though not all of them healthy or right, others are lost as the story moves on.

Another big theme throughout the book is dreams. Will any of their dreams come true, and if one does, what happens to the friendship of these boys? Of course this is answered in the book, but I won’t spoil it for those who would still like to read it.

The book is set in Africa (it doesn’t specify where unfortunately) and it uses the poverty that is prevalent in certain areas of the continent to build the story. In that way, it might be easier for Westerners to relate to the story, because it’s not hard to imagine Africa as poor (and a lot of it is indeed poor). However, the story might as well have been about a group of boys anywhere in the world trying to achieve their dreams.

Unfortunately for a lot of people, the book hasn’t been translated to English (as far as I could tell), however for those of you that speak German, a translation is available.

*Freely translated from Dutch

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