Kick is the debut novel from Mitch Johnson, who was inspired to write his book by a discovery he made whilst working in a sporting goods shop. I am a big football fan and so was thrilled to find a book that was all about a young boy and his dreams to be a global football star. What I wasn't expecting was for Mitch Johnson to take me on a journey far beyond footballing dreams.
We all know a child that dreams of playing football for a Barcelona or a Manchester City. They live for football, they dream football, it is an obsession. Football is their world. They have the kit, and not just the shirt. They have the shorts, the socks, the training top, the third choice kit. They have the posters on the walls, they can name all the players, they worship their favourite player and they never miss a game. In Kick, Budi is that boy and this is his story.
This is a heart-warming story about Budi, who lives on the gritty streets of an island in Indonesia, and his dream of one day playing for Real Madrid and scoring at the Bernabeu. Budi’s life is tough - he sews football boots for little pay, there is no evening meal at home on a Friday and on Wednesday he imagines that the meagre serving of rice is actually spicy rendang. He shares his small home with his mum, dad and his grandma and has to go to his best friend’s home to watch football on an old television with a cracked screen. Budi’s life is turned upside down on his birthday of all days. A deflected kick of the football that smashes through the local tyrant’s window and sends Budi’s life into a whole new direction and puts him firmly in the sights of the Dragon.
The book highlights the issues in the real world of football boot manufacturing. The poorly paid labourers, the uncomfortable working conditions, the tyrannical foreman with his rotan, the punishments, the blood, the sweat, the tears. This book is endorsed by Amnesty International and the reasons for this are made explicitly clear throughout. It highlights the issues faced by those living in a society where most people are just about scraping enough money together to get by. A society where wealth is for a ruthless few and these are people that you do not want to cross. Johnson does not shy away from the difficult issues and even finds space to touch on people trafficking.
It is an essential read for any boy or girl who dreams of playing football. A necessary lesson for everyone about the realities of football kit manufacturing and the discrepancy between the heroes that make the products and the heroes that get to wear them on the biggest stages around the globe. I’m conflicted as a reader. I rooted for Budi through the entire story, hoping that he would get his big break into the footballing world but the reality is that only a tiny percentage of dreamers get that opportunity. I was pleased with how Mitch Johnson reached a conclusion to the story.
This is a story about young boys trying to make a better life for themselves whilst the harsh realities of their situation are constantly trying to smother their dreams. A story of hope and friendship and ultimately doing what needs to be done to survive.
Recommended for 9+.