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Under the Lights and in the Dark: Untold Stories of Women's Soccer

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  284 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In 2004, journalist and award-winning documentary maker Gwendolyn Oxenham played futebol feminino for Santos FC, Brazil. The team hitchhiked to practice, shared their field with a horse and wore hand-me-downs from the men's team.

If this was Brazil, the mecca of futebol, what did the women's game look like in other countries?

Under the Lights and in the Dark takes us insid
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2017 by Icon Books
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4.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  284 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is truly delightful book, wonderfully written, telling a variety of excellent stories. Some are about people and teams that I already knew well, but were told with such care that everything came far more vividly to life than I had ever expected. I've read quite a bit about Nadia Nadim, for example, but nothing written as beautifully as her chapter here.

And then there are all the sections that dig into parts of the world and people that you would never otherwise encounter.

This is a great bo
Liz Mc2
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
You don’t have to be a soccer super-fan to enjoy this book. If you tune in just for Olympic or World Cup matches, or if you just have a soft spot for “scrappy underdog makes good” stories, you’ll find something to love here.

Oxenham’s book is more a collection of profiles or themed chapters (there’s one on “comeback moms” and another on the work women choose after soccer) than a coherent narrative or systematic exploration of women’s soccer. She has a a nose (eye?) for a good story, and there ar
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is an important read for any soccer fan, male or female. It shows first hand the incredible obstacles female players face as they pursue their dream to play pro. The author speaks with players from around the world who play in leagues around the world and illuminates a wide range of issues in the women's game: money, sexism, motherhood, even religion. The book talks about the struggles of domestic teams, leagues, and national sides. We see the successes and heartbreaks of a diverse group of ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. The GR teaser is a little bit deceiving. I was thinking that I was going to be reading about women's soccer writ large around the world, but what I actually got was much better, which was individual stories about women playing soccer in different situations around the world. The stories are interesting, and heartfelt and these women come from all different circumstances and I loved their stories. I also really appreciate that Oxenham's stories are women that I didn't know of. Th ...more
My favorite part was when those beautiful words that originated here in Chicago were immortalized in print: "We all hate Allie Long." Windy City 'til I die.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The stories told by the players in each of the different chapters relate the strange, unlikely and sometimes downright dangerous journeys taken in the pursuit of playing the game they love - football. Some of the women I'd never heard of, others - like Nadia Nadim, who recently had a brief and decidedly underwhelming soujourn at my team, Manchester City - were more familiar.

The final chapter on the Portland Thorns and their die-hard supporters, the Rose City Riveters,
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a gripping book! Oxenham profiles soccer players and explores challenges unique to female soccer players like lack of financial support, leagues that threaten to fold at any moment, and the necessarily nomadic lifestyle for the players. Great chapter on Portland a.k.a. Soccer City, U.S.A. and the Riveters. I didn't think I could love the Portland Thorns anymore than I already do, but this book increased my appreciation for their talent, grit, and hard work.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sure, some of these vignettes are more engaging than others. The final section, on women's soccer in Portland, OR, is worth the price of admission.
C.I. DeMann
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book. I'm not much of a non-fiction guy, but Oxenham is such a good storyteller, I got caught up in each chapter's topic. Highly recommended for sports fans. Or for fans of women trying to succeed in a difficult field.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Literally amazing. I didn't think anything could make me like Allie Long but Oxenham did! Now I have incredible respect for her and am so happy she made the switch to Seattle where she can continue to shine! This book is all about representation. Showing what it is like to be a female athlete at the highest level. The struggle and the tireless work these women put in are mindblowing. Must read!
Gretchen Lida
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic sports journalism!!
Michael Knolla
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mid-way through their surprising championship run in 2016 I wrote an editorial to the local paper that Rochestarians needed to appreciate what they had in the WNY Flash or they’d lose it. Sure enough the team was sold after they won the title and moved to North Carolina. But those seasons in the stands will always be special to my daughter and son. This book provides a compelling reminder that Rochester wasn’t unique in its failure to appreciate what it has in its professional women’s soccer tea ...more
Danielle Gawronski
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I’ve read. It’s a book about soccer, about cultures, about life and it’s difficulties. It is encouraging, motivating, and heart warming. Every soccer player in our country should read it. I loved getting a personal glimpse into soccer around the world and what it takes to play professionally. I know the men suffer the same way the women do, language barriers, strange climates, bottom of the pecking order, difficulties. Not only is the topic thrilling but the writing ...more
Mikayla Habibi
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Is there anything more beautiful than the marriage between futbol and culture? Not for this nerd ;) Sure, it's disheartening to read about the trials and tribulations these huge (like, seriously huge. likeee fangirl freak-out worthy) names in women's soccer have gone through/continue to go through, but admirable in that they don't make excuses or throw pity parties for themselves. They just work for it. Like the classy badasses they are. *hair flip* In all seriousness... favorite line from the b ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book about sports

You don't need to care about women's soccer at all to enjoy this book. The vignettes about life as a pro in the infant stages of a sport are brilliant even if you don't care about what happens on the field. There is culture here, hero journeys and disappointments, labors of love and heartbreaks. Mostly, it captures a sport that's not yet fully commodified, commercialized, and oversaturated.

Highly recommended.
Adam Windsor
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 5-star
An uplifting account of the passion and skill of female footballers (soccer players) from across the world. It doesn't shy away from depicting the problems they face in pursuing their dream (most commonly money, but also the itinerant lifestyle and challenges of living in a new city or country) but it does so principally from an "how these women have endured and overcome them" perspective: a celebration of the grit and determination of these women as they chase their dream.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a huge soccer fan, I really enjoyed this book. However, I feel that the book could've been made even better by going through another round of fact-checking. For example, Cameroon played China in the round of 16, not the quarterfinals, at the 2015 World Cup. Christine Sinclair was incorrectly called both Cristine Sinclair and a FIFA player of the year winner. Leslie Osborne is listed as an Olympian, but she never made it to the Olympics because of her ACL injury.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read. If you love football you have to read this book. Oxenham succeeded in telling how many struggles women undergo in pursuit of her careers and their love for the game.

You cannot but feel for those girls as their go under so many unthinkable things because of the oppression of coaches, low pay, folding teams and leagues and so on.

Well done Gwendolyn and thank you for such an amazing book.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book for a while now and I’m so glad I was finally able to! I absolutely loved to read about some of my favorite players and how they fought their way to the top, but it’s also really good to read about how much WoSo means for some players and the fans!
I would definitely recommend this book to every WoSo fan.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
An inspiring read about so much more than women’s soccer. I learned so much about the struggle to survive as a professional sport and the indomitable women from all over the world who fight that fight every day with incredible passion and skill. Attending a Portland Thorns game just made it to my ever growing bucket list! ~ Ms Dimmick
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The one thing my city does better than any other place in the world- women's soccer. With is both awesome and a little frustrating. Get it together, everyone else! Oxenham's book is wonderfully reported and the stories are inspiring for any sports fan.
A must have, must read for soccer lovers.
Do you like bad-ass women doing bad-ass things in the face of adversity? Here ya go.
Julia Rigsby
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you aren’t a soccer fan, this book is incredibly well written and important. It examines not only the role of sports in society, but also the value of women. Oxenham writes beautifully and treats each chapter with grace and humanity. I honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough or think of another book that gave me so many feelings.
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful if you are a women’s soccer fan... like me! :) Eye-opening if you ever thought it was simple for a women to make a living as a professional soccer player. Gives a great shout out to the current women’s soccer mecca, Portland, Oregon, and an idea what it will take to create a supportive atmosphere like Portland in other cities.
Erin O'Connor
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Phenomenal book. One of the best books I've read in a long time!! Even non soccer fans would enjoy this book just purely from a storytelling, human interest aspect. I wanted to be out on the pitch every time I started reading it :)
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

As a lifelong soccer player and fan, this book really resounded. It mirrors so many things I have felt, thought, and experienced. But still makes me appreciate our female athletes that much more!
Jennifer Doyle
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a can't put it down read. Seriously. I don't know of anything like it in sports writing — seriously storytelling about women's experiences at the highest levels of the game around the world. Good reading, and I also think it'd teach really, really well.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a Pelada fan from the start, I expected to like this book, but I really loved it. I recommend this compelling, inspiring (but not pollyannaish) collection of stories not just to soccer fans, or women's soccer fans, but to anyone. Fantastic.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not a big spectator sport fan nor do I have any experience playing team sports so when my book group full of Thorn fans chose this book, I was not excited. However, I ended up finding the stories of these women very moving.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
beautifully written, heart-breaking in its desperation and honesty, inspiring in its portrayal of tenacity. This is as good as any book on the subject of futbol as I've read, and one that should be read by EVERYBODY even remotely connected to the beautiful game.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: woman-author
I loved, loved this book. It made me want to go outside and play. It made me want to be a diehard women's soccer fan and move to Portland. It was inspiring and readable and full of dreams and joy.
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