Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

Warren John

The incredible true story of a a football team in the United States made up of refugee children.

Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement centre in the 1990s, becoming home to scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones – from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colours playing football in any open space they could find. Among them was Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman who founded a youth football team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.

Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach. Warren St. John documents the lives of a diverse group of young people as they miraculously coalesce into a band of brothers, while also drawing a fascinating portrait of a fading American town struggling to accommodate its new arrivals. At the centre of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the football field while holding together their lives – and the lives of their families – in the face of a series of daunting challenges.

This fast-paced chronicle of a single season is a complex and inspiring tale of a small town becoming a global community – and an account of the ingenious and complicated ways we create a home in a changing world.

Reviews of Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

    • ‘Remarkable … Like all good books about sport, this is about much more than sport …This is a marvellous story, all the more moving for being written straight by a talented reporter.’ Mike Atherton, The Times
    • ‘“Outcasts United” succeeds so emphatically because, just as the Fugees are so much more than a football team, this is much more than a sports book … a dense and unjudgmental portrait of America in the 21st century (and a vital primer to African and colonial history in the last one).’ Tim Lewis, Observer
    • ‘Mufleh – a heady mixture of Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson and Martin Luther King – has wrought an astonishing transformation in the boys and their families, becoming not just a coach but a surrogate parent and stand-in social worker. St John’s expertly told account has been described as “heartwarming”, as if Mufleh has solved all the problems of multiculturalism at a stroke. Not yet, she hasn’t, but she has proved the truth of another football cliché: sometimes it is, indeed, more than just another game.’ Chris Maume, Independent