ASK Musings

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November 2022



How (Not) To Be Strong by Alex Scott

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Football fans. Football players. Fans of awesome women. Fans of Alex Scott.

In a nutshell:
Former professional football (soccer to US folks) player and current broadcaster Alex Scott opens up about her life.

Worth quoting:
“There was this underlying current that, somehow, playing in America meant we were getting too big for our boots. When in reality, being in America was making me a better player for England. But it helped me understand the part of the English character that feels it has to cut others down to size, rather than encourage them to grow.”

“Why would I saw sorry for the sake of it? My words were already limited, I had no interest in wasting them on something I didn’t mean.”

Why I chose it:
I love playing and watching football – especially the women’s game.

I’ve reviewed a few memoirs written by professional football players – nearly all of them women. Whenever I go to a bookstore I visit the football section, and there are usually none written by or about women, but when there is one, I usually buy it. Even if I don’t really know the player well, I want to support and encourage these books so that people of all genders see better representation in football. I love playing (I play twice a week these days, despite my advancing age) and I want more people to be able to experience that joy if they are interested in playing.

This summer, England hosted the Euros – a tournament held every four years pitting national European teams against each other. No England team – men or women – have ever won it. And this year, the women did. In front of a massive sold-out crowd at Wembley. And Alex Scott was there, not as a player, but as a pundit, hosting the coverage. Her excitement was infectious – she had played with some of these players, back when she had to work in the laundry at Arsenal (the same club she played for!) to earn enough money. Because the women’s game wasn’t paid at the professional level. And she shares stories about that time, and about what football has meant to her.

This isn’t, however, just a book about a women who was the best in the world at her position in a sport. It’s an extremely open, vulnerable, honest collection of stories about a kid with an alcoholic and abusive father. About a young woman in a relationship with her teammate. About a teen who needed a different kind of support in school that she eventually found while pursuing her degree at university. About a Black woman navigating racist and sexist abuse on-line.

Scott is brutally honest (or at least, she doesn’t appear to be holding anything back). One chapter I didn’t read – it’s a letter to her mom. I read the first couple of pages but it was so heartfelt and personal I almost felt like I was intruding by reading it. Despite covering some very serious topics, this was a surprisingly easy, quick read. I finished it really rooting for her, and excited to see what she will get up to next.

(As an aside as someone who has played at the grassroots level in both the US and UK, it was interesting to get her perspective on the cultural differences that I feel at times when playing.)

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend / Donate

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