If the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is not yet on your radar, it’s time you grabbed your copy of Anna Black – This Girl Can Play. Once you’ve read it, you’ll be gutted that it’s all over, but super-excited for the real thing, coming to our shores in real-life in just over a year’s time.
So, who should read it? Well, my teenage daughter read it after it sat on her bedside table for a few months and she loved it; perhaps the fact that it was dedicated to her might have persuaded her to pick it up. In fact she wasn’t the only one from her football team who read it. Books aren’t cool though. It’s too much like school work. Wrong. This fast-paced novel is full of short, sharp chapters that will make that decision to put the book down just that little bit harder every time you pick it up. A great advert for reading; that’s a good thing surely.
But all female football fiction books are for kids. Wrong again. In fact this one earned a slightly over-the-top self-rating of 15+ by the publisher Fair Play Publishing. There is nothing at all in the book that will make a young reader blush; however there are some themes that parents might find a little uncomfortable. Nothing that your average youngster hasn’t encountered on Tik Tok or Instagram. Football fiction books are often aimed at young kids, and that’s a great way to get the wee ones interested in football, but Anna Black is for all ages. A proper story with action and drama. A book that we can all read and enjoy.
Getting the word out that a mainstream book exists about an A-League Women and Matildas player is not easy. Who is the target audience? How do we engage them? How do we convince busy people who play, coach and love football that they should take the time to delve into a book? I’ve spread the word as much as I can using social media, but what it really needs is a player, or a high profile person involved with women’s football, to read the book and give it a wrap. The story was conceived with the help of former Matildas superstar Heather Garriock; it’s going to be realistic then!
The book comes in different formats. Firstly there is the paperback, with an amazing cover designed by graphic designer friend Al Mahoney, who knows and loves football. The book is 251 pages, and you will fly through it. I’ve heard of readers smashing through it in one sitting. Then we have the eBook, available online from various outlets (see the end for links), for those who prefer to devour their books on a device. It’s a cheaper alternative, not that the book itself is expensive. Finally there is the audiobook. I’m amazed that Anna Black – This Girl Can Play became the very first audiobook from Fair Play Publishing. It’s read by professional voice artist Kate Bright who knows her stuff about football. I listened to it in the car on a long journey and it was excellent – it really is a different way to consume a book and you can really appreciate the work by the voice artist.
The book has a surprise for the unsuspecting reader too. There are QR Codes through the latter stages of the book that will take you to additional online content, allowing you to go even further into the story. I’ll not spoil it for you, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you come to that point in the story. It’s not something I’ve ever seen in a novel, and it works so well. Ground-breaking. As Andy Bernal would say, it’s a first.
The book has been received so well by everyone who has read it. Apart from my Mum that is. She loved the previous book so much and this one didn’t match it for her. To be fair though, she doesn’t follow football, she’s not Australian and she didn’t quite get the QR code idea. She is a prolific reader though, so I truly value her critical feedback! If you’re in to football and you know a little bit about the women’s game, you’ll not be able to put this book down.
“While Anna carves out a career in the W-League, she also learns about life and love as she follows her football dreams, eventually running on to the pitch at Stadium Australia in the final of the 2023 World Cup.” That’s what’s written on the back of the book, and it’s a good summary of the story without giving too much away.
I’m so thankful for the Matildas players for taking an interest. It all started with Emily Gielnik and Sam Kerr in Newcastle when the USA were in town, then Tameka Yallop and Aivi Luik in Townsville against the Kiwis, and then Kyah Simon, Clare Wheeler, Alex Chidiac and Remy Siemsen in Canberra. Books have made their way to other Matildas players too, but it’s quite a challenge to get some of the players (and staff!) to give the book a chance. Gina Rees, I’ll get that photo one day. And I was so happy to meet Tony Gustavsson in the pub by chance last year, however I didn’t have a copy of the book with me. Missed opportunity.
Here’s a gallery of some other important football people pictured with a copy of this year’s most loved Australian Female Football Fiction novel. Shout out to The Ladies League, Miranda, Julia, Chris, Daniel, Dan, Fatty, the Sydney FC Men’s back four, FA legend Ann Odong and Sydney FC captain Nat Tobin for being good sports and giving this book the time of day. Oh, and you’ll also see former Matildas great and inaugural captain Julie Dolan in there too. Have a flick through…
You need this book. You need to talk about this book. This story is one for our generation. I’d really love your feedback too. The feedback an author gets from genuine readers is the most valuable, and the ratings that go with a review are also important to make other people take interest. Leaving a rating without a name or a review is not cool. If you liked or didn’t like the book, I’d love to know more. It’s the feedback that makes an author want to write more.
Check out these links :
Anna Black page at Fair Play Publishing to buy the book and eBook
Anna Black books for sale at Amazon Australia
Anna Black audiobook at Audible Australia
Anna Black book for sale at Book Depository for those worldwide
A review in Sporting News by Stuart Thomas
A book review at Football Book Reviews where you can leave your own review
Anna Black on Goodreads where you can rate the book
Stand by for more Football Fiction coming up. Anna’s brother Jarrod returns for another adventure soon, before we make a return to Women’s Football. Stay tuned!