I first discovered the work of Gwendolyn Oxenham when one of my middle school soccer players told me of a film screening he had attended the night before. The film was called Pelada, and “it’s about soccer,” was the only synopsis he offered (6th graders, waddaya gonna do?).
I decided to check it out, purchased it on iTunes, and it changed my life. Two division-1 soccer players, having finished their playing careers, found themselves directionless. In their words, “the pro leagues weren’t calling, and we weren’t in the national team pool,’ explained my guest, Gwendolyn Oxenham.
So she and her partner Luke decided to travel the world in search of the heart of soccer: the pickup game. Underneath all the money, all the contentiousness, the drive, the manicured fields, the billion dollar industry, is people with a ball at their feet. As she decolonized her relationship with soccer, she returned to her elemental self: the humans and the stories.
Since the publication of her first book, Finding the Game and the film it was based on, Pelada, Gwen has continued the two things that ignite her passion: writing and soccer. She Published her second book, Under the Lights and in the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer, and it gained such acclaim that it was produced into the podcast series Hustle Rule, in which the stories were narrated by Hannah Waddingham, star of Ted Lasso
Anyone who reads Gwen’s work will find their assumptions and beliefs about sports in general and soccer in particular disrupted. Plus an amazing top five!