The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope, and Apartheid in South Africa

by Phil Bildner and Jesse Joshua Watson

In the days before the end of Apartheid, a young Black South African boy who loves... read more

In the days before the end of Apartheid, a young Black South African boy who loves soccer plays in his dusty township, but can only watch the game played by white boys in the neighborhood where his mother works. Then Nelson Mandela is freed — progress! But it proves to be slow from the young boy’s perspective — he’s still ignored by the white boys playing soccer. Mandela is elected president a few years later. The white boys still ignore the boy. Then South Africa hosts the 1996 African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, and both the Black boy and one of the white boys he’s seen playing soccer end up at the final. “Standing on my seat, I spotted the blond boy standing on his seat in the next section. He saw me and raised his fist. I raised my fist back.” In the joyful celebration that follows South Africa’s victory, the two boys lead a parade through their section of the stands. An author’s note provides more information on the symbolic importance of the South African victory, which united Black and white South Africans as they cheered for their national team. A story built around this symbolism remains centered on a child’s longing to play. (Ages 7–10)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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