Credit to Paul Connolly, he’s a smart cookie.
He has released an updated version of his 2010 book The Mighty ‘Bras at just the right time.
The Mighty ‘Bras recounts Connolly’s 11 seasons as the Coach of the Brunswick Zebras, a woman’s football team based in suburban Melbourne, with players ranging in age from teenagers to middle aged, and skill and experience ranging from some to none.
He’s done this with an acknowledged eye on the burgeoning interest in women’s football as Australia and New Zealand host the Women’s World Cup, and it doesn’t hurt that Father’s Day is just around the corner.
Connolly is a journalist, with a couple of other books under his belt, but he’s probably best known for his weekly contributions to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine in the form of Kitchen Sink Drama, short snippets of whimsical fiction illustrating the human condition.
A collection of these forms one of Connolly’s other books, and that’s worth seeking out, too. The artist for Kitchen Sink Drama, Jim Pavlidis, supplies the cover art for this new edition of The Mighty ‘Bras.
The book is simply a delight. I read it when it first came out and loved it, and when I read it again just now, it still had me laughing out loud. Only this time, the newly added Afterword, covering four years after the time of the original book, had me in a few tears, as well.
Part of it is the cast of characters, a group of women who progress from kicking a soccer ball around a park to forming a proper team and playing competition football.
Connolly gives them all distinct identities with their various qualities, quirks and foibles, and as a group they contrast strongly with the author’s portrait of himself as an unlikely coach with a case of impostor syndrome.
Just as he brings out the football in them, they bring out some qualities in him not usually associated with men’s competitive sport.
I’d also give a shoutout to Connolly’s wife, Lee, who gets some of the best lines in the book.
Connolly is a very adept and sincere writer and knows just how balance tweaking the heart strings with forcing frequent snorts of laughter. And you don’t have to know a thing about soccer to enjoy this book.
I do have to make some disclosures.
First, I know Paul Connolly. He was a colleague of Hazel’s at Who Weekly back when it was the best popular culture magazine in Australia, and I consider him a friend.
Third, I played football myself for many years, taking it up again after a 16 year break at the age of 38 to play lower division All Age comps in Sydney against 20 year olds. I only retired at the age of 56 when I was playing against youthful 35 year olds in Wollongong.
Nevertheless, even if I didn’t know the author, some of the characters or that special feeling of turning up at a far flung field to run around chasing a ball in the wind and rain, I would still recommend this book.
If you’ve ever been or known a mother or a father, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a part of any kind of family or group of friends you liked to hang out with on a weekend, you will love this book.
It isn’t about football, it’s about families, of various sorts. It’s warm, funny, and a perfect gift.