Hi, and welcome back! Today I will be talking about “They Don’t Teach This: Lessons From the Game of Life” by Eniola Aluko.
The blurb reads:
First class honors law degree. 102 appearances for England women’s national football team. First female pundit on Match of the Day. UN Women UK ambassador. Guardian columnist.
All of these achievements belong to Eni Aluko, who, is keen to share her experiences, aiming to inspire readers to be the best possible versions of themselves. Aluko was appointed UN Women UK ambassador with a focus on promoting gender empowerment in 2016, and in October 2018 she was named by Marie Claire as one of ten Future Shapers Award Winners, recognising individuals who are changing women’s futures for the better. She is currently playing football for Juventus in Italy and writing a weekly column for The Guardian.
They Don’t Teach This steps beyond the realms of memoir to explore themes of dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, success, failure and faith. It is an inspiring manifesto to change the way readers and the future generation choose to view the challenges that come in their life applying life lessons with raw truths of Eni’s own personal experience.
I’m rather conflicted on how I feel about this book. On one hand, I don’t think it lives up to its marketing material. On the other, I don’t think I would have read it otherwise. The synopsis I have just read to you from Goodreads is not the blurb printed on the copy of the book that I bought, that emphasises important lessons that Eni has learnt throughout her life. I understood this book to be a slightly more useful guide of what to do when faced with common situations like losing your job or dealing with racism. While I did understand this was going to be very much based on her life experiences, I was also expecting a little not practical guidance along the way. For me this lead to me being a bit let down, as I found it harder to know what to do in these situations. The circumstances that I feel are smaller and more common, were almost breezed over. I don’t know how it was in the moment, but it often felt like Eri always landed on her feet in the jobs department, losing one but quickly getting another, with little time in the book spent on the transition. The bigger things like bringing formal complaints of racism in the FA are talked about in much more depth, but I still feel that more practical guidance could have been given. As Aluko is also a lawyer, I feel that it is within the scope of her expertise to at least provided starting points for readers who wish to do something similar in their own places of employment. The title of this book is “They don’t teach this” referring to the bigger things in life that no one teaches you how to deal with, and I want to say that this book doesn’t either.
Moving on from what I thought the book was going to be to what it actually is, I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The book was fast paced and moved through Aluko’s life quickly while still taking time to reflect on certain actions, both on how they were received at the time and how she feels about them now looking back. I think this combination is important as it allows her to admit mistakes and wrong doings while explaining her rational at the time. To me this is a great way to show accountability while still also allowing us to be empathetic towards her choices. It shows growth and that lessons have been learnt, which is what the book is all about.
I think that Eni’s story is remarkable and that the hard work she put into getting a degree and helping to change the face of women’s football is an inspiration to us all. I think that this book is a good read not just for football fans but for anyone who is needing a motivational boost to help with whatever rough patch they are currently going through. The fact that I as someone is isn’t particularly a football fan found this book gripping and enjoyable to read, really speaks to how well this books is written and the universality of its message. The one thing that did annoy me though was the amount of times God was referred to in this book. I am an atheist, and maintain the right for Aluko to believe in whatever she wishes, but her repeated downplaying of her own achievements as part of God’s plan was annoying. Turning to your faith in times of hardship and finding strength in that, whist not something I can personally understand, is something I can feel some sort of connection to. However, the praising of God in her achievements, as if it was impossible for her to succeed without God’s blessing is something that I cannot personally get behind and did put me off a bit. I am aware thought, that another reader who is religious might find this point endearing and add to their enjoyment of the book. I think that it comes down to a matter of personal opinion, but it played a big enough part in my experience of reading the book that I thought it was worth mentioning.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and made me question my previous dismissal of memoirs as a genre I didn’t think I enjoyed. See you next time.