Memoirs from the world of sports and athletes

Elham Saleh
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


The interest in athletes is one of the interests that have existed in different periods, our fathers have loved the athletes, and we are the same. This interest is beyond generations and age. In recent years, Golgasht have translated and released books about the life of foreign athletes through recognizing the interest.

“David Beckham”, “I Am Zlatan”, “Fear and Loathing in La Liga” and “The Soul of a Butterfly”[1] are the titles of some of these books. First, it’s better to review every one of these books.


David Beckham

“David Beckham” is not just the name of an athlete but it is the title of a book about him. Unlike the other three books, this one is photo-oriented and the words make up just a small part of it.

It is not so strange that a star like David Beckham instead of having an autobiography or a biography written by others publishes the photos of his sports times in the form of a book.   

The book, "David Beckham," with a cover that features the image of this British footballer, is a reflection of a part of this person's spirit. The book has been published in three sections of “England”, “London” and “Manchester United”, and the translators and publishers of the book should pay attention to a few points, no matter in what form it has been published. Even if this book includes a set of photographs, even if it's about a well-known star like Beckham, it's necessary that this athlete is introduced to the audience in an introduction. This short introduction is part of the "must" of a book that the translators have simply ignored it.

Apart from its fluent translation, and the photos from different periods of Beckham, the book has a big weak point; the captions which have been written under each photo are in fact Beckham’s emotional descriptions. But one of the requirements of each photo is the introduction of people inside it. The book "David Beckham" does not have this “great must- be." Moreover, the book should have an introduction to the publisher or translator that describes its publishing goals, which this feature does not exist in the book.

In a short introduction by David Beckham, we read in the book, “I did not like another biography. In turn, I preferred to look at the images of my sports time and say what my feeling on those moments was. I enjoyed of collecting the book and I hope you do too. I found out one thing during this time, my job has never been boring!” 


The Soul of a Butterfly

“The Soul of a Butterfly” is a book about Mohammad Ali Clay, the American Muslim boxer which had been written by himself and his daughter. The first words of the book’s introduction have been written by “Hana Yasmeen Ali”, persuading any audience to continue reading it. These words show the depth of the girls feeling toward her father, “Myths are about gods, legends are about heroes, and fairy tales describe the endless worlds of magic and dreams. This book is neither myth nor fairy tale, but the story of a legend with unwavering conviction.”

This legend with unwavering conviction is Mohammad Ali Clay. In an introduction about him and the book, we read, “It is said that more has been written about Muhammad Ali than any other living person. When you have a heart as big as the world, the world wants to write about it. The difference between this book and all the others about him is that this book is from his heart. In the following pages, you will see the world through my father’s eyes. You will learn about his dreams, his obstacles, his heartbreaks, his victories from his youth to the present moment.”

These words are part of the introduction of one of the writers of “The Soul of a Butterfly”, an introduction which has not been mentioned as introduction. The main introduction has been written by Mohammad Ali Clay, “This book is a reflection of my life. It describes some of most memorable experiences, and tells the story of how I came to be the man I am today. Since I started boxing, I’ve travelled around the world and met all types of people. I believe that God beautified by spreading everyone out and making us different.”

From these sentences, we can understand easily that “The Soul of a Butterfly” is not just about the sports successes of this world’s heavy weight boxer, it also includes his thinking and beliefs. Religion in this biography which is a reflection of the life of Mohammad Ali plays a major role. This part of his life has been expressed sometimes with shocking sentences, “He injected religion. He injected faith. He injected belief. And that turned my grandmother on and my great grandmother on. Even though he was a Muslim, he turned on the Baptist church and church people like nobody have ever turned them on before.” Also sometimes, his religious section has been explained with softer words, “Malcolm X was standing beside me when I announced to the world that I had become a Muslim…”

In this biography, his feeling about racial discrimination is seen well, “One Halloween, a little Black girl trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, dressed up in a superhero costume, but her face was painted white. When I asked her why, she said that her sister told her that there was no such thing as a Black superhero. She was right, when I turned on the television, everyone was always white. Superman was white. Santa Clause was white”. He continues, “They even made Tarzan, king of the jungle in Africa, a white man. I noticed that Miss America was always white, and the president living in the White House was white, too. Nothing good reflected our image. At that early age I could see that something was very wrong.”

“The Soul of a Butterfly” on its cover with an image from Mohammad Ali Clay while smiling covers his personal like including his sport, beliefs and spirits. In this book, a daughter describes about her father and a father talks about himself. The photos in the final part of the book complete it. The book’s translation is fluent.

“The Soul of a Butterfly” is a beautiful title and despite some typing mistakes (for example in page 158, the name of Clay’s wife has been mentioned as “Loffie” one time, and the other time as “Lonnie”), it is a complete biography. The Early Years, The Middle Years, The Current Years and In Troubled Times are the titles of the book’s chapters.  


Fear and Loathing in La Liga

“Fear and Loathing in La Liga” is an attractive and professional title for a showdown between two Spanish football clubs, “Barcelona” and “Real Madrid”.

As we read different chapters of “Fear and Loathing in La Liga”, we can conclude that the book is a collection of journalistic reports about the matches between these two Spanish clubs. “”The Forgotten President”, “”Don Santiago”, “The Best Embassy We Ever Had”, “The vulture Squad”, “Dream Team”, “Thirty-Two Years Later”, “The Ballboy and the Translator” are the titles of some of the book’s chapters.

What is interesting is that the book is not merely about sports events, but it has also focused on the impact of political and social events on sports events, “It was called Madrid Movement. The death of Franco and the entrance of cultural democracy created a revolution. A different society was emerged and a new generation was born. The repression continued and nowhere more than Madrid was involved in it. “You live just one time” which was an informal slogan, suddenly turned into a revolutionary one, and the repressed culture of 1960s, the eruption of creativity and imagination in 1980 reached to Madrid. Like an explosion, it revolutionized music, literature, cinema and art. And of course, “the football”.”

“Fear and Loathing in La Liga” has a good beginning and in the middle, it has taken a good turn. The culmination of this book may in fact be its good end, “Real Madrid and Barcelona want to match with each other again and when this happened, the tickets were sold within a few hours. Millions of people all over the world sat in front of the TV, more than any other match in any part of the world. A day after the match, they are still there; they throw flowers up in the sky and stomp for victory, once again inside ruckus and life in 90 minutes."

After the book's text, we face with images of the two teams in which the players inside them are introduced to the audience.

Sid Lowe is a British columnist and journalist which covers the football matches of Spanish clubs for radio and TV and many journals and logically, the reports of the books are a collection of reports that he has provided, and it was better to refer to this in an introduction. This introduction should have been added to the book by the translators so that the audience finds out the purpose for publishing it and what is presented.


I Am Zlatan

The title "I Am Zlatan" is enough for football fans to understand that they face with the life of Zlatan Ibrahimović. The design of the cover is an image from Zlatan which proves this.

The book has an interesting title. The placement of this title on the black V-neck t-shirt of Zlatan and the yellow color of the word "Zlatan", which is bigger than the two other words, is well emphasized on Zlatan. Even though this cover design is randomly selected, it's still a positive feature. In this biography penned by himself and David Lagercrantz, Zlatan emphasizes on this Zlatan. He believes in himself well and defines himself to the extent of a true narcissist. The cover design has been selected proportional to his character. The sentences behind the cover, while short, affect the audience's attraction. And this fascination is not only about someone who loves football, but an audience who is not interested in football is interested in this book: " It was all Yugoslavian music and drinking cans and empty fridges and the Balkan war. But sometimes, you know, he took his time and talk about football with me and it made me happy every time. I mean, he was dad one day, and one day he said, I don’t forget it, there was something ceremonial in the air: “Zlatan, it’s time for you to start playing in a big club.”

Behind the cover and alongside the text, an image from Zlatan after shooting the ball is seen and above the image is a phrase in English: "I Am Zlatan" which is an emphasis on a footballer who believes in himself extremely, "It was no big deal to be on my own. If there was one thing I've learnt growing up, it was to look after myself, and I was still feeling like the coolest bloke in Europe. I'd turned pro and been sold for crazy amount of money."

The coolest bloke in Europe in part of his book confesses that he had not always been so good, "I haven't always been the nicest guy. I haven't always said the right things, and of course I take full responsibility for all that. I am not going to blame anybody else."

Unlike the text and the cover's image and the back cover which has been selected carefully, you cannot see the same inside the book. The biggest problem is the book's list; a list consists of 28 chapters the titles of which has been designated with one number without being referred to the subject of the chapters: first chapter, second chapter, third chapter…twenty eighth chapter… Another weak point is lack of a short introduction about the goal of the book's publication. Zlatan has also not been introduced briefly.

But the image section is considered a positive feature of the book ranging from Zlatan's childhood until adulthood and football matches. All the photos have captions and the people inside them has been introduced to the audience.            

Zlatan in the book introduces his father, mother and the neighborhood he was living in childhood. In parts of this biography, he also refers to his life in Rosengard district. He talks about football and his coaches one of whom is Fabio Capello, "When Capello gets angry, hardly anyone dares to look him in the eye, and he gives you an opportunity and you don't take it, you might as well be selling hot dogs outside the stadium, basically. You don't go to Capello with your problems. Capello is not your mate. He doesn't chat with players, not like that. He is the sergente di ferro, the iron sergeant, and it's not a good sign when he calls for you. Then again, you never know. He breaks people down and builds them up." 

"I Am Zlatan" is more about Zlatan, showing his private and sport life.


Briefly about comparison of the books  

Among these four books, only "David Beckham" has been named after him. In "David Beckham" we see just his sport life. In "The soul of a Butterfly", we see Mohammad Ali Kelly as he has been, with his goodness and weaknesses. In "I Am Zlatan," his personality has been emphasized more, and in the "Fear and Loathing in La Liga," the impact of social, political and cultural events on sports has also been examined.

In general, all four books have fluent translation and they are in a way that can be introduced as good examples of biographical books. They have also the ability to be taught as a resource for journalists in the field of report writing.


[1] The Soul of a Butterfly/Mohammad Ali, Hana Yasmeen Ali, Photographer: Howard L. Bingham/Translators: Mashallah and Taha Safari/ Tehran: Golgasht, first edition 2013.

David Beckham/ Translators: Mashallah and Taha Safari/ Tehran: Golgasht, first edition 2014

Fear and Loathing in La Liga/Sid Lowe/ Translators: Mashallah and Taha Safari/ Tehran: Golgasht, first edition 2014

I Am Zlatan/ Zlatan Ibrahimović and David Lagercrantz/ Translators: Mashallah and Taha Safari/ Tehran: Golgasht, first edition 2014

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