There was a moment early in the relationship when Mitkov explained to Garrett and I what type of individual and what type of temperament was needed to play the midfield position. He elaborated that a midfielder had to be a good person, a person who would sacrifice for the team, an individual with strong enough character to be willing to give up the ball and the glory for the sake of the team. For around ten years, that conversation burned in my mind while I wrestled with how to build a story around it.
Meanwhile, during that period of time, my son Garrett, who was considered to be an extraordinary player, had to deal with injustices based simply on the fact he was playing on a team coached by Mitkov and assisted by me. For instance, once after a game at an indoor complex, my son Garrett was approached by the Director of the boys program with the Olympic Development Program. Two other boys, who witnessed the discussion, now play for the University of Michigan varsity soccer team. The Olympic Development Program is sponsored by the national and state soccer organizations as a means to identify superior soccer talent.
In this particular case, I watched from the other side of the field as the Director put his arm around my son while talking to him as they walked. When the boys came over to my side, one of the boys, named Santos, told me the director was really hot for Garrett to play on the ODP team. “Coach,” Santos said to me. “He said if there was ever a player meant to be on ODP it was Garrett.”
Two weeks later, when I arrived at the ODP tryout, I noticed a blank stare on the Director’s face when I walked up to sign Garrett up for the team. His Adams apple plunged like a fishing lure underwater when he recognized me as Garrett’s father. Two hours later, when the names were called off from the first cut list, my son’s name was read aloud. My son, who was the leading scorer in the league, and considered to be one of the best players in the State, was cut from the ODP team on the very first cut.
It was from moments like that, and many others I could write another complete novel about, that the story of “St. John of the Midfield,” was incubated.
The book chronicles the hypocrisy, the hyper-sensitivity and the antipathy, of the soccer establishment toward an aging coach whose approach to the game is totally misunderstood. Unfortunately, in life, and in the story, those who are innocent get caught up in the destructive force such hatred brings about.
“St. John of the Midfield,” is a story that clearly defines for the reader the nature of good and evil. Though the soccer theme is only one thread of the entire story, the treatment of Jordan Mitkov and my son was the catalyst for the creation of the story.
Garasamo Maccagnone is the author of ST. JOHN OF THE MIDFIELD. You can visit his website at www.garasamomaccagnone.com.