Universal Pictures has bought the rights to a New York Times article revolving around a group of soccer-playing refugee kids who settled near Atlanta.
Worth between $2 million and $3 million, the deal includes the rights to the article, written by Warren St. John and published Sunday, and the life rights to the soccer team's coach, a Jordan-born woman named Luma Mufleh. St. John plans to turn the article into a book; those rights were acquired as well, notes The Hollywood Reporter.
The article tells the story of a group of kids from such war-torn countries as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Cambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan who were placed in Clarkston, Ga., a town that resettlement agencies picked as an ideal spot for a melting pot. But in the late 1990s, the town began to turn against the new arrivals.
A few years ago, Mufleh, 31, arrived into this mix. She wanted to help by starting a soccer program and ended up as more than a coach to the kids, cracking their distrust of authority and helping their families cope with new life in the U.S. Mufleh and her players, called the Fugees after "refugees," overcame much adversity -- including a mayor who this summer banned soccer from the town park where they played -- and ended up squaring off against the kids of an elite Atlanta soccer academy.
A vital component in the bidding was finding tangible solutions that could help the kids and their families; to their credit, the studios did step up. Universal's deal includes funds, perhaps as much as $500,000, for a small soccer stadium and the establishment of a foundation that will benefit the refugees. The foundation will include money from the studio as well as the funds the coach had raised and funds that readers have donated since the story was published. The aim is to institutionalize the gains made by the kids.