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When You’re Smiling

Why does such a simple game hold such great power? How is it that football can pull the world together in this way? And tear families apart?

England, May 2016. As the nation grows increasingly divided over the referendum on leaving the European Union, Leicester’s football team plays out the final games in a miraculous odds-defying season that has united the people of the city and beyond, and has pundits hailing it the ‘ultimate sporting fairy tale’.

In the meantime, all across town many more stories of division and unity, struggle and victory, and love and loss are unfolding. One of these belongs to Hasina Fayrouz, a teacher whose unhappy childhood was transformed by ‘the beautiful game’. But while football gave her a new relationship with Javed, her father, it put her at odds with Najmabibi her mother, whose life was scarred by the ugly side of it. As the football frenzy reaches fever pitch, the arrival of unexpected news forces Hasina and Najmabibi to confront their past. Can they do it without falling apart?

Set over the course of one day and featuring a diverse and vibrant cast of characters – from the schoolgirl obsessed with Leicester’s captain to the accidental gambler to the gardening imam in love – When You’re Smiling is a warm, witty, and politically astute exploration of identity, belonging, and what it takes to triumph over adversity.

status: MANUSCRIPT COMPLETED, Seeking representation AND PUBLICATION