This biography by Jeremy V. Jones is published by ZonderKidz Books, a division of Zondervan Publishers, and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
As a young boy, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite knows he wants to play soccer. Nicknamed Kaká (pronounced ka-KA) by his brother, the Brazilian youth attends soccer training programs and begins to gain the attention of prominent adult leagues. Despite a spine injury he sustains on a water slide that should have left him paralyzed, Kaká goes on to play on some of the world’s most prestigious teams and win the coveted FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2007. Throughout his youth and his soccer career, Kaká remains vocal about his faith in God. Toward the Goal not only tells his story but includes many facts and mini-articles on topics such as Brazil, the history of soccer and the sport’s famous players and clubs.
Kaká grows up in a Christian family and has a sense of being born spiritually at the moment of his baptism at age 12. He actively shares his faith with both his best friend, Marcelo, and his bride-to-be, Caroline. Kaká’s faith in God grows throughout the healing process after his accident, and he feels God has a purpose for him in the midst of his pain. On the field, he often wears T-shirts or bracelets with phrases that read “I believe in Jesus.” Sometimes he has “God is faithful” stitched on his cleats. Kaká also gives God glory in post-game and magazine interviews. He always wants to use his fame as a platform to share Christ. More recently, he expresses an interest in becoming a pastor.
Kaká’s father, a civil engineer, and his mother, a teacher, are emotionally supportive and financially able to provide opportunities for Kaká to hone his soccer skills. As evangelical Christians, their faith guides their home life. They unofficially adopt a good friend and classmate of Kaká’s because they see his need.
Other Belief Systems
Some doctors attribute Kaká’s healing to luck, though he and his family give the glory to God.
Kaká and his bride tell the media that remaining sexually pure before marriage wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- If you achieve fame like Kaká’s, do you think you would use it as a platform to share your faith?
Why might it be difficult or daunting to be open about your Christianity?
- What does Kaká tell Soccer World magazine was the most important match of his life?
Why is he always looking toward the next game rather than reveling in his achievements?
In what areas of your life do you need to keep pressing on rather than simply letting yourself rest in the victories you’ve already gained?
- Why isn’t Kaká angry at God for allowing him to be seriously injured?
How does his injury and healing process give him a new perspective on life?
- What actions does Kaká take to achieve success as a soccer player?
What goals does he set for himself, and how does he accomplish them?
What are some dreams you’d like to achieve in your life, and what goals can you set to make them a reality?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.