The Maula Madad road, beside Lyari’s Tughlaq Lane neighbourhood, was blocked off because of a large crowd gathered there. But this wasn’t for a protest. People were celebrating while a sound system turned blared a song about Uzair Jan Baloch, the chief of the defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC). “Zinda hai Uzair bhai zinda hai” echoed with “Zinda hai BB zinda hai,” referring to the slain Pakistan Peoples Party leader.
It was the final of ‘Do Goli Tournament’ organised by the Farid Memorial Football Club and the kick-off was going to happen any minute now. “Lyari is not exactly what people see on the media every day,” said Abdul Aziz Baloch, a resident of Tughlaq Lane in Mominabad. “Even at the time for Sehri you’ll find people playing football on the roads, drinking tea at chai-wallas and thronging the markets.”
Another Lyari native Nabeel Raza said, “Even in the worst bouts of violence, I have never seen Lyari shut down completely like the rest of the city.” “It happened once when PAC called for a strike,” he said.
The Do Goli tournament began 25 years ago to motivate and train young football players to be able to compete at the national level, said the tournament’s secretary and veteran footballer Tariq Hussain.
Each team in the game includes five players aged 15 to 18. For the younger ones, there is ‘D Goli’, a customised competition, for players younger than 12-years-old.
Each team has three members, and they have to score a goal in specially designed five-by-three foot goalposts set on each side of the 40 feet playing area on the road.
The tournaments reach their peak in Ramazan. Around 20 competitions are being held in different neighbourhoods of Lyari this year. The games begin right after Iftar and continue till Sehri. A large number of young residents learn football on the streets by the age of five. “We have a lot of good talent in Lyari but nobody pays any attention, not even the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP),” said Sohail Baloch, a young footballer. “Uzair Baloch comes forward for all our needs — sportskits, blazers and even tournament expenses.” Sohail also said that the PAC renovated the Gabol Park in Kala Kot and Maulvi Usman Park in Rangiwara area and put in flood-lights and marble.
“Even the renovation of the main Lyari Football Ground is underway,” enthused another young footballer, Shakeel Baloch.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.