World Cup fever grips Pakistan

By AFP
Published: June 15, 2014
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In this photograph taken on June 12, 2014, children play football in front of a mural celebrating the World Cup painted on the wall of a house in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

In this photograph taken on June 12, 2014, children play football in front of a mural celebrating the World Cup painted on the wall of a house in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

In this photograph taken on June 12, 2014, children play football in front of a mural celebrating the World Cup painted on the wall of a house in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP In this photograph taken on June 12, 2014, a Pakistani football fan demonstrates his skills in front of a mural celebrating the World Cup painted on the wall of a house in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: A corner of Karachi will forever be Brazil. Seen from overseas, Pakistan’s biggest city this week issued a fresh reminder of its reputation for chaos and violence but on its teeming streets, the more burning topic of interest is the World Cup now under way.

Earlier this week, militants laid siege to the city’s airport in a sophisticated night-time raid that killed 38 people.

But in the Lyari neighbourhood, the talk is all football.

Most of the homes in this gang-blighted slum are festooned with the flags of different national teams, with Brazil’s yellow and green colours by far the most popular.

Local resident Mohammad Ameen was busy preparing for his wedding Friday. Yet he was equally determined not to miss out on any footballing action, despite cricket ranking far ahead of football for most Pakistanis.

“I can’t miss the World Cup,” said Ameen.

“I have asked my relatives to come early so that we can wrap up the ceremonies early and I can watch the match with my friends.”

Former Pakistan international Aurangzeb Shahmir, who lives in the neighbourhood, said local residents are obsessed with the tournament.

“When you come to Lyari these days, you will realise that the football World Cup is on,” said Shahmir.

A football fiesta is also under way in Malir, which lies on the western edge of Karachi airport, as people do their best to forget about how Pakistan’s aviation hub was briefly turned into a war zone only a few days before.

“We started preparations for the World Cup late because of the airport attacks,” said local resident Jalil Baksh, whose house is painted with a tournament schedule and group standing tables.

“But now we can’t wait any more as the festival is on.”

But for the vast majority of Karachi’s estimated 20 million inhabitants, a television and a prayer that the city’s electricity supplies hold up will just have to do.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2014.

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