FIFA frenzy: Divided we fall, united we football: Lyari residents

Hundreds of eyes in Kalri were glued to the screen as hosts and Mexico battled it out in Brazil.


Hundreds of residents of Lyari gathered at the Sarghwad street in Kalri on Tuesday night for the Brazil versus Mexico FIFA World Cup match which was screened live on a projector screen at the roadside. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI:


How much happiness can a simple projector and a curtain stimulate? Add football and Lyari to the equation and the joy is unlimited.


A little before midnight on Tuesday, hundreds of residents of Kalri and its adjoining areas waited patiently for the match to start, laughing and bickering about their favourite teams. The screen was set up on the roadside, with a carpet laid down on the road for the audience to sit on and enjoy the match.

The walls on both sides of the road had been given a fresh coat of white paint, apparently to hide the graffiti. Flags of different countries were mounted on rooftops while a life-size poster of this year's schedule of matches was pasted on one of the walls.

People sat on the road in front of the screen, stood on pavements and even watched from the rooftops. The faces of the young and old alike shone in pure ecstasy as they watched their favourite players battle it out in Brazil.

Not even the K-Electric could dampen the spirits as their generous benefactors had arranged for a generator that would ensure non-stop screening of the Brazil versus Mexico match. Most were rooting for Brazil for this particular match; others decidedly wanted Mexico to thrash the home team.

The audience, irrespective of their ages, teased each other about their favourite teams. "Argentina will surely win the World Cup this year," smiled 50-year-old Ateeq Baloch, pointing towards an Argentinian flag that soared above a rooftop. His friend, who was supporting Brazil, scoffed. "Even our Ibrahim Hyderi team can beat Argentina."

As the match progressed, the crowd cheered and booed players from both teams as they attempted to score. A deafening roar ensued when Brazil player, Oscar, managed to kick the ball into the net in the first few minutes but his goal was disallowed due to an offside foul. Some cussed at the referee; others booed the Brazilian; yet others playfully teased their friends, certain of a victory for their side.

One of the youngest members of the audience, nine-year-old Shaukat Ali, danced in the middle of the crowd each time Brazil were on the offensive. Ali wore a green headband, with the emblem of the Brazilian flag stitched to the centre. "My mother stitched it for me."

Love for the game

Among the crowd were local celebrities too. Saeed Babar, 15, who plays for the Pakistan Under-16 side, is respected and revered by the whole community. They see his story as a glimmer of hope; a way to tell the world that Lyari is not all guns and gore. The teenager walks to the nearest football stadium every day for his three-hour training routines conducted by his uncle, the former Pakistan national football team player, Qasim Soomar.

"Football is my life. I can't live without it."

Babar's juniors from the area look up to him. He has become a role model of sorts for his younger friends. Zameer, 14, who plays for the Hyderi United Football Club, hopes to represent Pakistan in international competitions such as the World Cup. He has a long way to go, though, as there is no funding or support from the government. "My father supports my passion," he remarked. "I am dedicated to the game and I know I will make it one day."

It is halftime and the crowd disperses temporarily. Somewhere from among them, 30 people carry something wrapped in a carpet that was lying on the floor. Others shout excitedly, following the entourage. Seeing the worried looks on our faces, Bux laughs as he explains: "That man is physically disabled. They are taking him home for a toilet break. This is Lyari."

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2014.

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