Clad in Argentina colours, fans in Malir celebrate football festival [Dawn]

Clad in Argentina colours, fans in Malir celebrate football festival [Dawn]

by Shazia Hasan

KARACHI: Save for a rectangular glow coming from its far end, the Imam Bux Memorial Football Ground in Malir’s Siddiq Village was completely dark. As you entered from one of its gates something hit your shin.

It was a bouncy green volleyball being used for playing football by little children, one of whom, a little girl, came chasing after it before kicking it back to her team-mates. They were killing time before the final of the FIFA World Cup between Argentina and France on Sunday.

The match was being screened live here from Lusail Stadium in Doha, just like all the other World Cup matches though the ground management was expecting more people here today than the regular crowd.

Kamran Abdullah Murad, chairman of the Shaheed Master Abdullah Murad Foundation who is also associated with the popular Gul Baloch Football Club here was expecting more than a thousand people to watch the match on the 12ft by 20ft big screen put up there which is spreading the glow.

The authorities didn’t turn on the ground lights as they said that their area wiring couldn’t take the load but no one cared. Everyone was fixated on the screen counting the minutes to kickoff.

Everyone there was either coming with an Argentina flag or is donning an Argentina jersey. Not all the people with the blue and white flags and jerseys are Argentina fans though.

Shah Jahan there said he was a Brazil fan. “Since Brazil is out and Argentina is in the final, I’m all for my other favourite player than Neymar, Lionel Messi, and his team,” Shah Jahan told Dawn.

It’s 36 years since Argentina is back in a World Cup final. Big Argentina flags mostly bought from the Lighthouse Lunda Bazaar are swaying in the evening breeze in Malir just like they are in Lusail.

“You also won’t see many France fans here, only three or four. And their number will not exceed four, I guarantee it,” says Zaheer, who is sporting an Argentina jersey also bought from the flea market.

One of those poor outnumbered four had also managed to bring with him a France flag. There were times when looking at him sticking out like a sore thumb you could read his mind. He was most probably thinking of stealing someone’s Argentina flag.

Thanks to the chill in the breeze, there were no mosquitoes in Malir. And even if there were, they were dismissed by the waving and swaying of the blue and white flags.

As the national anthem of Argentina was played on screen there were the fans here cheering too and humming along.

The whistle goes off. The match begins and the Argentina fans don’t have to wait too long as Messi scores in the 23rd minute. Everyone goes absolutely wild. It happens again in the 36th minute when Angel Di Maria brings up Argentina’s second goal. There were more oohs and aahs and whistling, hooting and clapping than even at Lusail.

An occasional cracker would also go off from one or the other houses lining the ground.

Those who stood up to cheer wouldn’t sit back down again prompting several requests from the ground management to sit down kindly, all falling on deaf ears. And then when France came back into the game, there was pin drop silence as everyone felt the need to sit down again. Of course, it wasn’t for long as they finally got their wish.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2022