As the World Cup kicked off in Brazil last month, gunfire took a back seat in the violence-ridden neighbourhood of Lyari, a southern town in Pakistan’s coastal city of Karachi.
Notorious for being the hub of drug abuse and a rarely ceasing gang war, Lyari is also the country’s mecca of football. Every four years, when the world goes crazy for football, Lyari residents tend to go soft on the ethnically divisive Kutchi-Baloch rivalry and the politically motivated turf war. Instead, they focus on on-field duels taking place thousands of miles away.
“You will see people of rival ethnic groups celebrating with each other when their followed teams (mostly Brazil and Argentina) score,” Mohammad Younus, a local, told Al Jazeera.
Younus once played for Pakistan’s reserve team and now runs a small grocery store. He also coaches local youth who give up studies and work at times to participate in club tournaments. There are no financial gains and no future in football for these youngsters. It’s the passion that drives them.
While political protest die down during the World Cup, if Brazil or Argentina were to lose a match, rallies are taken out against the opposition with plenty of chanting and flag-burning witnessed in the process.