02 June, 2010

For the love of Football

Next Friday - the biggest, most spectacular and most watched sporting event on Earth: the World Cup, kicks off. Except for North America and the Indian Sub-continent, football or soccer to be more precise, is loved by almost all peoples of the World. The people of Hadhramaut are no exception: of all sporting activities, soccer is the most loved, most played and most watched here. The lack of proper soccer playing facilities; the heat and the ruggedness of the fields have not deterred the many children and young men from soccer. Here in Mukalla, in the evenings before sunset, and sometimes even in the early mornings - on every empty, suitable land; many times, even on roads, streets and pavements - children and young men can be seen playing football. Photos and quotes:

Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man. Pele
Pele called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life. George Best
Every time I went away I was deceiving my mum. I'd tell her I was going to school but I'd be out on the street playing football. I always had a ball on my feet. Ronaldo
I’ve always said that football is free. I don’t know of anything else in the world you can get such an emotional jolt from, to go so quickly from anger to bliss in two minutes. Soccer is the only weapon -- I take that back -- it is the most important thing in the world, only surpassed by politics. But where politics stops, football begins. Two countries could be at war, but when the game begins they put down their guns. Samuel Eto’o
To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink. J. B. Priestley
In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team. Jean Paul Sartre
I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting. George Orwell
Some people tell me that we professional players are soccer slaves. Well, if this is slavery, give me a life sentence. Bobby Charlton
To be recognised by a whole country is incredible. This is massive. Zinedine Zidane
I don't for a second regret scoring that goal with my hand. Diego Maradona
Sometimes in soccer you have to score goals. Thierry Henry
Soccer is a game in which a handful of fit men run around for one and a half hours watched by millions of people who could really use the exercise. Author Unknown

And so, come next Friday, billions of people around the world: men, women, the young and the old - will be watching, talking and living soccer. For about thirty days, that will be so. Irrespective of who wins, soccer is incredible; even those who hate it, find themselves affected by it. After the 2010 World Cup comes to a close, it will start all over again: the next event will be planned and longingly waited for, by most of the Earth's populace.