KARACHI: As the Fifa World Cup kicks off in Al Khor’s Al-Bayt Stadium on Sunday, there will also be fireworks going off above the Gul Baloch Football Ground in Siddiq Village as the Baloch residents of this little Malir neighbourhood perform traditional dances.
As has been happening every four years here, the place is already wearing a festive look, literally. The walls have been whitewashed for the village’s two artists to paint the faces of the most popular players and flags of all the nations playing in the mega event, though there seems to be a particular fondness for Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy and Portugal here.
The Gul Baloch Football Ground is owned by the Gul Baloch Football Club. There is a big screen installed in the ground to screen the World Cup matches. “During the Uefa Europa League, we put up a screen on the top floor of our club building but this is the World Cup so we are expecting a bigger crowd,” says Rashid Abdul Razzak, who owns the Gul Baloch club.
The club has played a big role in fueling football talent among the local youth. Bilal Baloch, an under-18 player from here, now plays for Bremen City in Germany. Two more locals, Pir Baksh and Waseem Mohammad are playing in football clubs in Iran while another youngster, Yaseen Baloch, plays for Karachi United.
Narrow lanes and houses are decorated with participating teams’ flags and buntings, as if Siddiq village hosts the matches
Razzak says that you encounter unique individuals, all great football fans, in Siddiq Village. There is Ghulam Murtaza, a fitness enthusiast, whose favourite football team happens to be Germany, and he has learnt the German language, too. The house he lives in is called German House and its entrance is covered with the German flag. Another person who speaks Italian has Italy as his favourite team. You also run into Maqdoom Murad Baloch, a rap artist, who raps about his favourite teams.
And there is the famous samosa and pakora seller, Mama Brazil, too, here, who after closing his little shack now sells from a pushcart. In the morning he sells the salted snacks to bus drivers and factory workers who pass by the place and after that the same pushcart is used for selling the football country flags and jerseys that he gets from the thrift market or Lunda Bazaar, to sell here as cheap memorabilia.
For the last 18 days, Sajid Ali, who has a video games shop, has been closing his shop at around midnight and coming to Siddiq Village to paint World Cup countries’ flags, players’ pictures and all kinds of designs on all the walls in the vicinity till Fajr prayers. “I then head home to grab some sleep until Zuhr after which it’s back to my shop and back here,” Sajid shares his routine of the past two-and-a-half weeks. He is himself a fan of France and wanted to paint lots of French flags along with pictures of his favourite footballer Antoine Griezmann but he also makes sure to listen to everyone else’s requests, too.
You see his art almost everywhere except for one narrow lane which displays art by a young woman, Dr Sabina Hussain. The young optometrist doesn’t want to take the entire credit for her art. She says that her husband too has painted some of the pictures there. The couple are quite football crazy. She is a Germany fan and he is a Brazil fan. The lane is decorated by Sabina alone since 2006 when she was a little girl and now she has her husband by her side. “This time we painted keeping in mind to turn this place into a Mini Qatar. Earlier, there has also been a Mini Russia, Mini Brazil, Mini South Africa and Mini Germany,” she laughs.
You turn around to admire the place as you prepare to leave. For any lover of the game, there is so much here to take in and appreciate -- the art, the panaflex prints, the different flag bunting, Mama Brazil etc. Siddiq Village is a football wonderland in Malir!
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2022