World Cup delirium in Karachi’s Lyari ignites alleys of Pakistan’s ‘mini Brazil’

Published December 2, 2022
<p>Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters</p>

Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters

Flags of some nations competing in football’s World Cup fluttered overhead as boys in a dusty alley in Lyari kicked a ball around in a fever of excitement.

The football-crazed neighbourhood is also known as “Mini Brazil”, and this year a mural featuring the game’s stars, from Argentina’s Lionel Messi to Brazil’s Neymar Da Silva Santos Júnior and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, is taking centre stage.

“The football frenzy here is so great that it feels like the World Cup is being played not in Qatar, but in Lyari,” Waseem Sarbazi, a member of a nearby football coaching academy, told Reuters.

 Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters
Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters

Pakistan has never qualified for a World Cup tournament, but many young people still enrol in football academies to train for hours each day in Lyari, one of Karachi’s poorest areas, hoping to take to an international pitch one day.

“We want FIFA to get involved in football activities in Lyari,” Sarbazi added. “They should have an event here because there is an uncountable number of players and spectators here.”

Thousands turned out in “Mini Brazil” last Monday when Brazil played Switzerland, sporting the classic yellow and green colours of their favourite team as they gathered in front of large television screens to the sound of raucous music.

 Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters
Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters

“Very powerful matches and the Brazil match,” said Ashiq Hussain, one of the young players from the academy, adding that he found the matches inspiring.

“I think my favourite team is Brazil. I like the goalkeeper Ederson [Santana de Moraes].”

The fans erupted into wild cheers and danced when Brazil sealed their entry into the knockout stages with a 1-0 win over Switzerland.

“I went to my job wearing the Brazil shirt, and now at night, I am still wearing the shirt during the match,” said another fan, Mohammad Yasin.

“I am going to keep wearing this shirt, whether they lose the match or win. I am not taking off this shirt at all.”

Brazil’s success in that match will draw out thousands more in “Mini Brazil” on Friday when the team face off against Cameroon. If they draw or win, Brazil will top Group G.

If they lose and Switzerland win against Serbia, the goal difference will decide the top spot.

“The people here love football,” said Lyari resident Tahir Khan. “Every four years, this excitement flares.”

 Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters
Football fans stand near a goalpost as they watch FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on a big screen in Lyari, Karachi, November 30. — Reuters

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