|Lyari Football Club|
Sheedis are thought to be the descendants of African slaves brought to the shores of Pakistan at the height of the international slave trade that started in the 7th century and continued into the 18th century.
Also known as Siddis in other parts of South Asia, they are believed to have arrived in India in 628 AD at the Bharuch port. Several others followed with the first Arab invasions of Sindh in 712 AD. The latter group are believed to have been soldiers with Muhammad bin Qasim's Arab army, and were called Zanjis. Siddis are related to the Bantu peoples of Southeast Africa. They were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by the Portuguese.
The Sheedis of Pakistan, also known as Makranis, live primarily along the Makran Coast in Balochistan, and southern part of Sindh. In Karachi, they are mainly concentrated in Lyari. Pir Mangho is revered by Sheedis as their patron saint. Sheedis have an annual celebration in Manghopir area around the shrine of their patron saint.
Soccer Fever in Lyari:
People bring big screen television sets and projectors into the streets to watch Brazilian team play against their opponents at dozens of spots in Lyari . Others head to a nearby sports complex for a screening, where hundreds of adults and kids arrive toting mats and picnic baskets, according to a PRI Radio report. Here's a excerpt from it:
"Almost everyone here supports the Brazilian team, and residents proudly point out that the neighborhood has been labeled “mini-Brazil" thanks to its fervor. “God willing, Brazil will win today and it will keep on winning," says one boy sitting on the ground surrounded by his friends. Other boys express their admiration for their hero, Neymar, a star Brazilian forward. Karachi's roots in soccer go back to the days of the British Empire. As one of British India's key seaports in the early twentieth century, many ships carrying European sailors would dock here. In their free time, visiting sailors played soccer near the harbor and would invite locals to join them. “This became a tradition — that whenever sailors came, these people used to go there and play with them,” says Nadir Shah Adil, a veteran journalist from Lyari. While much of Pakistan took on the British game of cricket, says Adil, people in Lyari chose soccer. It wasn't just because of the European sailors, though. Soccer was also a much more affordable sport for poor Lyari residents."
Street Child Football Championship:
Earlier this year, Pakistan's football team made up of mainly Lyari kids surprised the world by winning third place in the Street Child World Cup held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The team drew special praise for crushing arch-rival India 13-0 at the Rio tournament.
Pakistanis scored 2-0 win against Kenya and a 3-0 triumph against Mauritius before drawing 1-1 with the US team to reach the top in their group. In the quarter-finals, they defeated the Phillipines 3-2 but lost to Burundi 3-4 in the semi-finals. They played US again for third-place match and won 3-2 on penalty kicks to clinch the bronze medal in the seven-a-side tournament.
Hope For Lyari:
Lyari is a place known mainly for its poverty, drugs, violence and gang warfare that have ravaged the area for decades. Lyari gangsters with names like Baba Ladla, Rehman Dakait, Uzair Baloch and Arshad Pappu make more headlines than the neighborhood's sports talent in boxing, football and other sports.
Recent success in the Rio Street Child Football World Cup and now the Soccer World Cup 2014 fever represent an opportunity for the government and the civil society to offer Lyari youngsters an alternative to the life of drugs, violence and gangs. Let's hope that they will seize this opportunity.
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