KARACHI- A corner of Karachi will forever be Brazil. Seen from overseas, Pakistan’s biggest city this week issued a fresh reminder of its reputation for chaos and violence but on its teeming streets, the more burning topic of interest is the World Cup now under way.
The “beautiful game” offers residents of Pakistan’s commercial metropolis a brief respite from the maelstrom of violence that blights their everyday lives.
Earlier this week Islamic militants laid siege to the city’s airport in a sophisticated nighttime raid that killed 38 people, the latest in a series of militant attacks to bring chaos to the country’s vital economic hub.
But in the Lyari neighborhood, the talk is all football.
Most of the homes in this gang-blighted slum are festooned with the flags of different national teams, with Brazil’s yellow and green colours by far the most popular.
Local resident Mohammad Ameen was busily preparing for his wedding Friday. Yet he was equally determined not to miss out on any footballing action, despite cricket ranking far ahead of football for most Pakistanis.
“I can’t miss the World Cup,” the 27-year-old said. “I have asked my relatives to come early so that we can wrap up the ceremonies early and I can watch the match with my friends.”
Lyari has overcome miserable facilities and a notorious reputation for gang violence that has killed hundreds of people over the past 15 years to produce the country’s best football players.
Former Pakistan international Aurangzeb Shahmir, who lives in the neighborhood, said local residents are obsessed with the tournament, even if his countrymen have never even qualified for the finals.
“When you come to Lyari these days, you will realise that the football World Cup is on,” he said.