Lyari gangster wants to avenge Kaka’s red card

With his Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, 23-year-old footballer-cum-gangster Jasim* takes an extended drag of his cigarette, and tells The News that he would have shot at the referee officiating the World Cup Brazil-Ivory Coast match for having showed a red card to Brazilian football superstar Kaka ñ had the match official been anywhere near him.
Standing besides an electricity pole on a congested street in Lyari, Jasim and his two friends ñ all of them influential gangsters in Lyari ñ oversee arrangements for the live screening of a football World Cup match later in the evening. All three of them are passionate football fans and die-hard supporters of Brazil, but Jasim was the only one among them who has actually played the game.
“I used to play football, but I ended up carrying a gun due to the twists life had in store for me,” Jasim says. Now a member of the Rehman Baloch gang, the youngster felt that dreams in Lyari remain mostly unfulfilled. “It was my utmost desire to die as a great soccer player, but, sadly, I happened to be born in a neighbourhood where wishes are just not answered.”
The youngster’s support for Brazil, however, remains steadfast and unconditional. He wants Brazil to win the World Cup in South Africa at any cost, and that too, against Argentina. “When Kaka passes the ball to Robinho or Fabiano, I feel life finally has some meaning,” he says.
Jasim says that he loves it when someone refers to him as a football player rather than a gangster. “I feel alive when people talk about the football matches I once took part in,” he says. “I remember a match when I scored a hat-trick, and people rushed inside the ground to embrace me. That is the moment I remember every time I see a Brazilian player celebrating after scoring (a goal).”
While he may not have the opportunity to celebrate on field after scoring a goal anymore, Jasim now fires bullets in the air when a Brazilian player sends the ball past the opposing team’s goalkeeper. “I have been anxiously waiting for the Brazil-Portugal match, as I have bet Rs10,000 with one of my friends on a Brazil win. Brazil must win, as they are the undisputed kings of the game,” he said.
Lyari, one of the oldest and most backward localities in Karachi, remains in the headlines ñ albeit for all the wrong reasons. Recently, clashes erupted between rival armed groups, and dozens of people were killed as a result, but much to the relief of Lyari residents, the conflict ended hours before the tournament kicked off. Many residents believe that the reason the fighting came to an abrupt end was the start of the football tournament.
As the guns went silent, jubilant residents of Lyari arranged giant screens in many areas, including Kalakot, Baghdadi and others. For Jasim and his friends, the World Cup brings an opportunity to dance after every goal scored, and shout after each save a goalkeeper makes. Supporters of different teams argue with and make fun of each other, while the crowd observes absolute silence when a striker closes in on an opposition goal, and yells when an opportunity is missed or when the KESC decides to switch off power. While clashes between rival groups over the years have overshadowed the contribution of the old neighbourhood to sports, Lyari has neither stopped playing football nor watching it.

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