Tag Archives: 2014 World Cup

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Tearing up the Pitch: The Battle for the Soul of Soccer

By Guest Contributor Isaac Oommen

Players hold up a banner saying “Say No To Racism” before the FIFA World Cup match pitting Uruguay against Ghana. Image via Zimbio.

Soccer was an unstoppable force in the Gulf Middle East, where I grew up. One of my earliest memories is of my dad teaching me the basics of ball control in our gravel back lot in Buraimi, Oman (my dad maintains to this day that the essence of playing good soccer is to understand that the ball is actually metaphorical, making the game the only one that can be played with no equipment whatsoever). These were soon followed by actual games at school, tournaments and watching the dubbed Arabic anime Captain Majid.

When I first came to Vancouver, playing pick-up games of soccer was one of the few ways in which I felt that tiny slice of home. Even now, my game-days are spent at packed Commercial Drive cafes where groups of brown men from all over the world switch between spells of silence and uproar while staring at high definition televisions.

Interacting with large transnational populations wherever I went, I found, as sports writer Matt Hern says in One Game at a Time, that there was rarely a site of greater integration, tolerance, generosity and undermining of racial stereotypes than sports.
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