Frank McCourt recalls some hallowed turf | Readings for 29 November 2006

Na Piarsaigh versus Ballinacurra Gardens in a Gaelic football match in Limerick. In “gah,” players advance the ball by carrying, kicking, hand-passing, or “soloing,” repetitively kicking the ball into their hands. (GROGG!! | Flickrâ„¢)

Limerick, Ireland | Sunday’s Observer Sport Monthly offers an essay by Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Angela’s Ashes, who remembers sporting divisions growing up and playing football despite its place as a “foreign sport.” Rugby also fit into this category. “If you played for a football or rugby club you could never play Gaelic football or hurling,” McCourt writes.

Sports were regarded as the province of Protestants or Catholics. Croquet, tennis and fox hunting were seen as Protestant pursuits; rowing was Catholic. Rugby was a crossover game. But “it was football that drove the mothers to distraction”:

They told us we were destroying our shoes with the tin cans we kicked for hours in the back lanes and we were to stop it. Winter would be on us and with the way our shoes were collapsing we might as well run around in our bare feet. If they caught us kicking the cans, we would be dragged home and forced to stare at the wall while our pals played on distant streets. My friend Billy Campbell had an idea. We’d go to a butcher, get a sheep’s bladder and pack it with grass and paper. If we played, barefoot, in the back meadow of the People’s Park, the bladder would last for hours, shoes would last longer and the mothers would be happy. (Observer Sport Monthly, 26 Nov 06)

Somalia | 25 football fans arrested watching Chelsea–Manchester United

According to an account from Muse Mohamed Osman of the Somali Sports Press Association, masked gunmen believed to be enforcing edicts of the Islamic Courts Union fired above the heads of 150 watching football in a cinema in Buulo Burde on Nov 26. Says eyewitness Adul Waahid Ahmed, “Everyone ran toward the front of the cinema and only 25 of the more than 150 fans were arrested and had their heads shaved. Praise be to Allah no one was hurt.” Islamic sheikhs who control the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the southern part of the country pledge to continue a ban on viewing sport (see Nov 20).

Sheikh Hussein Barre Raage of the Buulo Burde district said that

Somali youth are obliged to go to the holy war instead of watching what he called “the bad games which descended from the old Christian cultures.” The Sheik decreed that instead of watching television, sports fans must register at specially established holy war registration centers. (, 27 Nov 06)

Also in Somalia, religious leaders urged the national team to “defeat the Catholic Ethiopia, ‘the enemy of Islam,’ ” before the ongoing Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. Sheikhs realized the two teams are not paired in the group stages, but kept the contingency alive in case the two teams meet in the knockout phase. (Play the Game, 27 Nov 06)


Israel | How racism is holding back Arab footballers

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