Soccer takes a holy turn | india | Hindustan Times
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Soccer takes a holy turn

india Updated: Jun 22, 2006 19:03 IST
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Taking a break from prayer and meditation, holy men in Allahabad are enjoying their bit of the World Cup soccer, playing the game on river banks and temples courtyards clad in their trademark saffron robes, much to the amusement of locals and curious pilgrims.

The men have little clue about the rules of the game, and begin it with what they know best - the chanting of hymns.

A foul results in a penance call by the referee, an ageing saint, who rolls his prayer beads in clockwise fashion for most of the game, only occasionally shouting out to the younger men to fear God as they play one of sport's rowdiest games.

The motley group interestingly has found its Maradona in Ramsharan, a middle aged saint, who plays the game like a pro and has amazed all by his spectacular headers and foot play.

The men, who are vagabonds and catch the soccer matches at roadside restaurants, said they managed the football from a group of children who used to frequent the riverbank and were kind enough to lend it to them.

"The world over people are playing football. Today morning, the children brought the football to the banks so we played on the bank borrowing the ball from them. It feels great," Sita Ram, a 64-year-old who plays the game with age-defying agility.

Short in supplies and manpower, the men, use tridents for goalposts and have a one-legged goalkeeper who uses a stick to fend off the bungling strikers.

And though they have no idea about the teams in the World Cup fray, most have picked up a name - Brazil.

Barely able to pronounce the name, the men nevertheless say that their holy powers tell them that the team is a sure shot winner.

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