WTF?, I asked.
“You know, Bird loves Liverpool”, said one of his friends.
The idea and and rule of Footballists, simple and never-changing, is to talk and take pictures of people wearing shirts of their favourite football teams. This is, obviously, a special edition on our blog so let’s make an exception. If Khun Bird would be wearing his favourite shirt today the gods would be angry, that’s what his rule says. Actually, Khun Bird is a god today. More precisely, a god possess his body. It’s complicated.
The bizarre vegetarian festival on Phuket, the island known to be a tourist heaven in southern Thailand, easily tops otherwise very bizarre list of events I normally attend in my wanderings through Southeast Asia. In short, the festival, featuring face and every other piercing, spirit mediums and strict vegetarianism is a part of the local Chinese community’s belief that will help them obtain good health, and the rest that comes with pleading with Nine Emperor Gods. However, the original idea somehow developed into a spectacular festival of mind blowing rituals. Besides usual self-mutilation that is known to other religions in other parts of the world, what makes veggie fest in Phuket very special is variety of objects that are used to piece bodies. Car exhaust pipes and alloy wheels, chandeliers, nunchakus, models of racing cars and sailing ships, umbrellas, barbed wire and every possible kind of spikes, knifes and screwers plus M16s and other weapons – it is all pierced through cheeks and mouths of devotees of different Chinese temples as they parade through Phuket. That and many other unimaginable objects sharpened to cut through flesh. If you are in the mood, probably not, for some more pictures and attempts to explain the unexplainable, please look here and here.
Khun Bird, god for a day, loves Liverpool. I had no chance to talk to him directly as he was in trance with two metal rods carrying LFC flags, oranges stuck at their sharp ends, pierced through his mouth but members of his entourage, all wearing original Liverpool shirts, briefly explained his passion to me. So I took some pictures and then followed another god, fishing net coming from his mouth, into the crowd. For true believers this would be another strong proof that if you choose the right team, here and elsewhere, You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Why Liverpool? I asked.
“What is Liverpool?”
I suspected that would be the answer even before I asked the question we usually ask for this blog. Nurul Amin simply doesn’t know Liverpool nor does he know much about other teams and players. However, he knows football and loves it.
Nurul Amin is a Rohingya refugee and that is as bad as being a Bosnian but hundred times worse. Escaping recent violence, he left his village in Rakhine state on a rickety boat for a super dangerous trip across the Andaman see toward Malaysia, a heaven-like place almost every Muslim in the northern Myanmar dreams about. Nurul Amin was strong and lucky enough to survive the trip (people die on these boats) but his vessel didn’t make it all way to Malaysia. It was stopped in Thailand and now Nurul Amin spends time at a shelter for women and children waiting to see what else the brutal life will unload on him.
There is not much he can do at the shelter except playing football with other kids. Good people donated some clothes and some toys, among them few balls and some jerseys. Nurul Amin got a Liverpool one. While he posed for a picture (proving that a professional pose and associated hair style is something you are born with) smaller kids wearing donated football shirts stood around. As if someone opened a matryoshka doll and different sizes of misery jumped out, all looking straight in my eyes.
The cutest among them, by far, was one little “Ibrahimovic” in AC Milan shirt that grabbed my leg and released it only to be photographed.
Why Milan?, I asked.
“I like it because of that striker. I forgot his name.”
No wonder he can’t remember the striker’s name. Last time I’ve been drinking what Soe is drinking on a hot and humid summer day I had serious difficulties recalling anything. Thai rice whiskey, although less than 30 degree strong is a dangerous thing. The myth, truthless as only a myth can be, says this drink contains opium and poison.
Or perhaps Soe just doesn’t care and wants me to go away so he and his friend Zoe (Argentina shirt, “because of Messi”) can continue loiter in the shade of a scrappy shop enjoying a little drink after another heavy day at work.
Far away from their homeland Myanmar, these gentlemen live hard lives of fishermen on Thailand’s island of Phuket, better known as a tourist’s heaven. I assume there is not much beside football and Thai whiskey that matter to them at this point. However, they both agreed to pose for a picture. Cheers!