BURIRAM UNITED, TAO

TaoSmall

Buriram United F.C. Tao. Admiralty, Hong Kong. November 2014.

It could have been any other of over twenty original shirts from different countries he owns, but gods of coincidence decided it’s going to be a Buriram United’s dark blue Tao will wear that day, almost a year ago between protesters in Hong Kong’s Admiralty. The protest colours, yellow was the most dominant, exploded over central Hong Kong in October 2014 and I was practically colour blind after shooting millions of pictures every day. But two Chang elephants and that beautiful blue, my favourite of all Asian football colours I could not possibly miss.

Besides sporting such a beautiful shirt and being Thailand’s champions several times, Buriram United F.C. is not the most loving sports club in the Land of Smiles. It’s one of those money-can-buy-you-all-but-not-really clubs that many people love to hate. Since it was bought by a local politician in 2009 who renamed it and moved to his hometown (original name PEA, colours purple/white), Buriram United is a powerhouse of Thai football. They have amazing new stadium, one of wonders of Buriram, a strong team and even stronger rivalry with Bangkok’s Muangthong United for which Robbie the God Fowler, pushing his wasted body to the limits, use to play.

The day I met Tao and his beautiful family, Buriram United beat Police United 2-1 to secure another league title. A year after they remain atop the Thai Premier league together with Muangthong United, 56 points each. At the same time in Hong Kong, few hundreds pro-democracy protesters with yellow umbrellas are taking streets of Admiralty again to mark the anniversary of protest – is Tao there and what shirt he wears?

Tao wide small

Hong Kong, the protest site, 2014.

Advertisements

COLOMBIA, TOM

IMG_8113_Tom

Colombia. Tom. Sherbrooke/Wilson, Montreal, 2015

Why Colombia? I asked.

“My girlfriend.”

Tom was born in Canada after his parents came from Hungary. He speaks fluent Hungarian and we had a nice chat (not in Hungarian) about second generation immigrants and languages here in Montreal. But, it was his girlfriend who turned him into a soccer fan. We agreed that Colombia has a very good team and had a nice showing at the last year’s World Cup. Tom is an artist doing illustrations, paintings and drawings.

As I write this it’s halftime at the Women’s World Cup game between France and Colombia. Colombia is leading 1:0 and I imagine Tom and his girlfriend having a good time watching the game.

 


LIVERPOOL, KHUN BIRD

Bird Phuket2s

Liverpool. Bird. Phuket, Thailand, 2014

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.

Bird Phukets

The gods never walk alone.


BARCELONA, JOHN

IMG_6288

Barcelona. John. De Maisonneuve/Wilson, Montreal, 2014

Why Barca? I asked.

“I hate Barcelona. My club is Chelsea.”

In front of a local carwash, this Labour day early morning, John and his two colleagues were waiting for the first customers to arrive. As I passed by I just said “Nice shirt” with my thumbs up. “No, not really.” he replied to my surprise. After he told me that Chelsea is his team I asked, obviously, why Chelsea. “Anybody can play in Chelsea… black, white, you can be green, anybody. Not in Barcelona.” He got this jersey from someone as a gift.

John’s been living in Montreal for a few years now. He comes from South Africa.


ECUADOR, CAMIL

IMG_6271

Ecuador. Camil. Sherbrooke/Regent, Montreal, 2014

Why Ecuador? I asked.

“And I’m not even from Ecuador… I got it as a gift a few years ago.”

The rain had just started and I only had my phone on me (‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ as someone famously said) but I decided to stop Camil anyway. He grew up in Montreal but his parents come from France and Morocco. He supported France in the World Cup. I sensed his sympathy for Spain as well as he claimed that ‘Spain will bounce back’.

Camil then asked me how did Liverpool play earlier in the day since we met a couple of hours after LFC match with Tottenham. It gave me much pleasure to report the score and a nice Balotelli debut. As we parted, just a block further into my walk, I ran into an advertising display at the local bus station. There was Mario Balotelli, larger then life, unreal, in this hockey city. This unexpected encounter must be a good omen for the season to come.

IMG_6263

Montreal, Aug 31, 2014


ARGENTINA, YANICK

20140610VBMontreal004

Argentina. Yanick. Sherbrooke/Hampton, Montreal, 2014

Why Argentina? I asked.

“I have many friends that are from Argentina.”

I walked into a store and there was Yanick, working. He was kind enough to step outside so I can photograph him. Yanick is from Montreal but has a strong connection with South America, his girlfriend is from Peru. Along the way he befriended a few Argentinians and started following their national team. Our chat was brief since he had to go back to work and I needed to go and get some flowers.

 


VENEZUELA, BORIS

20140619VBSarajevo014

Venezuela. Boris. Sarajevo. 2014

Why Venezuela? I asked.

“A friend from the States sent it to me as a gift. He liked Chavez and sympathized with Venezuela while Chavez was still alive.”

Venezuela’s national team, nicknamed La Vinotinto, has never qualified for the World Cup. I imagine, there is not much space for football in the nation crazy about baseball. But La Vinotinto jersey made it all the way to Sarajevo. Boris is my brother and these days our Bosnia and Herzegovina team plays in its first World Cup tournament in Brazil. So will Venezuela one day, I hope.