Football and Pie

Football and Pie

Over the last few years I have found myself going to see a lot of football. Never so interested in the game, but more the culture and the atmosphere; my focus is always on that - the fans experience.

This part of my website will chronicle the photos I take whilst enjoying the fans experience of football all around the world.

The Myanmar Rivalry – Yangon United v Yadanarbon F.C. - 2017

Myanmar is a country that has seen extraordinary change in the last decade as it transitions from a military ruled dictatorship towards a democracy. Football is wildly popular but the country did not have a national league covering all the separate states and regions until the Myanmar National League was created in 2009. Of the twelve teams taking part in the league no rivalry is more contested than the ‘Myanmar Rivalry’, between Yangon United and Yadanarbon F.C. - the city of Mandalay’s team. The rivalry stems from both teams enjoying periods of dominance over the other whilst being the football clubs that represent Myanmar’s two biggest cities.

The two teams met on the 30th September 2017 at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon on the first leg on the semi-final of the 2017 General Aung San Shield – Myanmar’s annual knockout tournament. A single goal from Yangon’s all time top scorer, the Brazilian César, resulted in an ecstatic home win and disappointment for the travelling fans from Mandalay.

Considering the national league as well as the two teams playing had only been founded in 2009, they had already developed a considerable following and community. The fans of both teams were represented by younger, middle aged and elderly people and as well as an even mix of genders. The images in this photo story focus on this relatively new but passionate fan base and support displayed by the two clubs during this derby match.

Phnom Penh - Cambodia - 2016

The Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia was built in 1964 but has never actually held any Olympic activities or games. During its troubled history it was used as an execution ground during the Khmer Rouge era and fell into disrepair until it was redeveloped in 2000. Today however the 70,000 capacity sports venue is full of life and regularly holds football and other sporting events.

On the 21st July 2016 during the ASEAN Football Federation Under 16s youth championship; a packed Olympic Stadium played host to Cambodia v Vietnam. The atmosphere was electric despite the tropical rain and Vietnam came out winners with the final score being 0 - 1. These pictures focus on the fans experience of the game which was an impressive show of support considering it was an under 16s fixture, which would even not receive a look in many other countries.

South Lebanon - 2014

A 15-year civil war and multiple conflicts with neighbours such as Israel has left Lebanon plagued by lasting danger.

Vast areas of the country, particularly in the south, are contaminated with unexploded landmine and cluster munitions. This has caused many citizens to have suffered life-changing injuries that can prevent them from supporting themselves and their families.

This, combined with the economic impacts caused by unexploded ordnance preventing people from working their land, has meant that one in give Lebanese citizens – 900,00 people, are now directly effected by this issue. 

Many medical, economic, and social civil society initiatives provide rehabilitation to the survivors of these accidents, helping them become self-reliant again. The Jezzine Landmine Survivors Cooperative, for instance, was set up to help survivors start new businesses such as honey and chicken farming. There is also the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped (LWAH) which helps most survivors in their post-accident rehabilitation. It provides free medical therapy and has also set up local branches to help with the social aspects of recovery. 

Many of the survivors lose confidence after their injuries, and initiatives like the Lebanese Landmine Survivors Football Team give them a place to come to terms with their accident. Through these efforts, those effected are given a chance to thrive once again despite the challenges they face.

NGOMAG (Mines Advisory Group) partake in landmine and cluster munition clearance activities in Lebanon’s ordnance infested south.

An old unexploded cluster bomb.

Farm land in south Lebanon being cleared of danger by MAG. The red poles show the area that is still dangerous.

Hussein Ghandour is a land mine survivor who has worked as a prosthetics technician for 13 years. He was seven when he was injured.

The Nabih Berri Rehabilitation Compound, run by LWAH (Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped), is a medical centre that provides rehabilitation therapy and also houses a prosthetic limb workshop.

LWAH launched the Landmine Survivors’ Football team in 2001 to bring survivors together once a week to play football. Some members of the team also compete in international sporting events, such as the upcoming Asian Para Games.

Most of the players have become leg amputees as a result of their accidents and play on prosthetic limbs.

Heated tactical discussions between players often ensue. Team manager Dr Bachir complains that the players ‘think with their boots, and not with their brains’, as they often shoot for glory rather than passing the ball.

From the World Cup to the Land Mine Survivors football team; players of all levels naturally like to spend some time on the floor. At least 903 Lebanese citizens were killed, and 2,780 people seriously injured between 1975-2012 by unexploded ordnance in Lebanon, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

The football team gives the players a new lease of life; a place where they can collectively learn how to come to terms with their injuries in a non-judgmental and accepting atmosphere. Confidence and self belief are the outcomes of the project.

Despite the positives in Lebanon’s collective rehabilitation efforts there are still many ordinates left that pose a real danger. The accident rate has gone up in the last few years with the huge increase in population due to the Syrian crisis.

‘Remaining landmine and cluster munition contamination is said to affect 565 towns and more than 900,000 people,’ the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has found.

Jihad Saloub, 39 had his accident in 2012 when he picked up a shiny object on the beach which exploded; removing his forearm and damaging much of the rest of his body. He is receiving physiotherapy from LWAH doctor Sadak Mshawrab in preparation to receive a prosthetic arm.

Bechara Aoun, 50, used to be a baker but the loss of his arm meant he couldn’t do the work anymore. Luckily he prefers the farming and with it he can support his family of five.

Wafaa Diab has worked for MAG for over a year helping rehabilitate Lebanon’s land. Her family does worry about her safety but understands her passion is to help make the country safe again.

Ali Srour, 31 is a survivor from the south Lebanon town of Ayta ash Shab. He had his accident when was on a hunting trip near the Blue Line when he was 18, losing a large part of his left leg in the process.

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