Raheem Sterling, the English winger, was born to Jamaican parents in Kingston. His family lived in the most notorious neighborhoods of the city. When he was 2, his father was shot dead on the streets. Raheem’s mother moved to London to secure a better living for the family, he was brought up by his “gran”. The family were so poor that young Raheem’s first football kicks in life were on an empty juice carton.
Kylian Mbappe, one of the young stars of this world cup, was born to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother in Bondy, a Parisian suburb known more for riots and crimes. Mbappe, only 19, doesn’t take his match wages for France. He donates it after every game to Preiers de Cordees association, a charity which helps organize sports activities for children with disabilities. He has pledged a potential cup winning bonus of £265,000 to charity. Because he doesn’t feel he should be paid for playing for his country.
A week ago today, Belgium were staring at a shock and humiliating defeat to Japan. The two men who combined to give them a last second winner – one was a second generation Congolese (Lukaku) and the other a second generation Moroccan (Chadli). The man who had brought Belgium level earlier was also born to Moroccan immigrants. 4 nights later, he would play a stellar role in nullifying the threat of the world’s most expensive player as the Belgians sent seismic shock waves through the footballing world.
Croatia has a current population less than what my city had back in 2011. The country was born out of the Balkan wars. Close to 15000 died in the independence war, many of them slaughtered by the Serbian army. More than 5 lacs were rendered homeless in one of the most brutal wars seen by humanity. When Croatia reached the last 4 in their first appearance in ’98, the success worked as a healing balm for a nation still recovering from ravages of war. Luka Modric who has been a real star in this campaign had seen his grandfather Luka executed when he was 6 years old. The house he lived in was burnt to the ground. His family lived as a refugee for 7 years. Amidst incessant dropping of bombs, football was a way to escape reality.
This is the most emotionally gratifying world event in 28 years of watching world cups. Because finally, the battle for glory has gone beyond the chosen few. Finally, the children of immigrants, childhoods lost in war brutalities, the homeless and the luckless,, everyone had an equal chance .
By Jay may