Sport for All

Kids playing football on the muddiest pitch on the planet


I was just sorting through some of my old photos from India today and I came across this one of kids playing football on what has to be the muddiest pitch on the planet. This is topical for two reasons. I happened to spot that a Royal Photographic Society competition entitled ‘Sport for All’ had just announced the winner who had submitted a photo of kids playing cricket in the street in India. Had I known they were running this competition I would have entered this one which I reckon encapsulated the spirit of the competition pretty well. Never mind, maybe at the next Olympics.


The second reason it’s topical is because it’s peak monsoon now in Northern India and I took this photo just outside Varanasi on the day the monsoon broke.

The temperature and humidity had slowly risen over the weeks until  the highs were reaching over 50 degrees and you could cut the air with a knife.  Some days the air was so heavy with moisture it was hard to breath. It’s the only time in my life I’ve suffered heat stroke. You know the rain is desperate to fall from a pregnant sky but it doesn’t and it’s like this day after day until one day the rain does fall and it’s bliss.

Well, that year the monsoon finally broke in mid-June , the temperature dropped by a good 15 degrees, the air filled with cool fresh water, the streets flooded with water washing the contents of the drains up against your legs and you try not to think about it too much.  And everyone celebrates by dancing in the streets, and playing water games and in this case, with a football match that anywhere else in the world  would have been cancelled under these circumstances. Here though the mud became an important part of the game where the players took extra pride in creating the biggest explosions of mud, especially if this meant splattering me too.

What’s really amazing about the flooding is that, after an hour of celebrations, life just goes on as normal. The traffic pushes on at the usual speed with water well over the wheel arches and create bow waves that wash straight into the shops which are open for business as usual even though the floor is under a meter of water. Even the thousands of bicycle rickshaw drivers in Varanasi keep on going, their feet peddling away beneath the water surface and elegant ladies in long sarees wade through the streets while children wizz past on inflatable inner tubes.

A week later, the floods had become so bad in the Indian State of Bihar that 2 million people had been displaced by rising flood water after their homes were destroyed and hundreds had drowned.  This was reported in a single column on page 3 of The Times of India. Taking up the whole of the front page of the same edition was a photograph of a man paddling his canoe up Tewksbury High Street in Worcestershire, England after the town was flooded when the River Severn burst it’s banks. Nobody was killed and nobody lost their home.


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