Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Football pitch near the centre of town.
The pitch was ready; everything was in place for two days of fiercely fought football and volleyball. Every year it happens: the local school teams travel into Korr, where they battle it out for the chance to be declared Kings of Korr and to go on to the Regional Finals. We had teams for both sports, lads and lasses, who treated the occasion like their very own World Cup - putting on that serious face and chatting away in secretive circles. 

Mr Lesarge explains the regulations as our lads (right) look on nervously before their first game.
Having seen a lot of competitions like this in England, I couldn't help making comparisons. Obviously, the desire is there. The girls' football team was in ferocious mood: made me glad I was on the side-lines. Volleyball becomes a bit of a blame game, with team-mates staring, hands on hips: "Hey, that was YOUR shot" ..."Why didn't YOU leave it for ME." Just like England. I had to grin when, towards the end of the tournament, we even saw a U.S. import: the "soccer mom." Ladies, flexing on the edge of the pitch, bellowing at the players, eyes like blazing fire... you get the picture. What I wasn't expecting was the only thing that really makes for a proper game of football in England - rain!

A word about rain: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In England, rain often feels like a curse: it is associated with innumerable sadnesses, dreary days, floods and events being cancelled. Whereas in Korr, people pray for rain - I've even found myself uttering a 'rain prayer' or two. We thank God for rain. Rain is a blessing. We want it to rain and never end. As the dry river beds began to fill, the sound of rushing water took my thoughts back to Derbyshire, if only for a moment. So rare to HEAR water round here. Maybe it's time you spent some time chilling out, next to a river near you? Beautiful and simple. In the words of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul
Anyhow, on with the game. You have to be tough to play football in Korr: barefoot, bone-crunching challenges; scorching heat (on the second day); little sign of any water for teams at any point before or during the battles (although a bucket of orange squash did surface at one late stage); and two contests daily per team, of at least an hour.
So why call this post 'Euphoria'? Because of the final hour.
The best days are the ones where you never imagined it would be this good until you're right in the middle of it. This was one of those days. It was all lined up for a big finish: our girls had struggled, improved and reached the volleyball final; the boys strolled into the football final. The games were to be played right next to each other, simultaneously. Smiles of joy burst out across the girls' faces as they swept their opponents aside in a one-sided final. New nicknames were already being written (Pauline becoming Power-line etc). All eyes turned to the boys' encounter. Reduced to ten-men, they still held on for the win.
Now for the euphoria. As the feelings overflowed, hundreds of people invaded the pitch. This developed into a high-speed lap-of-honour, with the victorious players and fans shrieking some kind of battle cry, as they raced around the field. Somehow I was sprinting too - and loving it! After the whirlwind of bodies came to a natural stop, a march began down the centre of the pitch, with more shouting and singing, as the sun silently bled out and retreated behind the mountains again. You don't forget those days.




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