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  • Javier Romano

Never too late to join Afghan football

I still remember my many excuses not to join the afghan football games in La Zahara: ‘not this year... not this year’, ‘too dusty’, ‘too hot’, ‘too brutal’, ‘never liked football’, ‘busy elsewhere’, ‘chatting with friends in the terrace’, ‘oops, miss it again’, and so on. But in the back of my mind, I managed to observe that some important things were happening ‘in the field’. Surely the spectators gained partial insights just by ‘being there’, and they/we, got part of the benefit, but nothing like ‘being IN the game’. This I realised once I’ve took the decision to finally jump in and experience directly what was all about. But, by then, I’d already missed valuable years of training and even if I’d just managed to get a grip on the basic dynamics of that ‘exercise’, the existing teams had already built, throughout the years, a strong bond with each other and a more subtle understanding of what was really going on in the field. It was great and there are no words to summarise the real experience manifesting itself in multiple levels. It was a teaching tool that was working well and still does. He who tastes, knows.

“To distinguish real objectives from secondary ones the Sufis have said: ‘The importance of something is in inverse proportion to its attractiveness.’ This is the parallel of the negligence with which people often fail, in the ordinary world, to recognise important events, inventions or discoveries. That this is appreciated in day-to-day matters is perhaps evidenced by the appearance of this statement in a London daily newspaper as ‘The importance of a subject can be judged by the lack of interest in it.”

“Seeker after Truth”. Attraction and Importance. I. Shah

When Quaternity was first introduced I, again, tended to ignore it. I had played Chess briefly when I was a teenager but never persevered and so, I lost interest in it. Then, during a meeting, I was called by a friend to temporarily replace a player in a game that was being played after lunch under the big marquee. I was reluctant and objected that I didn’t know how to play, but the friend insisted that it didn’t matter, it was only for a few minutes. It was like a small ‘initiation’ and since then I’d never stopped playing and learning. In Daria Nur I’ve joined my first tournament and remember feeling very insecure as to what pieces to move. A Brazilian friend whispered from behind me the magic words: ‘just move any piece and see what happens’. This was a key moment. And ‘SEE what happens’, see for yourself, face your fear and insecurity, play on. It doesn’t really matter, and it does.

“Gold and Undertaking” is the one story that I kept in mind since I started to learn and play this game. When ‘defeated’, something that happens most of the time, it encouraged me to keep going, to discuss with friends what happened in a game, to see how they developed theirs. We helped one another and above all we became more familiar with one another. Like with Afghan football. A sort of ‘electric current’ was passing through us and it was so evident. Now I feel probably like the afghan football players felt at the time: ‘why is not everybody using this tool’? Things don’t last forever -at least in this dimension- and as Agha said in relation to that game: ‘you have to catch the ball and pass it on’. The many fabricated excuses not to use a tool made available by a teacher somehow reflect the reactions of some people in “The Wandering Baba” to the introduction of unusual forms of teaching:

“The sooner this ignorant and ridiculous dervish quits our neighbourhood, the better.” “This is disgraceful for a man of faith, a teacher and Hakim.” Some people approved; others were profoundly dismayed.” But “...Through the Wandering Baba all these people and these things had been saved.”

I. Shah, Reflections. P. 101-2-3

J. Romano

9. 2. 2022


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