Monday, January 30, 2006

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS - The five pillars v Two jumpers and a goalpost

Woken this morning by the call of the muezzin, blaring out "Allahu akbar" on a microphone at 5.30a.m. This got me thinking further about the similarity between Islam and football. The muezzin will call people to prayers five times a day every day, at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. The timetable for these calls can be found in the daily papers. A more flexible timetable is adopted for football but details can also be found in the paper, for many everyday people participate in this form of religion through the television. Our TV listings page will show, Soccer AM, Football Focus, Match of the Day any live games and late night football from overseas. Other more devout followers, will also turn to the fixtures section and answer the call, sometimes by travelling vast distances.

Islam means 'submission' and the people are expected to observe the five pillars which form the basis of the religion. The first pillar is to publicly declare 'there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet'. In football we will tell anyone that our team is better than anyone else's, no matter what our current league position is.

The second pillar, is to answer the call of the muezzin, and pray five times a day. (I answered this mornings call by asking him to be quiet). In football it is important to get your daily fix and an innovation of recent times has been the great ball in the sky - the satellite which provides non stop information.

The third pillar is to give alms for the propogation of Islam and to help the needy. In football this can be done by paying exorbitant amounts of money in the form of either match day admission fees or satellite subscription fees.

The fourth, states that Muslims must fast during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan. We must attempt, during the season which can run all year round, to watch every game we can live, if not then on TV and also read all about it in the various forms of media available. It is also important to ensure any conversation we have in the pub is based around our religion.

The fifth and final pillar is the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. In football we all, wherever we are have a dream that one day we will be able to stand on the terraces and see our team in the final of our country's premier competition. With Islam there is a specific name given to those that have made such a journey, in football those people who attend such an event are known as 'lucky' by those who didn't get a ticket.

On a recent free morning, (my first and only to date) I took a walk down to the Citadel, built by Saladin in the 12th century. There you can find the mosque of Muhammad Ali, (I was attracted by the name as I am sure I have heard it somewhere before). The police presence outside was strong and inside police with guns were highly visible. The mosque itself was rather bland from the outside but inside its domes are decorated like a faberge egg. Outside in the courtyard you can see ( when it is not covered in scaffolding an ornate clock which was given by King Louis-Phillipe of France in exchange for the obelisk that stands in the Place de la Concorde. The clock was damaged upon delivery and has yet to be repaired!

The mosque dominates Cairo's skyline, but an even better view was had from the Muqattam hills which look back over the citadel. In the distance through the haze I had my first sight of two toblerones in the distance.

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