Some Surprises and No Referee

  • Zoe Marriage


On Sunday 11 November 2001, while staying in Kotobi, southern Sudan, I had plans to go fishing, but unexpectedly found myself playing football. I had four positions: defence, right-wing, mid-field and marking that guy with the bandana. The pitch was grass (knee-deep) with a heavy camber in our favour. The rules were: 1) No off-side rule. Stand where you want, especially near the goal. Playing behind your opponents is not playing, and is pointed at; 2) No dribbling. Hoofing is good, and heading is tolerated if the ball is likely to do some damage; 3) No tackling. This corroborates rule 2: if someone is dribbling, they have already fouled, so approaching them implicates you in that; 4) No dallying. When the ball is in play, someone has to knock it into a spectating child, the church or the sorghum field; 5) Whenever you are hit by the ball, it should be allowed to ricochet in any direction, so as not to favour either team; 6) If you are white, female, wearing shoes and speaking English (albeit quietly and to yourself), having the ball land on you is as good as scoring a goal, and will be recorded as such in local lore. Adherence to these rules ensures what English footballers would term chaos, but who are they to say? Later, the ball wandered into the goal sparking a total pitch invasion, singing and acrobatics.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 2006

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  • Zoe Marriage

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