It used to be an old gas station. In the area where car owners once filled their tanks an elevated boxing ring now stands. Fraying rope holds the still sturdy structure together as George Khosi instructs his student on the correct way to dodge and jab. “One two, one two,” he counts. Outside the ring, a bright green punching bag sways gently in response to blows delivered by a little boy with missing teeth and mismatched boxing gloves. The 44-year-old coach does not seem to mind, he would rather the boy box than wander the streets.
It’s futile and perhaps just a little odious to compare cricket with football (soccer), but like all cricket-lovers, compare I must. While football’s fizz serves it well as a commoditised distraction of corporate capital, cricket for the most part resists the big money phantasmagoria. Cricket – even in its glitzy made-for-Bollywood 20/20 form – does not yield easily to the sponsored shrinkage of space into time. The openness to the elements, of earth and cloud, together with the combination of a team setting and moment-by-moment individual drama (ball vs. bat) lend themselves to strategy, long-form thinking and to depth psychology.
Dramatic films about football–with few exceptions, say “Sixty Six” or “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation“– are usually a bust. It seems hard to recreate on-field action or to make connections to larger themes about the nation, identity politics, institutional violence, capitalism or the romance of the beautiful game. And nowadays professional footballers’ lives off-field can be regimented and organized, drained of any real drama. Mario Balotelli, or before him Lilian Thuram or Eric Cantona are major exceptions.