I have never thought that kicking a ball that is burning with vivid scorching flames would make one more spiritual. How does a soccer match make you “more spiritual”? Thanks for asking, you see…
For these players have been preparing for these football matches for 21 days – praying and fasting and learning to ‘tame fire’.
When they are ready, the tough 60 minutes of football begins – played in bare feet with a burning coconut which has been soaked in kerosene for two days. The burning matches take place over 60 minutes – and the players may go through four coconuts before the game is over.
Each coconut soaks for two days, ensuring it is drenched with flames and ready to burn.
Then the players place the ball in the centre-spot, and prepare to play – lighting a match to the match-day ball.
They play with bare feet – tackling, taking free-kick and scoring their way to victory in an imitation of World Cup stars.The scorching version of the beautiful game is popular in many Islamic boarding schools across East Java. The teams, which consist of five players, are playing the game in a tradition related to pencak silat, a traditional Indonesian martial art.
Match organiser Ali Akhyar said: ‘We make a fireball to test the guts of the students.’
The players at this game in Lirboyo, Kediri, prayed not to get burned before heading out on to the 25m by 25m pitch. The aim of the pre-match rituals, and the match itself, is to give the players psychological toughness and spiritual strength.
The methods aim to make the players ‘heat resistant’, to the point where fire does not burn their skin.
I think this game just proves how depraved and miserable man can be. We always believe by our works we can attain a state of righteousness that we can boast of. These antics may be impressive to spectators but after the game you will realise how foolish you were to put fire to your bosom and expected not to be burned. Sheer folly!