The summer of 2018 sees the World Cup take place. The sporting showpiece plays host to 32 countries from all corners of the globe. Fans representing every civilisation, creed and religion will descend on Russia, each bringing their own cultures and customs.
The late great Bill Shankly once said that football is much more than life and death, and how we mark life and then death notably display the world’s diversity of ritual and tradition.
England will play Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in group G during the World Cup’s opening stages and even amongst this small assortment of nations, it’s notable how each country marks the passing of loved ones in uniquely different ways.
Take England’s first opponents, Tunisia. In Islamic traditions, the dead must be buried as soon as possible. The body will be laid to face Mecca and mourners traditionally wear bright red costumes. Tunisians mark periodic commemorations to the departed soul, usually at seven and forty days after the burial.
England’s second match is against Panama and funerals in the Central American country follow Catholic or Protestant practices. Ceremonies are big occasions and many people who did not even know the deceased will go along just to pay their respects. Mourners hold an all-night watch over the body called a velorio.
Among the indigenous people of Panama, death is considered a return to nature and the funeral will include prayers, hymns and speeches called elogio to celebrate the life of the dead person. Many services take place at a funeral home with the embalmed, washed body on display.
Next up, England play Belgium, where friends and neighbours give flowers to the grieving family, always in an odd number but never thirteen. Traditionally, families tie a black ribbon on the door of the deceased’s home and men in the family wear black armbands.
Other notable curiosities amongst the nations at the World Cup include Group F’s South Korea where parts of the deceased body are compressed to make jewels which are displayed in the home; or the Igbo people of Group D’s Nigeria, where a widow is subject to humiliation to prove she had no hand in her husband’s death. This ritual even includes drinking the water in which her husband’s corpse was washed.