What would Ted Lasso say? We know what Roy Kent would say….

Picture one of the most scenic and remote mountain villages on the planet: Gorak Shep, at 5,164m, 16,942 ft. Now imagine the feeling of all the air being forcibly pulled from your lungs as you chase a football across the pitch. That’s extreme football, and the Musa team came to win, or at least survive. Both possibilities were up for grabs.

Here is the true story of one of the greatest moments in sporting history of unprofessionals, unwisely going for gold and shying from HAPE.

As a celebration for the release of our favorite football film, Equal Playing Field, we’re looking back at that well revered, not well remembered day, as we celebrate Radiant J. Productions,’ Equal Playing Field. All female teams play at Mt Kilimanjaro in the highest recorded official match, then they travel to the Dead Sea to play at the lowest elevation! 

See our prior post on the film, including our interview with director and producer Amirose Eisenbach here. Learn more at equalplayingfield.com.

Now let’s put the boot into our story…

In 2016, on our way to Everest Base Camp, the seeds of Musa Masala were born. Imagine the headaches suffered coming up with such an idea. More pain was on the agenda, on the wide open sand field between Kala Patter and Gorak Shep. 

The day before, in Loboche, the team had a warmup match with their handmade ball named Wilson. Amazingly, all of the team and Wilson survived the day and rose (slowly) to the challenge of an international match, medical workers against the Sherpa Allstars. Oh no… Even better, a young, very purple-faced lad  (a touch hypoxic, perhaps?) offered to play and he had a real ball! (Apologies for not recalling your name! If you read this, contact us and we will send you some cool Musa gear.)

The two teams lined up on the pitch. As you can imagine, the Sherpa had the home team advantage by about 6,000m or 16,000 ft. They were also a fine tuned group, used to working together. On the other hand the medical workers, though from an impressive list of football-loving nations, England, Ireland, the Ukraine, Kenya, Scotland, and not much help, but the USA. Their biggest issue would be to overcome their elitist medical worker “just let me tell you” syndrome. Could they play together or would they dissolve into bickering and foaming at the mouth?

What happened that day was sadly not filmed or used for research to be published in an impressive medical journal. But lessons were learned, as follows:

1. You really can’t breathe up there. Really, there is nothing going into your lungs and it’s like someone put a bag over your head.

2. Oxygen should be ready on the sidelines. (Maybe beer, too?)

3. Running, or even standing, in deep sand at 6,000m is just not fun.

4. Real footballs roll too fast.

5. Real footballs really hurt when they hit you in the head at 6,000m.

We now understand why two team members refused to play on the second day. They are now very rich and celebrated smart people.

6. Real glory requires true grit, but also air.

7. Beware of horses galloping through your pitch, and rescue helicopters landing as well. Very disruptive.

We would do it again. Probably slower, though…

Final score went to the medical workers, likely because the Sherpas were way too smart to beat us. As Kunga Sherpa said, “We could not stop laughing at you.” We think he meant with us.

The purple-faced boy with the ball soon flew away with his father after the game. We take no responsibility. (Is having a purple face and lips a good thing at 6,000m?) But he did take his ball, ruining the chance for a rematch.

We have a tradition now of having a ball with us on every trek, and we always seem to get some good games together. None have reached such an altitude, which seems to retain players more easily.

Enjoy the photos of the day. Don’t try this yourself!!

And Watch Equal Playing Field! Jam Jam!!

Dr. T gasping for air, stricken 1 minute into the match, as purple faced boy looks on in curiosity.
The first day team, with prototype Wilson the ball-style thing.
Dr. Tash with Wilson (type 2, production model)
Behold Wilson, a hand curated, artisan crafted, duct tape and stuff ball.
Taking the field, Dr. Tash holding tight to Wilson.
Watch out! Here comes Wilson!
Dr. Sarah, O2 Sat of 84%, resting before she bolts for the helicopter.
Quick break for galloping horse across the pitch.
Hannah Dennison, part of the Irish double Dennison sister threat that the med workers had placed so much hope in, leads the group in warmups. Sadly, three players fell out after warmups. 
Victory for all! Smiles, suggesting possible HACE as Wilson joins the teams for a final photo!