Well what can I say? The world cup is upon us and the nation goes football crazy for a month. I would say we Indians are a lucky people. We never qualify for the world cup and so we have the luxury of choosing which team to support. We have an array of great footballing nations to choose from – Brazil who are the favourites, the hosts Germany, the increasingly perfect Argentinians, the defending maestros (read violent) Italians, the star studded English, the perennial underachievers Spain and the occassional quirk can support Ghana or Angola. And you know what the best thing is? If the team you are supporting loses you can always redirect your affections to the team which is stronger. The Poles or the Saudi Arabians can hardly do that so I guess we are better off don’t you think?
During the world cup entire areas of a city like Kolkata can be seen covered in an endless sea of yellow or blue and white flags – the people showing their love for Brazil or Argentina, whichever the case. Its no issue that the concerned nations lie halfway around the world because it is suddenly cool to be seen as a football enthusiast. People why dont you sustain this enthusiasm for longer periods of time so that we can atleast see Indians performing decently at Club level? Football is big business in India this month. Sport stores are stocking up on football kits and the local kirana stores have stopped showing cricket matches to draw customers and have switched to ESPN .
I had gone to my neighbourhood grocery store to get something and saw a crowd of people (prominent among them were auto drivers) milling around the wall mounted Sansui and eagerly watching a Togo – South Korea encounter. One old gaffer cast a superior look around him and announced to the people ” Hum toh kehte hain yeh Bearzil waale hi jeetenge”. He probably mistook Togo’s yellow colours for Brazil’s; an understandable mistake if you city slickers consider the level of international football to which this man has been exposed to. But even more funny is hearing kids in my building shout they want to play just like their hero – Spanish striker “Rahul” (for the less knowledgable it is Raul). “Rahul Rahul” they yell when someone amongst them manages to dribble the ball past a defender. And funnier still is what a person I knew wrote in an an English essay titled “My Favourite Sportsman”. He payed homage to (according to him) the greatest goalkeeper of all time “Oliver Khan”(It is Kahn by the way). “Oliver Khan” he wrote, ” is the greatest goalkeeper in the world. It is amazing to see a muslim lead the racist Germans to victory match after match”. I mean, come on, duuude, seriously a reality check is in order.
These are just some of the incidents inspired by football in this cricket crazy nation. But if football can make even a country like ours hold its breath for ninety minutes I dont see why it cant be given more importance than it is now. I mean, if it can stop rebels from fighting against governments in the Africa or help ease poverty, it is surely worth all the effort.
Football – The Beautiful Game.