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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Of football and beyond

Writing doesn’t necessarily give me pleasure. But it does when you write something on a topic which interests you a lot and you get appreciated for it. This one got me 500 bucks worth of book coupons for the one of the (there were other two) best article of the month on my company's mag. More than that gave immense satisfaction to get appreciated for something I always talk about think about. Finally putting it in words was fun.

Of football and beyond

32 teams, 64 matches, 1 month, 147 Goals, 21 penalties and one famous Head Butt later we finally have a winner. Italians though quite under shadows of their other illustrious rivals but still pulled off an amazing victory in what would be recalled for not being such an amazing World Cup.

Italians winning was always on the cards especially with the team they had, their defensive supremacy, a great forward line-up and an inspirational captain in Cannavaro and a coach in Lippi. Add to that the match fixing scam which may be the most horrifying scandal in world football in last 25 years but a blessing in disguise for most of the Azzuris, as last time they won the World Cup things were similar back at home. Though this team scraped through a couple of instances, like the group stage USA encounter involving 3 sending offs or the Australian last minute stoppage time penalty, the performance was consistent. And sometimes in big tournaments it doesn’t really matter how well you play but how you hang around when others are playing well.

According to me two of the best teams in this World Cup had an indifferent ending. Argentina and Germany were quite unfortunate in coming together on the quarter final stage which would have made a great world cup final. Pekerman’s men were prepared to make history but some unusually defensive tactics in the final moments against Germany and strange absence of Lionel Messi from team line-up wrapped it up for them.

Germany had high hopes riding on them and but everybody including their countrymen had not given them a chance of winning the Cup. But it seems whatever be the team and form; Germans are taught in school on how to progress in big tournaments. Everything changed for Klinsmann’s boys as the cup started. First the four goal drubbing of Costa Rica and the continuous winning run gave the hosts confidence of lifting the cup after 16 years. But the dream ended in great game against the Italians in extra time in semi final which was a match destined to be decided on penalties.

France with a poor start and an irresistibly boring coach were pure outsiders in the team. Simply because of the average age of first squad touching 30, few untested young players and a lone Henry quite indifferent from the one people know at HighBury, Arsenal. But with the team playing as a strong holdup defensive unit, things got better throughout the tournament for them.

Hey but in all this what happened to Brazil. Some Brazilian footballer once stated “Other countries have their history, we have our football”. And everyone agrees. On the night of 13th June I was passing through Kolkata on my way to Bangalore; the occasion: Brazil was about to face their first match against Croatia. Half of Kolkata, everywhere from Howrah to the Salt Lake, was dressed up in Brazilian flags. I wondered what will happen someday if India qualify (the probability is too low, can be neglected). And the whole world cheered them; they were the natural favourites for those who don’t have anyone to support or even for those supporting some team. But for all of Pele and Socrates successors this was a disappointment. All of Santana’s beautiful game was nowhere to be found. Ronaldo’s weight was much more talked about rather than him breaking the Gerd Muller’s 14 goal barrier and Ronaldinho’s footwork was chopped of by some tough marking and his was an all means no end affair.

History is history because of its recall value or the processes it forks throughout a nation.

Moments like a 17 year old Pele scoring in Swedan’58 or Tardelli’s goal scoring celebration in 82 final, or Maradona’s controversial and the beautiful goal in ‘86, Zidane’s brace of goals in 1998 Final or Ronaldo’s redemption in 2002 World Cup were moments which no football lover will ever forget. This world cup had plenty of goals but failed to give moments of such standard which will be etched permanently in our memory. Though there were exceptions starting with the Argentinean team goal which arguably contested for the best team goal ever with Carlos Alberto and Pele’s Brazilian goal in 1970 against Italy or the Maxi Rodriguez goal in extra time against Mexico or be it Ronaldo breaking the Muller limit everything threw up glimpses of game’s greatest. Also the inspirational defending by Fabianno Cannavaro leading to Italian conquest almost got him the player of the tournament.

Though the ups and a “single down” witnessed by the greatest footballer on this planet (post-Maradona era) was the story which stood out in this world Cup. Zidane came from retirement to salvage a French team filled with stars (old ones) that had failed to deliver in the last World Cup and Euro and showed why he is considered what he is. All the time he grew into a force which he was known to be, and quite understandably was voted the Best Player of the tournament. Also he gave to the tournament what could be known 20 years from now as the “Head of God”. Him head butting Materazzi in the final was a moment that threatens to be a blemish on this great footballer’s career, but inside somewhere I felt so sad later on for he has entertained us right from his Juventus days to the Galactico ones and has given hope to so many people around the world not only as a footballer but also as a great humanitarian. This was truly Zizou’s world cup.

Of the other players who had an impact on this world cup were Klose (winning the golden boot), Robben, Podolski, Fabregas, Torres, Materrazi, Grosso and some unknown quantities from Ghana and Ivory Coast.

As Thomas Friedman says the World has become a flat level field he didn’t mean it for football. But the performance especially put in by Ghana and Ivory Coast showcase the football powerhouses having a slight shift of power. Though this transformation will take time but the next world cup in South Africa will promise much more. And as always the world supports the underdogs so they will have supporters by their side.

But what football gives us on the pitch is much less than what it actually contributes to the world. Everywhere from the slums of Rio where little kids working as drug peddlers stop their job and get into the game to Iran where women cause a stir and demand rights for more freedom while watching and playing the game. In the debt and war ridden Africa or even in a country with rich sporting talents like Australia it gives hope to people. Football pulls people away from the bourgeois routines of life and places them in a surreal world well beyond definition. It is this dream which the players and fans paint together which even a Pablo Picasso would have taken a lifetime to decipher. This dream has no place for hunger, poverty, war, fear, racism and terrorism.

Let the dream never end…

1 comment:

Pingu said...

book coupons!!!! lucky u :)
nd wat r u planning to buy???