Culture Czar

Where I talk about cricket, and the books I love, and cricket, and music, and cricket, and movies, and cabbages, maybe, and kings...

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Football Fewer

Once every four years, the Love of My Life gets discarded for a significantly more global mistress. That awful line over and done with, the Soccer World Cup, also known as The Greatest Show on Earth, has come, thrilled, and gone.

Normally, I avoid football. I honestly can't tell the difference between, say, a Lampard and a Gerrard, or even between a superb tackle and a blatant foul. As for the EPLs of the world, it's something I'm quite indifferent towards. Yet, there is something seriously addictive about thirty days of non-stop football. Even England vs. Sri Lanka had to take a back seat to matches involving countries I didnt know the capital cities of.

Football has never moved me in the way cricket can. Laxman's "coruscating, series-turning 281", as (Wisden put it), Dravid's outstanding 233 at Adelaide, even last year's maddeningly tense Ashes series- these are all memories I can take with me to a desert island. It follows that I haven't the faintest clue about what's happenning in the world of football, save an ocassional Beckham-secretary scandal.

Yet, come FIFA World Cup and I am hooked. It's the whole idea of "country against country", for one- definitely something I can relate to. I really can't get emotionally involved with clubs battling it out for random trophies. Soulless corporatized artifical clusters of footballing talent never did it for me. Now, country against country- that's something that's easy to follow. No information overload, no keeping track of too many things, and most importantly, something concrete to support. For ninety minutes, I pick my team of choice on the spur of the moment, and cheer them on.

Then, there's the thrill of seeing a rank underdog gun down a fancied, flat-footed "potential champion". Senegal beating former colonial masters France in 2002, for one. Ghana upsetting the Czechs, for another. And, famously, Cameroon putting one past a stunned Argentina in 1990- the year that started it all for me. The joys of discovering that strange teams like Ivory Coast and Chile and Liberia have players who are, quite frankly, studs. (Note to nit-pickers. Yes, I know Liberia didnt play in any World Cup for the last 16 years, at least.) The scanning the league tables every day to see who needs to beat who by how many goals to qualify.

Of course, I also enjoy watching a good, well-fought game of football, and where do you watch the best, if not at the World Cup? I've had my share of moments of magic- Zidane against Brazil (two World Cups, not one!), Australia vs. Japan, that otherworldly Ronaldinho goal against England, Oliver Kahn's brilliant saves last time around.... top quality stuff, the thrills of The World Game distilled to perfection.

Another four years to go, and it's back to cricket, back to arguing with my wife that Yes, I know it's not India who's playing, but it's important that I watch Harmison bowl to Inzy, watch Pietersen bat to anyone. Life has resumed normal service.