Friday, June 09, 2006

Football Fiesta

The Festival of Football is back!!!

If there is one game which can truly be called ‘global’, it has to be Football. What makes Football wonderful is the intensity, skills, passions & emotions involved in the game. Now you may come up with arguments saying that every game has all this and if you say that there is nothing like cricket, then probably you have not experienced the feast of football.

The very basic idea of game is simple and appealing. Two teams of 11 players with an aim to putting the ball in the opponent’s goal post using only legs & head. The next best part about football is the speed. The game is usually played for two halfs of 45 minutes and naturally the game moves at a brisk pace. So the agony of sitting for hours & hours watching something which already is pre-decided is not required.

I don’t know how I got bitten from this football bug.

In our small town of Harihar, there was a football club ‘Town Sports Club’. Everyday evening, when returning from school I used to pass by the ground where these footballers used to practice. It didn’t take much time to fall in love with the game. I was then in 5th Standard, started playing since then and it continued till I was in 10th standard. After that though it was not so regular, I played whenever possible.

So having the first hand of idea about the game, world cups were always a treat for hardcore footballers like me.

First memories of world cup was Italia-90.

After 1986 ‘Maradona’ world cup, his influence was so much that our club’s jersey was designed exactly same as the Argentine team’s. Having heard/influenced of legendary superstar called “Maradona”, me and friends in our club supported Argentine through out that Italia world cup.

But Maradona didn’t take off as we expected, instead there were some other eye-catching players in other teams like Schillaci of Italy, who became popular for his scissor-like passes. I became so influenced by that pass, that I successfully implemented in my game and promptly I was called ‘Schillaci' for few days! Then there was Roger Milla and his Cameron team which became overnight famous for defeating our favorite Argentine. We hated them so much! But to our pleasure, our Argentine team reached the final and it was to play against West Germany.

I still remember the final match was at 12:30 in the midnight and my dad took me to his friend’s house to watch it. Nothing spectacular until that penalty was given and Germans scored that penalty to win the world cup. Totally devastated we were. Next day & for few days, post mortem of the match followed in the school and in the club.

Meanwhile our school was doing great in the inter-school football championship & we had reached the district level.

Next World Cup, USA 94.

Nothing much to remember , except the pony-tailed Roberto Baggio missing the penalty shot and Brazil winning the cup in a penalty shoot-out.And of course that Valderamma's orange bushy hair!!

Out of school, I was now in college and my football play continued with hostel mates in the hostel grounds.

Come 1998, it was France-98 World Cup.

Post Maradona, my loyalty had shifted to Brazil. There is something about South American Football. There is some rhythm, some style and some genuine talents.

Everybody was talking about this 20 year aged bald headed Brazilian Ronaldo. True to the legend, Ronaldo mesmerized and took his team to the final. What a final it was! France playing in their home ground against Brazil. Ronaldo going out mysteriously after the final match started and Zidane heading two marvelous goals. A dream victory for any host!

Now I was working, I was not able to play much except that inter-office football tournament representing my company.

It was Korea Japan -2002 World cup.

The world cup started with many surprises. Defending champions France lost the opening match to a new comer Senegal and eventually was eliminated. Likewise was Argentina.

Meanwhile my favorite team Brazil was making good progress. One particular match I remember was Brazil V/S England in quarterfinals. I had disappeared from my cubicle for the match with few of my colleagues to watch the match! Match was a tight one before an amazing free kick from Ronaldino sealed the fate, defeating England.

The three Brazilian Rs – Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldino were fantastic and Brazil reached the finals. Final match was against Germany. It was touted as the battle of titans – Ronaldo against the German super goal keeper – Oliver Kahn .Ultimately Ronaldo won the battle and Brazil, the trophy.

Most memorable part of that world cup was the stunning performance by host countries – South Korea and Japan. South Korea managed to reach semis while Japan managed to last 16. Especially the ‘Red devils’ of Korea was such a huge phenomenon and I believe that ‘red devils’ were one of the major reasons behind Korea’s dream run.

Now its time for one more world cup, this time in Germany.

This time also I’ll be backing ‘Seleção’. With a right mix of experience and raw talent, Brazil is the team to look for.

But at the end of the day all that matters is that 90 minutes in the field and that’s is why this game becomes so interesting.

In next one month, there will be millions in hundred countries following teams, there will be spectators highly charged up, there will be passions running high and above all ,there were will be feast of football.