The football World Cup fever has just caught up with me. For the first time, over this weekend, I managed to see three matches fully; sacrifices made by parents when children are cartoon network addicts is perhaps a common story in most homes.
I read with great delight my Patel Hall senior, Amlan Dutta’s FB wall comment ‘Best World Cup… Worst End Sems’. It brought back tons of memories. I will never forget the summer of 1986 spent in Patel Hall. Mess strike in previous December ensured that summer vacation was spent in campus – only first year and second year students were left behind to enjoy the humid Kharagpur heat and what fun we had.
It was my first exposure to seeing live football matches on color TV. I had only heard on radio Italy defeating Germany and exploits of Rossi in the 1982 World Cup. I must have watched all the matches including some of the re-runs especially those involving Argentina.
My wing mate was the hostel electrical secretary whose basic job was to make sure that the antenna was tuned to the correct direction to ensure clear reception. The common TV room was a mini-stadium of sorts - packed to capacity with passion and tempers running high. Cigarettes were passed from one end to another and the shouting tempo could outperform the noise of vuvuzelas heard in South Africa. Fights broke out between rival camps when Brazil lost to France.
Our hostel had many interesting characters. Like the corporate world, funda giving was directly proportional to the number of years spent on campus. A certain Mr X had an amazing track record on predicting matches – he was 100% wrong. The unit of betting was either Gold Flake or Wills Cigarettes or cups of tea in the canteen. Bigger bets we could stomach then were Sattar’s mughlai paratha. As the years went by, I somehow felt that the magic of 1986 would never be recreated.
Subsequent world cups were damp squibs till 1998 world cup happened. Thanks to some cosmic connections, again I had the company of friends from Kharagpur. And watching football is much more fun if Bongs are around.
This world cup brings home the fact that the world is becoming flat, not just in terms of television screens. Who could have imagined 10 or 20 years ago New Zealand drawing with Italy. African and Asian countries are progressing and India is lagging behind. We have companies who are splurging ~Rs150 crore in promotional activities surrounding FIFA but I wonder why India is not able to produce a cup qualifying team? New Zealand with a population of 4 million and Slovakia with a population of 2 million are able to produce winning teams whereas India, with a population of over a billion is not able to put together even a qualifying team. Interestingly, no person of Indian origin is anywhere in any team. I hope Cha du ri of South Korea has some Indian Chaudhari genes.
Hopefully, in the next world cup we will see more use of technology. Bloomers like disallowing England’s goal against Germany or allowing Argentina’s goal against Mexico can be avoided. Getting a pathetic decision destroys morale and confidence. It takes tremendous strength of character to bounce back – which unfortunately both the teams lacked. Cricket is a good example of use of technology – at least now run outs are decided fairly. Technology must be leveraged to ensure rules of the game are followed and then - may the best team win.
Coming to predictions – if one believes in the ability of taxi drivers to comment on arcane stuff like elections, economy and football, then either Spain or Argentina will win the cup. At least our taxi driver got his prediction on Italy right – he had predicted before the first match that Italy will not make it to the second round.