Monday, May 31, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 (Once in a Lifetime) !

“It is not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution.”
-'Ernesto Che Guevara' quoting on football

It was late one night of July 1994 my love affair with FIFA world cup and football in general started. I distinctly remember a suave little pony-tailed Italian, Roberto Baggio missing a crucial penalty to hand over Brazil its 4th world cup in the final. I was too young to understand the game and its format in general, but the passion and energy with which everybody followed it made me realize how big an event football world cup is. Ricky Martin’s theme song ‘Cup of Joy’ certainly played its part. More then the match it was the flak me and my Dad receive from my Mom later that night for watching the match till 4 am made the whole episode itched in my mind forever.

Over the years I remember witnessing Zidane’s 2 Goals against Brazil in 1998 to lift 1998 fifa world cup, and later Cafu and Cannavaro lifting world cup in subsequent tournaments in 2002 and 2006 respectively. What is it about football which radiates an emotion which remains unparallel in any other sports all across the globe. I remember Maradona saying in an interview, ‘Football is nothing but an innate natural game. If you give a small kid who has just started walking a ball, he would probably start kicking it and he can do it all day long’. Probably it is because of this reason, Football is adapted and played all across the globe including some of the poorest nations in the world. The emergence of African players and country amongst European and Latin stronghold is for everyone to see. Otherwise how will you explain, nations, distraught in civil wars and unthinkable poverty, producing some of the best Football players in the world?

I have been inching to write this post for last two months or so since I returned back from SA, but with only 10 days left for world cup to start, it has to be now or never. During my stay at SA, there was a super sports ad that comes in TV showing what this World cup means for African people across the continent. They tag named it as ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Cup and very rightly so. You just have to see newly constructed magnanimous 2.7 billion dollar ‘soccer city stadium’ to understand what I mean. It will indeed be special to witness World cup happening first time in Africa. I am sure India, specially Kolkata ,will be gearing up well for this world cup. When Maradona visited Kolkata last year for inauguration of a football academy, there were 15000 people standing at international airport to receive him at 2 O’clock night. When he further went for a felicitation ceremony at Saltlake stadium later that day, 1.2 Lakh people gathered in the stadium to catch a glimpse of their idol in scorching sun. I know a perspective says, people have no work so they indulge in these stuffs. But still fanaticism of such proportion is quite phenomenal specially when you consider football records as dismal as ours .It is somehow amidst this fanaticism and craziness you find true love and passion for the game. Their is certain honesty when you see young boys playing football on a rainy day in muddy Maidan wearing cheap T-shirt of their favorite football players. I remember witnessing Argentina – Germany 2006 quarterfinal clash at CCFC (Cricket Club and Football Club), Kolkata with around 500 gathered audience and believe me the experience is absolutely incredible though the result was not.

With the world cup starting in less than 10 days, the big question of, ‘Who’s gonna lift the cup??’ looms large more then ever before. Unlike cricket, where Australia in any format looks a definite contender by big margin, it’s difficult to predict any definite winner for football world cup. Spain looks very strong on paper and could be an overwhelming favorite. Their midfield combo of Xavi, Ineista, Fabregas and Silva looks very ominous. Argentina with Maradona as a coach undoubtedly has best forwards. Messi-Tevez-Aguero-Higuain-Milito can give any defense very tough time considering they get good support from midfield which looks a bit depleted. England on the other hand has strong Defense along with Brazil supporting very strong midfield. Then there is Netherlands, Portugal, and Germany who can give any team a hard beating on any given day.

Personally,I want Argentina and Netherlands to do well in this world cup. It will be amazing to see prodigy Messi playing under a legend Maradona. Also it will be enticing to see Argentina’s forward playing havoc in opposite number’s defense. Netherlands should do well because of their free and fearless playing style and amazing talent which they have in their bench. Over the years in cup history, they are the unluckiest team not to have won the world cup which should change considering the rich legacy carry forward by players such as Cryuff, Kluivert ,Bergkamp .At last all I can say is let the whistle blow and let the ball roll !

I would like to end this post with the theme song of world cup. Please have a doctor visit if your Adrenalin doesn’t pump after listening to this.

(0:45 in the video seems India)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TIA –This is Africa !

The title is picked from movie “The Blood Diamond”. This was said by actor, Leonardo De Caprio to gorgeous Jennifer Connely in the movie.

It’s been almost two months since I have been in Johannesburg, South Africa for an onsite assignment from my organization. I distinctly remember the day I left Bangalore for Joberg. As I was cruising through Mekhri circle in Bangalore for catching an early morning flight to airport, I saw a big hoarding of South African tourism with a picture of ‘Cheetah’ on top of a catching tagline which says - “Its possible!!”.I along with my 2 office colleagues boarded an Emirates flight for Joberg with a brief stop at Dubai.

We reached Johannesburg at night the same day after traveling for a gruesome 15 hours on flight. By the time we landed I was already down with 5 pint of Beers and 4-5 movies. It was there I catch hold of “Hurt Locker” which later went on to win Oscar for Best Picture. I still can’t believe a lady has directed (no offense btw) such a hard-hitting and raw war movie. I came out of the terminal to find Mercedes E-Class waiting for us to take us to our Lodge. By the time I left Airport any preconceived notion of Joberg or for that matter Africa, I had in my mind had vanished. Our accommodation and office was at Sandton - a suburb of Johannesburg which is called Africa’s Richest Mile.

It took me around few more days to realize how Joberg was different from any other place in India. I was already aware of warnings and precautions to be taken care while moving around Joberg. But somehow you don’t pay heed to those things unless you yourself are in that place. There is certainly no public transport over their and I find very less people moving around by walk. Coming from a country like India, where people do all kind of nuisance on Roads let alone walking, this was kind a difficult to digest. Inspite of this there is certainly some kind of mystery around Africa which is very captivating and difficult to ignore.

Sher k baju mein sher wali snap !!

Well..when it comes to africa..territory is well defined !

Fifa-2010..surely once in a lifetime !!

In Africa..people do bargain !!

By the time first month finished, I had already visited Sun City (An Amusement Theme Park), Pilanesberg National Park, Rhino and Lion Park, Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City Mall and an amazing Casino cum theatre called Montecasino. Seeing Lions on roads just passing by our vehicle in National Park is something which I will remember for a very very long time. Apart from that, playing with lion cubs in Lion Park though was a bit scary but an amazing experience. What excited me the most was there were World Cup countdown timer placed across every nook and corner of the city telling how much time is left for the greatest extravaganza on earth. No wonder FIFA World Cup would easily be the single biggest event happening in South Africa (or for that matter Africa) after it got freedom in 1991.One amazing part of being in Africa is all the La Liga matches which doesn’t comes in India on TV ,do comes here and that too at a very respectable time. Watching Messi scored 4 goals against Arsenal in Champions League Semifinal while sitting in an Irish Pub amongst 100 odd people certainly bought back memory of CCFC, Kolkata. Being there made me realize ,this World Cup is much bigger of an event for Blacks as compared to white, who still considers Rugby as their main sport. One thing which I found very nice was, every Friday around 60-70 % of the people of all age group wore Bafana Bafana(name of South African Soccer Team) Jersey while coming to office. This tells a lot about the kind of love they have about the sports and how much this World Cup means to them. I somehow can’t see all this stuffs happening in India during Cricket World Cup let alone Football.

As the time pass by we visited another theme park called Gold Reef City which is built on top of a famous Gold Mine. Some of the rides on the park were just exhilarating and very scary. We first tried all the rides with Fear factor 9-10 and believe me there were some serious cracks at my posterior (It’s just a metaphor btw) after some of them. I went to Sun City again for water rides few weeks later which I had missed when I visited first time.

I know I have been quite optimistic in writing about my 2 month stay Africa in 2-3 pages and it’s just my apathetic indolence which has to be blamed. I was rather more vocal about my experiences in Micro-blogs (Twitter) which rather has cozy 140 characters as a limit. At last all I can say is this has been a memorable vacation cum business trip for me which I will surely remember for long time to come. Still there are many many places to explore in South Africa let alone Africa as a continent that I wish to cover in coming days.

P.S: This post was published after Abhishek returned to Bangalore few weeks later. He told it happened due to some serious procrastination issues that he is suffering since childhood. People who have met the author even once will affirm this completely.

Last I heard him telling, photos will be uploaded pretty soon...Believe me !!