Friday, June 25, 2010

Son and I

As modern-day parents, we are constantly struggling to keep unrealistic ambitions for our son in check and trying to give him the best that we can. The efforts include my telling him the story of Gupi Gayin Bagha Bayin in English at bedtime. Most of the other efforts/interactions are also similarly mismatched (though the GGBB story was a hit).
Some examples are reproduced below.  

Getting him to watch football (or for that matter, any sport) is very difficult. Impossible, if ads (preferably Zoozoo) don't come at regular intervals. Therefore, I have to watch the World Cup with a constant background whine of "I wanna watch Tinkerbell". Oh - don't get me started on boys watching pixies and fairies.
The only time he perked up during yesterday's Italy-Slovakia match was when there was a tussle inside the goal with the Slovak goalie tangled in the net and an Italian forward nearly got into fisticuffs with him.
And when a particularly loud strain of Vuvuzela was accompanied by the visual of a guy playing it, I grimaced. He turned to me and screamed, "I WANT THAT!"

* * * * *

My son recaps the Tortoise & Rabbit story he heard at a summer camp. Remember, he can't say R in some words and pronounces it as W.

"Tortoise and Wabbit having race. Tortoise going slower slower. Everyone falling asleep. Wabbit going faster faster and coming first. Everyone saying yayyy!"

* * * * * 

My wife (in a very loving mood): "My darling son will go to Oxford, won't you? He will go to Harvard. Won't you, Joy?"
My son considers this for a moment. "I want to go to the mall."

* * * * *

Wife: "If Joy wants to be an engineer, imagine the pressure we will have to go through! All this IIT and DU admissions will get even tougher then."
Me: "If he really wants to get into IIT, he wouldn't mind the pressure - right?"
Wife: "Yes. Or he might want to become a potter or something."
Me: "Yeah. That saves us a lot of tension."
Wife (to Joy): "What do you want to become when you grow up, Joy?"
Joy (without a pause): "Superman."

The Brazil-Portugal match starts in a bit. Let me try to initiate him to the South American ways of playing football. Or better not. Let him like Italy. No, but... Sigh!

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Being sensible isn't always the best thing..."

I was so happy to find this piece on the Guardian site yesterday. An interview with Socrates, another one of those flawed greats Brazil specialises in breeding.
How cool is it to find a retired footballer writing a novel on the forthcoming World Cup, believing that 'everyone falls in love with someone when they come to Brazil' and saying that a sensible, coherent team is not always the best thing.
I hope they make him the coach for next year. Him or Zico!

In keeping with season and demands that I post daily (!) during the World Cup, I thought I will go about listing down my favourite films on football made in India. Now, my knowledge 'on football' and 'India' are both limited but since when have I let that stop me?

Bengali cinema has had some nice films and sequences on football. For example, The Original Heartthrob Uttam Kumar dribbled past a dozen Brits barefoot, fouled the villain and headed in a brilliant goal in Saptapadi (one of the most iconic Bengali films, also starring Suchitra Sen).
In one of her first roles, Jaya Bhaduri played the spunky tomboy in Dhanyi Meye, who engineered a victory in a prestigious football match between feuding families and helped end the animosity.
In another hilarious film - Mohan Baganer Meye (literally, A Girl from Mohan Bagan) - Utpal Dutt went hunting a bride for his son, who supported the same team (Mohan Bagan) as he did. Except that the son was already in love with an East Bengal supporter and the prospective brides from Mohan Bagan were either horrible singers, terrible looking, maniacal giglers or all three. The bride-hunting and the subsequent marriage pretending that the girlfriend was a Mohan Bagan supporter were laugh-out-loud funny but somehow the importance of finding a bride basis her football allegiance is a concept lost outside Bengal.
There was a spiritual sequel - East Bengaler Chheley (A Boy from East Bengal) - as well but that was not as popular as the first film.

Anil Kapoor is the Lionel Messi of Bollywood. In two films, he has had extended dalliances with the Beautiful Game.
Saheb had football as a central premise, where Anil Kapoor was the good-for-nothing-else footballer getting persecuted by the world led by his father (played by the ever-brilliant Utpal Dutt). But in the end, he saved the day - like any self-respecting Hindi film hero - by selling his kidney and funding his sister's wedding. He also got a job from the kidney's recipient, married Amrita Singh and lived happily ever after. In the original Bengali version, Tapas Paul played the title role and did a good job, despite the obvious disconnect between Paul's podginess and his football playing. The Bengali version did not have the cult Bappi Lahiri song ("Yaar bina chen kaha re..") and Bengali cinema is poorer for that.
In a Mashaal sequence, Anil was a goal-keeper who played football with the legendary Pele. No yaar, I am joking. It was Dilip Kumar, as the upright do-gooder, who dribbled past many people and scored a goal with a thundering shot that zipped past Anil who was left sprawling on the ground. This - and many other sequences - helped the duo become friends in the film and eventually a team.

De Dana Da Goal could have been the Bollywood football movie but all reports indicate otherwise. A rag-tag South-Asian team climbing up the league tables in an English (not Premier) League to save their clubhouse with the prize money could have been a rousing, jingoistic film. Add to that a not-so-partiotic-to-begin-with Indian, played by the dishy John Abraham and very-sexy-to-begin-with physiotherapist, played by the dishier Bipasha Basu - you could have had a cracker of a sports film. But some how, the film did not click.

Sikandar - a nice, underrated film set in strife-torn Kashmir - also had football as a backdrop where Parzan Dastoor (having given up counting stars) was shown as a budding footballer, who stumbles upon a pistol. This film did not do too well but I found the whole politicking scenario in Kashmiri very well-depicted. Oh - the football? There was more of it on the posters than the film!

Apart from the reasonably long backdrops, several films have had snatches of football that are more of a novelty value than a plot point.
In a film called Indrajit, Amitabh Bachchan played a retired police inspector who sang songs to his daughter (Neelam) about the importance of physical fitness and even played a quick game of football with her, while singing the aforementioned song. Calcutta, which has a proprietary feeling towards the game, cheered dutifully as Amitabh dribbled & dabbled.
In Golmaal, Pele a.k.a Black Pearl came repeatedly in the course of job interviews to check which candidates were workaholics and which ones were football freaks, given to bunking office to watch matches.

Shit - I can hear people saying - he went and wasted our time with Bollywood? And that too, football in Bollywood? What crap! And that too, he forgot so many!
The sensible thing to do during World Cup season would be to write about Rob Green's flailing arms and Dunga's flaring nostrils. But then, read what Socrates had said.
On the same note, what a beautiful philosophical name for a footballer! David Beckham sounds like a bloody accountant. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Why do I support Brazil?

I think I have to go back nearly 30 years to the first football World Cup match I ever saw - in 1982. It was not a live match, for sure. It was a replay of a quarter-final match between Brazil and Italy. Before that, I had only heard of Pele and a few other players who were from the 1960s Brazil side - nothing to fall in love with the team. But this time, Brazil had a line of forwards that had flattened lesser teams in the earlier rounds.
The match was an eye-opener and I remember it better than the Spain-Switzerland match I watched last evening.
As I remember it, the match was played almost entirely in the Italian half with the trio of Zico, Socrates and Falcao literally besieging them. This could be a slightly exaggerated view because Italy scored twice and both times, Brazil equalised. And of course, a third goal was also scored (a hat-trick by Paolo Rossi).
What happened after that was my 20 minutes of epiphany.
The third Italian goal must have happened around 70 minutes or so. And after that, Italy just downed the shutters with 10 men in the defense and thwarted every Brazilian surge for twenty minutes, that alternately felt like an eternity and a flash.
As an eight-year old, I thought this was very unfair that a team would not want to score goals but only win. (Fallacy? You, bet!)
And I became a Brazil fan.

In 1986, they pretty much repeated their style by steam-rolling their Group and Second Round opponents and setting up a quarter-final clash with France. Again, they attacked and attacked till they threw it all away with a missed penalty from Zico and France won on penalties.
By this time, I started hating the European teams for having only defenders and goalkeepers.

After these two Cups, 1990 was a bit of a disaster when the coach (I forget the name now) tried to 'get the Cup' and not win. (The not-so-subtle difference is elaborated upon, here.)
1994 was a return of the prodigal as the forward line of Bebeto-Romario took them to their fourth Cup, of which I remember a stunning match against Netherlands where Brazil went 2-0 up, took it easy, took two goals in and then scored a third to win. The match was made famous by the dance of the three Brazilian forwards after the second goal, mimicking a baby-cradling to celebrate Bebeto's son, who was born the previous day.
1998 was the emergence of Ronaldo - who went on to become the highest scorer of the World Cups - and a heartbreaking loss to France in the finals.
For me, 2002 - though not a great performance by Brazilian standards - stood out because of one goal. Just one effing goal that stood for the victory of style and exuberance over safety and strategy.
2006 was bad - both from the style and result point of view - but I found another Brazilian.
Its strange but I think despite these five World Cups, the biggest reason for my Brazilian allegiance would still be that match against Italy where a 'defence machine' shut out great art.

Every World Cup, I shudder when I read about the Brazilian coach trying to 'adopt a defensive style of play', 'temper flair with solidity' and 'curbing natural instincts to become more effective'. These things are best suited for Humphrey Appleby and England. If I wanted to see solidity, I would go to see Germany. Defense is for the Italians.
But I am at the Brazil match to see the sorcerers in green-and-gold creates waves of attack.
That's why I wear full-sleeved-shirts to office (and a Germany match) and a Brazilian jersey to watch the Selecao.

So, why do I support Brazil?
Because they have always been everything that I ever wanted to be as a child.
As they try for their Sixth Cup - the Hexa - I can only hope that they never grow up.
After all, my son also has to feel proud when he wears the jersey that says 'Ronaldinho 10'.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Help! The Book Needs You!

Well, I lied.

In the happiness of getting a book published by Puffin, I promised to blog oftener (Exhibit A) but reneged. The book is taking way more time than I thought. What I always passed off as a speck in my conversation ("Arre, the match in which Sourav scored a century and Kanitkar hit a four off the last ball...") is now turning out to be a good 12-minute search before ODI No. 1279 (what a match, man, what a match!) pops up and I have three more lines for the book.
The 140 page book - which I thought would be knocked off in one holiday in Goa - is now about 50 pages down. Phew!
Before my editor reads this and gets scared, let me assure her that I am hard at work all of this weekend and will be about half-done* by Monday. (*Terms & Conditions apply)

Okay - ladies and gentlemen - need an assistance from all you people with elephantine memories and gargantuan intellect.
Before the 1996 World Cup started, some teams refused to play in Sri Lanka due to perceived terror threats. To show confidence in the Lankan security apparatus, India and Pakistan put up a joint team and played an exhibition match against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Can anybody get me a scorecard / report of that match?
Even some nuggets from memory would do. Please, you can.

The match happened only 14 years back. That's not so far back. It was the year Raja Hindustani and Saajan Chale Sasural released. As did Tere Mere Sapne, which made a star out of Arshad Warsi. Oh damn - it is rather far back!
Okay, but still - any memories? Any thoughts?