World Cup 2014: A Case of Wisdom Tooth
It’s another English debacle but they are no wiser as nothing changes after any global event like the world cup.
|Dr Smitangshu Mukherjee
||Sun, Jun 29 2014|
An Indian in Football’s Heaven
Trying to find an apt title, I flirted with this header trying to best encapsulate the pulse of a nation which seems to be sinking with every passing day. I meant the great English debacle in the sport, which they very proudly call their own. It summarises the feeling of national hurt but not any wiser as nothing changes after every global event like this. Little did I realise that the ‘teeth’ will get back to bite us all over again.
My English and Italian colleagues are pleasantly surprised by my obsession with football and not cricket. My answer to that is, I am a Bengali and we are fanatic about football. Deep down I started thinking why it is the case that we Bengalis show such affinity towards football in general and undying devotion towards skillful ball playing sides like Brazil and Argentina during the world cup. I still can’t fathom the reasons for this idolisation but can build some theories based on my own experience.
I cannot remember when I first got hooked into football. My earliest memory of watching world cup football in action was the movie ‘Giants of Brazil’. This was followed by a book in Bengali called ‘Badshah Golam’ on the lives of Pele and Eusebio. These captivated my generation and the seeds were laid in the Bengali mind leading to the obvious obsession called world cup football.
The love towards the game was already there from the quintessential rivalry between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, but people started realising that there was a bigger and better show on offer. The real hype and zeal started since the 1986 world cup. The direct telecast of world cup matches acted as catalysts and worshiping real time idols like Maradonna became common place. It certainly gave a nation bereft of global sporting icons something to idolise and cheer about and a feel of being part of the greatest show on earth.
The show this time being held in Brazil, has reignited those passions of my generation and romanticised us. The following generation caught up much quicker partly because the seeds were already sown and following a rise in sports coverage. Global marketing of ‘brand football’ and its icons have boosted the coffers of elite clubs in massive markets like India, where young people take pride in donning a shirt of his favourite footballer and club.
The world cup in Brazil has already started and the group stage has given us 136 goals, more than any world cup ever. Certainly exciting times for those nations that have progressed but not so for those who had to quit. Living in England for last 13 years, I do support England in matches when India is not playing. This year was no different. Yet there was a bit of a difference, a sense of despondency that this team was not good enough and experiences from previous world cups taught us not to expect. Somehow closer to the real event, performance of some youngsters raised hopes and the nation started expecting again. Even the greatest optimist did not think that England will win this time but expected the boys to do well. The media which was fairly dormant suddenly woke up and took notice. TV pundits went into a frenzy, trying to instill some enthusiasm into the national psyche.
Alas, history repeated itself and that too for the worse. England was not able to qualify through the group stages - the first time since 1958. Their exit was not a shocker but did shame the nation. While we were consoling on the fact that Spain and Italy went out as well, for them it was a certain blip as Spain are the current European Champions and Italy the runners up. Spain has an enormous pool of talents to choose from and the transition can happen easily. Italy has the pedigree that churns out world cup success year after year and is certain to overcome this blip in fortune and form.
I am not hopeful of England’s chances in near future and completely agree with Paul Scholes that England may not be able to qualify for future world cups with the current form and personnel, notwithstanding the huge optimistic spin put up by the media and the pundits.
Amidst the doom and gloom of England being knocked out from the group stage, the incident involving Luis Suarez comes as a saviour of sorts. This guy is in the habit of biting when under stress. Suddenly the English media had something else to talk about. The autopsy of the great English debacle is paused, and the wisdom tooth hurts less.
Brazil as the host nation is the bookie’s favourite and the organisers would love to clinch the trophy at home. For the European contenders to the crown, history is not on their side and the fact that they have never won in South America is heavily stacked against them.
I am keen to put my money on Argentina. They have a fantastic team with Lionel Messi in the side and many more talents in reserve. They are a tremendous attacking force and only if the frailties in defence are sorted out, the Argentine team will be unbeatable. Another important observation from this world cup so far is the resolve and steely determination shown by lesser known footballing nations like the USA, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, only to name a few. Only if our over hyped and contended average English team showed some willingness and hunger for success, things might have been different.
It is getting exciting and the real world cup starts now. With the mediocrity thrown out and the promise shown so far, this could be the greatest show ever on earth in the ‘real home of football’.
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