Friday, June 8, 2012

Of Anticipation and Memories

I am an excited football fan right now, as I await the start of the Euro 2012. Mahek Vyas, one of the great sports fans that I know on twitter - tweeted a while back expressing his surprise at people getting excited about a football match between Poland and Greece. And as always he is right, just that I am approaching it slightly differently.
Every two years, football fans come together to witness the World Cup and the Euros - the two big international tournaments. And on opening match day, I keep going back in time, nostalgic about past tournaments. It was 1990, when as a little kid - I started watching Argentina play Cameron, sometime in the middle of the night. I was in Kolkata then, at my maternal grandfather's place and looking back - that match is perhaps one of my most cherished memories of the little time that I spent with him. I remember going into the match knowing only 1 player - Maradona - all of Kolkata was talking just about him. I remember coming out of it - a fan of The Indomitable Lions.
I remember 2002 as Senegal stunned "my Les Blues" team sans Zidane. The likes of Papa Bouba Diouf and co suddenly became household names as I felt the bitter blow of a crushing defeat suffered by my beloved France - a blow they did not recover for quite some time.
2004 and it was Portugal time as I backed one of my favourite footballers - Luis Figo and his "golden generation" to finally set the record straight. But the tournament started (and ended) with a shock defeat for the hosts as plucky Greece went on to record a stunning victory under Otto Rehaggel.
A couple of years ago - as I was desperately looking to return to my house and following the match on twitter - as my timeline went Tshabalala as the World Cup arrived in Africa. It was an incredible moment.
And these are just some of the more striking opening match memories.As I look back, these football tournaments (or for that matter - the cricket world cups) provide interesting check posts of my own life. I look back with great fondness of matches watched with both my grandfathers and father; of watching them with my younger brother as he initiated his love with the game; of debates and discussions with my friends in school and college. I remember the madness surrounding Brazil and Argentina back in Kolkata, of the football fever in my company down in Mangalore as we organised events to celebrate the great occasion. And now with twitter and all that, sports viewing is a totally different experience. I had an absolutely great time following the football on the internet as the likes of Zonal Marking and Run of Play made football viewing an absolutely enriching experience. Add to that, the wonderful folks that one gets to know on twitter and it is terrific.
 I find the World Cup and the Euros as wonderful occasions for football watching. And while I am a regular club football watcher, there are the twin joys of watching your favorites in action in a different setting, while also getting to watch unknown names emerge as new stars.Watching international football is less stressful as well, as I do not necessarily lose sleep about defeats and all that :) I am not caught up in the tribalism of club rivalries and can relax and watch with no pressure ! So let the games begin, let the goals flow in - I am as excited as I was 22 years ago that midnight in Kolkata when I saw this!

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