TODAY -

World Cup - Uniting people since 1930

Lucky Sapam *

International friendly between Argentina vs. Venezuela in Kolkata, 2011
International friendly between Argentina vs. Venezuela in Kolkata, 2011



My old school physics teacher once told in the class that people will have patience to travel many kilometres to go to their favourite restaurant but they will never have patience to wait for the ordered food to arrive at their table and he says it is human nature at its best/worst. Likewise is the case for FIFA Football world cup.

We can wait patiently for four years but cannot wait patiently for 24 hours for it to start. Four years is not a short period of time, it's indeed a long time. Things changed, environment changed, people changed. Some memories fade away while some memories still linger on like for example, the 116 minutes strike by Spain's Iniesta to win the first world cup for Spain.

Whenever FIFA football world cup is approaching, I normally do not think about the absence of India in it but instead I think about supporting my favourite footballing nation. And it has been this way ever since from my very first memories of world cup is recalled back.

Sometimes I feel weird cheering for some other country but it is just the way it is, and we have to accept this harsh or rather amusing reality. I cannot sit back here complaining and debating about the chances of India participating in the near future and all that stuff because World cup is only for a month and it comes once in every four years. So what I am trying to say here is "Savour the moment" (Wink smiley).

Come June 12th (Rather 13th in Asian countries) and we will be in that particular period where everything we see is football related, from the TV commercials to the cheap sales of football jerseys in the streets to the news report in the newspaper reporting in the front page instead of back page. It's hard to ignore even for a layman as the footballing environment is too bright and colourful to turn a blind eye to it. No wonder it is the most watched sporting event in the world surpassing even the Olympics!

ROADS LEADING TO THE FINALS OF THE WORLD CUP:

209 national association members are affiliated with the FIFA which is the governing body of world football. In order to participate in the biggest carnival of sports which is the "FIFA World cup" (arguably even bigger than Olympics) a member has to go through a series of qualification rounds to get a cut in last 32 of the tournament which is called "The Finals", getting a cut in the last 32 is itself a big achievement to an extent for some countries. There are six confederations which represent the planet Earth namely: CONCACAF, CONMEBAL, UEFA, CAF, AFC, and OFC. You must be aware that India belongs to AFC confederations.

The competition for a berth in the finals is fierce and highly competitive. The biggest upset of not reaching the finals will always come from either Europe (UEFA) or South America (CONMEBOL) as they are the two football powerhouse continents. A country gets an automatic berth if they host the tournament. From 1938 till 2002 the defending champion too gets an automatic berth but was withdraw from 2006 onward which meant Brazil was the first defending champion to play the qualification matches.

Football and India:

Finding the hotspot of football fans in India is tricky and at the same time it's interesting too. When asked people as to where be the centre of football in India, surely they will say Manipur, West Bengal, Goa and Kerala and I could not agree with them more. Speaking of WB I can tell you from my experience that their fans are true loyal to the team to which they are supporting and there is no horse-trading among them in terms of support wise.

From my trip to Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata to witness a football match between the mighty Argentina and not so known Venezuela in 2011, I asked one of the random Argentina fan as to whether whole of Kolkata has come to see the match, to which he replied "My Best friend supports Brazil so he didn't come", I was taken aback by his reply and I spoke to myself as to how often do we get to see Messi and co. coming and playing football in our backyard. I was dumbstruck by their sheer passion for the game and in particular their loyalty towards their team.

Football and Manipur:

Growing up in the mid nineties and early 2000s, I saw the transition of passion from one sport to another. Pre 2000's it was all about cricket and nothing more. Every locality club, every organization were organizing tennis ball cricket tournament. Cricket was a big passion for me too. I grew up idolising Shaun Pollock by trying to replicate his bowling style. My first cricket match was played in Takyel Lampak and the winner's prize money was "Rs: 2" yes, you heard me right, it's 2 rupees! We won the match, the opponent captain took out a 100 rupee note and since we didn't have any change, he has to go all the way to a commercial shop, take the change and give us the "2 rupees".

The feeling was out of this world. Ha! Post-early 2000 Manipur witnessed the start of drift of passion from cricket to football. My passion too started to drift apart since then and now I am all for football. And wherever I go around in Manipur now, I see football everywhere from young kids to older men playing their hearts out in the field.

There is no age bar. I think the logic behind this shift of passion from cricket to football is due to:
*Manipur winning the 2002 Santosh Trophy.
*Greater chances of Manipuri player playing in National team, I-league team etc.
*And last but most importantly it is because we are good at it.

So in a long run, this football passion will exist till a new passion is found again. It's like a revolution. The wheel keeps on turning. Until then we all have keep playing the game and enjoy it.

Lastly:

Now the world cup has started and the time has come for us to choose a team. Which team are you choosing for this edition of world cup and what is your prediction? Who is going the lift the trophy on the final day at Rio de Janeiro and take away the winner's prize of 35 Million US Dollars? And apart from seeing some new innovations like the goal-line technology and vanishing spray, are we going to see a new country winning the cup or is it going to be the old football powerhouse countries lifting the cup eventually? Are we going to witness some new exciting young talents? Only time will tell us everything.

Whatever problems or havocs Brazil face in hosting the tournament is a different story altogether but one thing is always certain in a world cup that is "THE PASSION FOR THE GAME CONTINUES".


* Lucky Sapam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is currently staying in Bangalore and can be contacted at sapamlucky(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on June 17, 2014.


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