Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Jun 16, 2002
If cricket counts, is soccer for lesser mortals?
THE only feeling that the football World Cup has evoked in me is that of being cheated. My hopes of belonging to this crowd of football enthusiasts have been dashed.
Last week, I could not resist my curiosity when a howl escaped a colleague watching one of those matches. Eagerly wanting to belong, I asked them what the matter was. "Off-side" was the response I got. I expected more. But he seemed to have gone back to the game. Since I understood nothing of the explanation, I retorted, "Leg-side?" The cold silence and the dark looks from the 10-strong crowd sealed my fate. I could never belong.
If that isn't being cheated, I ask you, what is? How can you have an off-side without a leg-side? Stands to reason, doesn't it? It does, but who's listening!?
I have a few thoughts about football to console myself, though. Since I can never share the world's enthusiasm for its most popular sport, I might as well draw a few comparisons favouring cricket and rest in peace. I want to sulk and what better way to do it than to hit football below the belt.
Firstly, a true cricket enthusiast can never understand the time allowed for a game of football. What ought to be enjoyed, savoured and relished over a leisurely five-day period, or at least one day, is packed into some 90 minutes. What's the hurry? And for all that haste, there is still a possibility that the game might be drawn, as in cricket. They could at least have made matters interesting with the possibility of a tie.
Next, there is no build-up of expectancy as in cricket. The heavenly feeling, when a new ball bowler runs in, the slip cordon goes down, the outfielders walk in and the crowd goes into a hush, is inexplicable. Far better than the sudden heart attacks my colleagues seem to get when a football approaches a goal post.
And, most players in a football team are poor souls who make up the numbers while a few stars do the needful. The forwards are the ones who get to score a good chunk of the goals. The chaps who run about on the periphery are merely expected to pass the ball well enough for those stars to do the easy part.
Those colours that pain your eye... Sure, one-day cricket did bring in colours from a boring white. But that served the purpose of making white look pleasing when we get back to a Test season after a long succession of one-day matches. And thank God, they didn't choose some parrot-like colours for our players. Imagine our very own Sachin trotting around in a bright yellow shirt and electric blue shorts. We are still sober in our outlook, aren't we?
Even if our Ganguly sports a pair of blue coolers every now and then and Kambli wears an ear-stud, that's about the most rebellious we get. Not for us the weird hairstyles of the football grounds. Would you want your child to hero-worship a well-groomed and overtly humble Sachin Tendulkar or a Clint Mathis?
Finally, Rivaldo gave me an excuse to put my nose up in the air and say it is beneath me to watch the World Cup. After seeing Kumble brave it out for a few sessions on the field after breaking his jaw and Dravid carry on gamely after being hit by the ball on the helmet, both in the West Indies series, Rivaldo suddenly became a lesser being. I can now tell colleagues who snigger at me for my absolute lack of appreciation or knowledge of football, that cricket is certainly a gentleman's game.
But my colleague is sure to broach the subject of match fixing in response. So, when someone starts talking to me about the Cup this year, I am going to put on the patriotic air before turning away: "India isn't even playing. What's the point discussing the Cup?"
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