Don’t cry for me Argentina

The world cup is finally over and I have tears in my eyes. Not because Germany was as good as it ‘Goetze’ or that Messi lamentably messed up, but it was on account of watching heart wrenching images of handsome, heroic, herculean Argentinean footballers crying after succumbing in the FIFA World Cup finals. These were not ordinary men. These were able-bodied players with voluptuous, brawny thighs sneaking out of their silk shorts; tattoo-laden arms highlighted by the mud and grass they swirled in, and straight, sleek black hair that remained perfectly in place despite all their acrobatics. If losing a game can reduce these robust men to tears, surely ‘the beautiful game’ must mean something to the global fan.

 

I must admit that I am a quadrennial soccer fan. Once every four years, I instill within myself, for one month, the passion of being part of the greatest spectacle of the sporting world; so what if I watched every match on a 24-inch LG ‘dabba’ TV with wavy lines skirting through the screen every time it rained—not in Brazil but here in India!

 

You feel some amount of kinship with your universe when you participate in these cosmic events at your own atomic level. I’m sure it really upsets ardent enthusiasts who have been following every player’s Twitter feed and every team’s internal strategy when people like us show up and cheer louder than them for a random team whose name we may have just heard of. 

 

But on the other hand, who’s to stop my 95-year-old grand kaki from ringing me up at 7 am and asking me, “Aaje kaun jityu?” Who’s to stop my colleague, a middle-aged Tamilian nurse, from discussing penalty kicks with the chaiwala, who also has a contraption on his gas stove that streams the highlights of the previous night’s game. Who’s to stop Hormuzjee and Eduljee ask one another, “Suarez no batchko joyo ke?” before they untie their kusti in the agiary. And who’s to stop Pope John Paul II from saying, “Amongst all unimportant subjects, football by far is the most important.”

 

The discussion all through the month has revolved around why a nation like ours—with a population of 1.2 billion—can’t get together a team of 11 people to chase one ball to score a goal, while some obscure country like Ivory Coast, with 45 million dwellers, can do so. Who knows—maybe, under the Modi regime, even that will be made possible. Or, if my dear friend Hoshang Gotla and his Xtremely Young Zoroastrians decide to include football in their long list of religious initiatives, we could, perhaps, have a Parsi team representing India in 2022. Till then, some of us will support the favourites and some the underdogs—a concept I’ve been fascinated by from the time of David and Goliath, making myself a zealous ally of the dark horse.

 

Events like these also inspire ordinary people like us to achieve greater heights. The level of athleticism, the control, the discipline is ethereal. In neurosurgery, too, one needs to be agile at times, restrained at others. We, too, have to deftly deal with defenders in the form of unyielding tumour tissue and nasty bleeders, and in this journey, unlike in football, there is only one shot at the goal. If you miss… there is no extra time. After all, you can’t be ‘Mess’y on this field.

 

Watching the World Cup also has other benefits. It motivates you to be fitter. You go easy on carbohydrates the entire month and admire the cuts in your thighs and triceps that immediately give way when you release your breath. You make imaginary passes in the shower, dribble hypothetically while you walk, and tweak your neck in Bharatanatyam poses, hoping the header will shoot past the goalkeeper. And lets not forget the soccer jerseys we all adorn in fervor. You’re bound to get involved whether you are a fan or not. Somehow, the same didn’t happen in North and South America when the Cricket World Cup was on in India. It’s probably because the losing team doesn’t emote as much and everyone is overtly clad.

 

But what could be worse than powerful men crying? Beautiful sobbing women. Not just ordinary women but women with their countries’ flags painted on interesting parts of their anatomy, gulping overflowing beer, and howling about the loss of their team. Pregnant women, women with toddlers and older men, women of all shapes and sizes—at one moment ecstatic and jubilant with a goal, and in just another fraction, gorgeously forlorn. This is what happens when 22 men chase one ball! And if you ever wondered why women don’t play football, it’s because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.

 

Finally, the month is over. It killed 3 people in China who stayed awake for one whole week watching the matches due to the time difference. It united Brazil, at least until the semi-finals, and then tore it apart almost instantly. If that performance taught us anything, it was to remember the familiar aphorism: You can’t win before the game is played. New heroes were born while the older ones blissfully walked into the sunset. The image of Christ overlooking the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro will remain in the hearts of this generation forever.  And amidst the chaos, the politics and the economics, if there’s one thing that World Cup 2014 has taught us is, it is this: don’t play games, play sport.

 

 

Mazda Turel