Some Thoughts On the Olympics

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The Olympics take place once every four years. India plays Sri Lanka every four days and yet I care more for that than for the Olympics.

The reason for the simple. Any cricket engagement allows me, an Indian, to be optimistic about our chances. In Olympics, leaving aside hopes of superb individual performances from a few talented athletes or a “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” walk d’grace from Madame Madhura, we know, even before we take the stage, that on the list of medal winners, we will be near the bottom.

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Football Fever?

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Maybe it’s true what they say about getting old—-you lose your short-term memory but retain your long, remembering things that happened years ago while forgetting where you kept your dentures six seconds back. Otherwise who can explain why the moment the word “World Cup” is mentioned, my mind fills up with images of the past.

Maradona, in his prime, cutting through the Belgian defense like knife through butter and then upping that against the English with another thrilling dash. Maradona at his uninspired best, totally dominated by the Brazilian markers throughout the match, suddenly unleashing a bit of twinkle-toed magic to send the long-haired comet Claudio Caniggia in the clear and Brazil out of the Cup.  Zico, one of the greatest players of his era, missing a penalty and then his opponent Michel Platini, in the heat of the contest, consoling him in what would go onto become one of the all-time classics. Baggio’s missed penalty. Saeed Al-Owairan’s unbelievable run to goal. Roger Milla taking the ball from under the feet of that super clown Higuita. Valderama, Rincon and Asprilla making the defense dance with their triangle-passing game. Hassan Sas turning the Brazilians round and round with some amazing dribbling skills.

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Silly Mistakes

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The “guardian call”  missive  from school was the closest thing you could experience to a letter from the income tax authorities while growing up. If your luck was out, two things could happen. Your parents would either be berated for their ward engaging in that most heinous crime of them all— “talking in class and making it into a fish market” (I went to school in Kolkata as you can tell) or for the equally dire ” not up to standard of the class” which was sometimes an euphemism for “Sign the kid up in my coaching center”. If your luck was better, the teacher would gently chide your parents for your “silly mistakes” (like forgetting, just once in a seventeen-step problem, to change the sign when you changed sides in an equation or copying the number wrong to the “Answer” line). Not that it meant you would not get a zero or that you did not need to attend the teacher’s coaching class  (after all practice makes perfect) but at least the teacher acknowledged that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with you, sans the irritating habit of getting distracted while doing your HCFs and LCMs.

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The Tiger In The Woods

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The whole Tiger Woods incident with the car crash,  lacerations caused allegedly by his wife beating up with a golf club , the consequent confession and then reports of multiple “girl-friends” has shaken the world and seriously dented Tiger’s image as one of the most corporate-friendly sportsmen. While companies for whom he advertises have kept a studied silence, we got some exclusive pictures of certain other not-so-famous products that he has now started endorsing.

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Sona Sona Dil Mera Sona

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At last. India wins an individual gold medal. After 112 years.

Screw ace-swimmer Michael Phelps and his quest for 8 individual gold medals.

Woh kya jaane ek gold ki keemat.

Humse puchho yaar.

And in this golden moment, when we as a nation step from an old age to the new,  it is time to remember those who made this achievement possible and express our sincerest gratitude to them.

So come join me in thanking the following ——

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A Post on Indian Hockey

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Indian hockey is dead. So say the press, ex-players and the outraged populace. The reason: India has failed, for the first time in 80 years, to qualify for the Olympics –an event where it has won 8 gold medals before.

After all the chest-flailing and the universal condemnation of the incompetence and arrogance of the IHF has run its course, it’s time for some introspection and some perspective.

Here’s the deal.

Not qualifying for the Olympics in itself is hardly the end of the world.

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Giving Head

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What was Zizou thinking?

[If the animation on the left is threatening to send you into a Zidane-state with its repetitiveness, just press "escape" on your keyboard]

That on World Cup night, with the eyes of a billion on him, he could get away with an off-the-ball headbutt? [At the very least, Figo's headbutt was way more subtle]

Was he high on Getafix’s magic potion that he thought that as a Gaul he would lay low a Roman with a lethal blow?

Did his years at the top of the soccer world not teach him to not take banter from opponents, no matter how abusive, “personally” ?

[My guess is that it was something about his baldness---- a touchy topic among people who lose all hair before 35. Just like the issue of his weight is for some people like Inzamam]

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Joga Bonito

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An inveterate Brazil fan (of course not to the extent that I would have a heart attack and die if my team lost) my loyalties (at least for this year) started shifting midway during the Brazil-France match. And this transformation was brought about by the sensational soccer skills of one of the greatest players of his times— Zidane. As one gaped in awe at his awesome ball control and situational awareness (witness the way he pinpointed the looping ball onto Henry’s foot) one became aware of how, football, the team game that it is, still depends so critically on the spark provided by a single individual—a fact brought out most acutely by Brazil’s inability to find that “one” with Ronalidinho looking off-color and Ronaldo, the angry, overweight humpty dumpty, trying to dive the moment the ball reached his feet.

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Project World Cup

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It’s a question we all keep asking ourselves. Especially when we see countries some plagued by civil wars, some with populations of about a million, do it every four years.

The question is obvious: why do we have the worst record in the world (well almost) when it comes to qualifying for the World Cup?

It’s not that we were always like this. Mohun Bagan were the first Asian side to beat an European team in 1911. We missed qualifying for the 1950 World Cup only because we were used to playing barefoot and the World Cup stipulated the wearing of shoes. Throughout the 50s and the 60s, India remained one of the top Asian soccer powers.

But by the 80s and 90s , things had reached their present nadir. PSV Eindhoven, a club team from the Netherlands, were thrashing India in friendlies—-10 goals per match were pumped past the hapless Indians. In the three matches we played against them, India found the back of PSV’s net only once (as far as I can remember) and that too from the foot of Chibuzor, a Nigerian first XI discard who together with Cheema Okerie (also a Nigerian never-been) and Jamshed Nassiri (Iran) were the “stars” of the Calcutta maidan firmament along with some home-grown men like Bidesh Bose and Prasun Banerjee.

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