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.
But surprisingly, none of the images of the present. Not to say that there were no memorable footballing moments this World Cup. There were some— like player of the tournament Diego Forlan(from a nation that gave us Francescoli and Sosa)’s last second cross-post kissing free-kick against Germany, some of Ghana’s games and some very attractive football from the side never mentioned in the same sentence as “beautiful”: Germany. But too few such vignettes for me to hope to see them dance in front of me, when I close my eyes ten years down the line.
Perhaps there was great football but I missed it totally. Maybe I was just too disappointed to see the “Joga Bonito” Brazil of Socrates, Zico and Ronaldo reduced to the charm of a group of accountants at the annual actuarial conference. Maybe it was just that all the hyped heroes turned out to be damp squibs—-scowling bag of hot wind Wayne Rooney (the Yousuf Pathan of football—hot in E(I)PL but a dud for the nation), the good-for-the-ladies Ronaldo, the under-weather Kaka, the off-color Torres, broken-arm Drogba and the perennially worried Messi. Maybe what blanked everything out was the terrible final, with a record number of cards, that resembled more a scrap in the mud between community gundas and local police organized as part of Calcutta Police’s outreach program, than the showpiece match of the tournament.
Wait. Maybe I am not saying this correctly.
I will remember something about World Cup 2010.
Just not the soccer.
I will remember it for one of the greatest boo-boos seen in goal. I will remember it for two games ruined by atrocious refereeing; one by a blatantly obvious off-side and aone by a disallowed goal where the ball had gone yards behind the white line. I will remember it for noisy vuvuzelas and for videos of the French team fighting among themselves.
I will remember it for Paul the Octopus, who depending on whom you asked, was either Octradamus or an incarnation of Clever Hans (though a month before the final, my God had already had called the winner, which shows that Paul has nothing on Chakraborty). I will remember it for Bejan Daruwala who prophecied that the final would be decided in the last eleven minutes. I will remember it for the lowest-common-denominator-based publicity-grubbing, matched by only this bit of genius social media strategy, from Paraguayan super-fan Larissa Riquelme, who possibly eclipsed Juan Roman Riquelme as the most famous person in football with that surname) by thrusting her two jabulanis or “celebrations” (possibly made of the same ethylene-vinyl acetate that gave the footballs too much bounce) to become a world wide celebrity, reminding us all how there is a Times of India inside the mind of every person and that sometimes World Cups are all about the cups.
And I will remember it for Bappi Lahiri’s eenternational heet “Football Feber” . Not just for its beautiful rhyme scheme “Argentina ya France, football se romance” but also because it had more originality than Shakira’s Waka Waka, which extensively sampled (more politically correct term for copied) this Cameroonian classic
Brazil plays like Belgium. Bappi-da is more original than Shakira.
It was that kind of a tournament.
[Errata: As pointed out by @rameshsrivats, the England goal happened before the Belgian goal.]