Once in four years, my household comes to a standstill for a month. Just to clarify, my wife functions normally as always. She goes to work, bullies me, gets the kid off to college, hammers the maids, pays the local grocer, newspaperwallah, kabadiwallah, etc. She is immune to the virus that hits my son and me every four years.
On the ninth of June, our world (only my son’s and mine, I hasten to add) will be defined by the TeamGeist, the newest wonder of the world as created by Adidas. Our heroes will wear short pants, and multicoloured jerseys, and we shall be enthralled by the spectacle of twenty-two male adults chasing a sphere 8 inches in diameter, across a wide expanse of green, aided and abetted by tens of thousands of baying fans, and supervised (so to speak) by four gentlemen armed with whistles, notebooks and cards of two colours.
Of course, I am talking about the Football World Cup 2006 – not the abomination that Americans call football.
Every four years, my son and I will revisit our heroes from the past, and compare the current crop of footballers on display with the greats who graced the World Cup stage in the past. Is Zizou still the force he was in 1998? Will Beckham still bend it like he did in the past? Will Pavel Nedved show the form that won him the European Footballer of the Year Award? Will Rooney play at all? Will Gerrard once again demonstrate his passion and his ability to turn the game around single-handedly that he did in Istanbul last year, and during the FA Cup final last week?
Will Ballack be as good as Rummenigge? Who will show us the lazy grace and poise reminiscent of Valderrama? Who will show us the vision and the goalie-beating long chip of Hagi? Who will surprise us with the power and gumption like Roger Milla did in 1982 and again in 1990, at the age of 38? Will we discover a modern day Gerd Muller or Paolo Rossi? Will we find another graceful striker like Gary Lineker, who never got a yellow card, leave alone a red, in his life?
Will there be another stunner like Senegal beating France in the last World Cup, which had my son and I dance about the living room like two demented beings, much to the delight of our dhobi delivering his wares? Will be get to see brilliant teams, good for just one tournament, like Denmark in 1986 and Croatia in 1998?
Will we see the emergence of the next Zizou, the next Platini, the next Pele (some believe he is already here, and is called Ronaldinho), the next Maradona (the great one has, at various time, called Tevez and Messi as his successors – at earlier times, the sobriquet had been given to a number of others by the Great Diego himself)? Will Cesc Fabregas deliver the fruit of his promise that he showed during this year’s Champions League campaign with Arsenal? Will Cristiano Ronaldo show that he has finally finally mastered the art of the final ball?
Questions. Questions. We probably won’t get all the answers, but it surely will be huge deal of fun trying to find them for one full month. Hence, our household is now in a state of preparation. The match schedule has been downloaded both as an Excel file, and as an executable file driven by Java. Teamsheets have been downloaded and linked with the match schedule. The TV telecast is being eagerly awaited, and will be added to our planners as soon as it is published. Personal calendars have been marked off. Appointments are in the process of being rescheduled, even as I write this. Only friends who are football freaks have been told that they are welcome to our household. All evening invitations are off.
The household budget is about to be shot to bits. The wife’s only contribution has been to register a demand for a large flat-screen TV. This is more than a bit over the limit of affordability. But She Who Can’t be Denied (in John Mortimer’s immortal phrase) has spoken – and retribution awaits those who flout her wishes. I can see the look on my bank manager’s face when I meet him tomorrow for an extension on my overdraft. The son’s dreams for team jerseys have full firmly scotched, as has been his plea for a TeamGeist tournament ball. Rs 1500/- for a football, forsooth! Money doesn’t grow on trees, not in my household they don’t.
In short, all is in preparedness for the first whistle from the referee. If you want to see two couch potatoes in full action with analyses, comments, exhortations and imprecations, you are welcome to visit us at home. But remember, you are welcome to come before a match starts; any attempts at entry after that will not be entertained. Persistent attempts to break this rule will result in being forcibly expelled. Our building durwans are large, and have been well trained in getting rid of unwelcome salespersons.
(first posted on sulekha.com on May 18 2006)