Monday, July 14, 2014

My World Cup Fever

After the FIFA WC ended in 2010, I remember updating my status on FB to say that I am relieved it's over. Life can go back to normal and my page will have some meaningful posts once again. We were living in Bangalore then and I was surprised by my countrymen's interest in a game they had no stake in, at least not a national one like we see for cricket.

This year, I have been humbled by my own curiosity and have been shown my place, rightly so. I don't follow any sport religiously. But decent doses of patriotism and display of loyalty by the various teams put me in the chair in front of screens across the city showing WC matches. I don't claim to have seen them all. But the few that I saw were enough to seal the deal!

One aspect of the game that had me glued was sheer athleticism. A player it reported to run nearly 7 miles in the course of a single match! Add to that the shock the body takes when players collide, fall or simply break their run to kick the ball around. It's one thing to marvel at the human body's capacity to absorb this shock (as seen in the Finals when Christoph Kramer was struck in the head) and it's another to actually go through it and come out fine and dandy!

The other vital thing that helped me form an interest was my drum group. The afro-brazilian drum association is run by a fantastic percussionist from Salvador in Brazil and the form of art is Brazilian too. On opening night, when Brazil played Cameroon, we got together to play and lend beats to a local samba group. Before and after the match and during the break, we played as if consumed by the indigenous gods! The ambiance was nothing short of the much acclaimed carnivals of Rio.

Other than Brazil, I found myself supporting France, which is currently my country of residence and Algeria, because a large majority of my fellow citizens are Algerians (When none of these played, the underdog got my support.) In fact, the French team has a lot of players of Algerian origin. And I am sure the security officials heaved a sigh of relief when France did not meet Algeria in what would have been an extremely aggressive face-off! Violent fans are a part of any game and this one match would have met with its fair share, without doubt. Whenever Algeria played, the roads would be lined up with police cars and officials would be found patrolling by-lanes and streets to make sure things are peaceful. When they qualified for the Cup, riots broke out in Lyon, Marseilles and Paris.

Any major sporting event is organised on the weak and marginalized shoulders of labourers and sometime, at the cost of national interest, as we saw from the 2013 protests across Brazil. And already, the Qatar World Cup 2022 is in news for allegations of ongoing corruption and the plight of labourers who have immigrated from poorer countries for construction jobs. A number of them have lost their lives under pathetic living conditions meted out by the officials. To all of this, FIFA has turned a blind eye.

I love a good event, where displays of inspiring sportsmanship and camaraderie make it worth the time. But when fanaticism, violence and reports of prejudice, discrimination and unequal treatment become abound, it's vital to remember that it's just a game. And that there are more urgent matters at hand that require global attention.


sharjes said...

T'was a cracking World Cup!

sharjes said...

T'was a cracking World Cup!

sharjes mohammed said...
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