Friday, April 18, 2008

Of Hooligans and Gentlemen

I was looking at Harish's orkut profile and was surprised to see a photo proclaiming the glories of Man U. Now, that surprised me. I didn't know Harish followed football. Coming to think of it, a lot of people seem to follow football. It's OK if it was international football, but to the best of my understanding, these are clubs representing individual cities, so, what's the big deal? Do you follow Ranji Trophy?

To be fair though, I'll concede it's individual taste, and its up to you what you follow. I suppose it's only my bad memories involving sports at school that blocks me from watching sports like football. People always eagerly awaited sports hour. So did I, initially. But then our sports master always seemed to want us to play football, or basketball, or if he was in a really bad mood, kabbadi. Now, being the muscle-man that I am, I always cringed at being asked to play these sports, because it invariably ended up in me lying sprawled on the ground. It was either that, or Drill, which everyone despised. So, one had no other go, but to grin and bear the travails of the not-so-endearing sport.

So, he would blow the whistle, and I'd try not to appear like I wanted to cross the border. The two most hulking brutes of the class would slap each other's hands in an ardent endeavour of choosing the best players for themselves (no prizes for guessing who got chosen last) and we'd enter the field. It was in these occasions, that I'd display some remarkable athleticism and make a bee-line for the goal posts and become the goal-keeper, little knowing that it was the worst place one would want to be in. I'd stand around watching, because the ball mostly stayed in the mid-field (or rather, the surrounding gutters) and never came within ear-shot of the goal posts. However, one of our defenders would chose the exact wrong moment to miss a lolly-pop pass and suddenly I'd have three huge mountainous fellows charging towards me. My team mates would shout "Charge!", while my heart would scream, "Run!" from somewhere near my belly-button. I'd bravely plough in anyway, and be ruthlessly steamrollered over, and, I'd be searching for my spectacles (invariably broken by now) when the three fellows would have a fall-out between themselves as to who would do the actual process of scoring, have a wild tussle, one would escape, and with the goal posts in his face, aim and miss miserably. Now, I'd have the ball placed on the ground in-front of me. I'd clench my teeth, run in with the intention of unleashing a malevolent blow on the ball, which is when I'd slip, and flop on the ball itself. The first defender, by no stretch of imagination an able footballer, would come in with the bright intention of saving the situation, aim a kick at the ball, and send it soaring over my head, and into our own goal.

I've encountered similar (if not worse) situations with basketball and hockey. Kabbadi gives me the nightmares. It invariably ended up in a huge fist-fight at the centre of the court, guess who gets caught smack in the middle of it? So, what do I do? Like the rest of most of my countrymen, I support cricket. It's a simple game really. You can stand at fine leg and ogle at passers-by for whole hours and not be missed. You will get a chance to bat, because no-one in your team can muscle his way out. And when you do get out, you can always blame the pitch, the bat, the umpire, the ball, and the speck of dust that always gets into your eye at the wrong time. No hassles in this game.

So, no wonder, billions of like minded people in my country support the game.

Oh, and what happened to the football match you ask? It ended up in penalty shoot-outs.