The Venga Boys song comes to my lips every time Brazil goes to play football more so during the FIFA World Cups.  The inspiration of this post is a conversation with Neha of Neha’s Blog fame and the passionate post Football and Calcutta by Guria where she talked about the religion that football is to the people of Kolkata. The post left me nostalgic.

Circa 1987 : I still remember the day when my sports teacher had put me in the class football team (it was mandatory you see) and told me that I will have to  play as the centre back (a defender).  I was told that my role would be to stop any opponent with the football from entering our penalty box. So as the game started I was lurking at my position ahead of our penalty box and rest of our team was jostling for the ball at the centre. Our goalie was insisting me to go and join the melee at the mid field. But I didn’t leave my post and just then a tall, bulky opponent with the ball was rushing towards our goal and I froze. Everyone from the goalie to sports sir was shouting at me to stop the hulk but I was staring at the oncoming giant and not moving (let me tell I was thin and puny in my childhood) then something happened and I had stopped the hulk ultimately, don’t ask me how.  So that’s one of my earliest trysts with the game of football.

Circa 1990 : I was still a school boy and the FIFA world cup was scheduled to begin, the air in Kolkata was heating  up as always but I was more into local football and didn’t know much about international football. It was my math tuition sir (a fanatic football fan) who not only quelled my fear for mathematics but also introduced me to magnificent football team called ‘Brazil’. He would come for tuition and analyze with precision the previous day’s matches for 10-15 mins.  Also another thing had happened that year my dad had brought home a colour TV just a few days before the World Cup opening match kicked-off.  It was a treat to watch the matches in colour.

Oh! How can I forget the opening match in which Roger Milla’s Cameroon  had stunned the reigning champion Argentina and the whole world with an unexpected victory and unique victory dance. For some reason I was happy that day(A potential Brazil fan was in making). Over next one month I witnessed the marvelous Yellow shirts, blue pants and white socks doing samba with the ball. Ok I was mesmerized by Maradona as well but knew it will be Brazil that will have my loyalty all my life come what may.  Incidentally Brazil had not been the champions that year because they were defeated by Argentina in Round of 16 itself. Finally was super happy when Germany lifted the cup defeating Argentina(seeds of Brazil fan were making inroads).

Circa 1994 : Then I was a young adult and was following the matches even at weird hours, remember it was played in USA. I used sleep with alarms to wake me up at right time but was very upset when missed a few times. The significance of this world cup was Brazil became the champions. What a memorable final it was, first world cup final to be decided by penalties. We were up till late night and that tension, frustration at Italy not allowing Brazil a goal. But it was all worth, Brazil won and we were out on the streets with drums,  pipes, people were coloring each-other green(Brazil’s colour is green). When most of the country was sleeping it was a Brazilian carnival in Kolkata.  One has to see it to believe it. Crazy Kolkatans one would say but that’s what we are.  BTW one of my favorite players in that tournament was Roberto Baggio but they were up against my first love, so couldn’t feel bad for him.

Circa 1998 : This was the tournament played in France and I was a college going boy.  But it was heartbreaking to see Brazil lose to France 3-0 in the final, one of lowest times in my football fan life till date. Though I liked Zidane a lot till then but could never accept the fact that his team had beat Brazil so badly.

Circa 2002 : Now I was a man (What? I was working come on). This world cup was held in South Korea and Japan, which meant matches were in afternoon and evening our time. Which created a problem of missing the matches while at work but hey I was in Kolkata. Like Guria mentioned in her post the city comes to stand still during the tournament. The place where I was working was our client’s place but the people were nice and allowed us to watch important matches in their recreation room where they had a TV, especially for the world cup!  Actually they would call us during the matches and we would be shuttling between work and the matches.  The tournament ended with Brazil lifting the world cup for fifth time. The celebrations this time were much mellow from my side as I told you I was not a boy anymore but a working professional.

Circa 2002 : That was a significant year for me as I had moved out of Kolkata for the first time and was still trying to adjust to new life in Bangalore and was not knowing how to watch matches because I still did not have a TV in Bangalore then.   But like they say when God’s with you nobody can beat you. One of my Bengali friend here and his wife are die hard Brazil fans, so they let me into their home at the dead of the night to watch the games. It was a new experience to be in the only home in the entire layout or probably the whole area with TV tuned to world cup match at odd hours.  We used to miss all the off-screen action of Kolkata.  I mean it was strange to see people in general not at all interested in football. I mean why or how? I had supported France in final just for Zidane and Thiery Henry but unfortunately they lost to Italy. Also the famous head butting by Zidane had shocked us.

2010 : This is my second consecutive world cup in Bangalore(outside Kolkata) but I see a significant change with more people following football. Actually my current office has a TV which is tuned to cricket all day long but now they tune to world cup matches and surprisingly there’s a sizable crowd for even matches not involving big names.  Good but nothing can match the euphoria back in Kolkata. The Bangla Channels show visuals of frantic fans in Bengal, making me feel a tinge but ….

This world cup so far is turning out very interesting with Vuvuzelas, the issues of Jabulani balls, the high altitude matches and bigger teams struggling while some unknown names shining(this is a specialty of FIFA world cups).

Final note : Like I said on FB “Seeing India play in FIFA World cup finals is a wishful thing maybe it will not happen in our lifetimes” but honestly how many of us know the name of Indian National League played every year or who is the captain of India team?

Finally, if you feel Kolkata is crazy about only football then just go and see during IPL or any other big cricketing event. I think no other city can match that as well.

PS: A 3-1 win by Brazil yesterday acted like a balm for the pain of my team being eliminated out of BPL.  Also a Big Thanks to all of you for the support you showered for the Inscribe Tribe.