Disclaimer: Ignoring the new age and all-encompassing definitions of the sacred word ‘Football,’ I will refer to it as exactly that and no other term.
Football brings out a lot of things in people – this note, for instance. Other stuff include loads of nostalgia wrapped in sweet memories, some irretrievable moments, forgotten habits, and a sea of passion for something that most people would call off as ‘just another game.’ I was introduced to this enigma in Italia ’90 at the age of eight. My father decided to sow an interest of the sport he loved the most into me as early as he could. Not much of that world cup remains in the memory barn except the image of ponytailed Roberto Baggio swerving around. USA ’94 is more memorable, with Baggio and Gheorghe Hagi and Jurgen Klinsman and Hristo Stoichkov, watching teams like Bulgaria and Colombia play which have become almost extinct in world football now. ’94 was special in other ways too. I had started getting interested in football before that, spending summer vacations listening to maternal uncle and cousin brother fiercely debating about who’s a better player, Roger Milla or Gabriel Batitusta.
It was a whole new world to me, being a part of their passions, poster-hunting with brother in local markets, nail-biting matches in front of the television and my otherwise shy father screaming “Goal!” And the most important thing for me was to become an ardent fan of Romario, who had won the Golden Boot that year. Hero worship is wonderful in early teens, I’d go on and on explaining to people that Romario was pronounced as Homario in portuguese. France ’98 is still the one I remember the most for the painful loss of Brazil in the final. I was morosed beyond relief the next day I went to school, surprizing my classmates in a typical girls’ school, most of whom weren’t interested in the game.
Football really manifested hidden emotions in people. I’ve never seen my father so excited during any other sporting event. Tournaments like world cup and euro cup probably brought out the young man in him who played football passionately in childhood and could not continue due to a bad knee. The game had become more savoury to us because of its otherwise low presence all year round on television at those times. Cricket hadn’t engulfed all our lives in early ’90s before Imran Khan lifting the World Cup. We waited every two years eagerly for a Euro or a World Cup or even Olympics, in the meantime discussing about upcoming/retiring/regular players to watch out for. It was a festival, especially to us Bengalis – it still seems to be one after all these years, even after the boom of T20 cricket and all. Football has managed to retain the passion in me for the last five world cups, where cricket has lost it a long ago except the IPL, perhaps. As a game, it seems more eventful and colourful to me than cricket. Players of the game are able to create magic in a matter of moments which are etched in the memory of the spectators forever. Can anyone of our generation ever forget the eccentricity of Rene Higuita? These are the moments we live for two-three-four years before another edition of the biggest festival where a few people become magicians, twirling a spherical wand around to unite mortals all over the planet.
That’s football. For Us.