Friday, 9 July 2010

World Cup through my ages

"Mone nokku Maradona", said an elder (Look son, Maradona)
"Hee he.. dona dona maradona.. dona dona maradona", I danced around in my er..
Yeah I guess that counts as being a 2 year old Argentine supporter at the 1990 World Cup. The earliest name I heard in the footballing world was that of Maradona, even before I knew it's rules. Argentina went on to make the final that year, losing to Germany (erstwhile West Germany). It was the beginning of the fall of Maradona too.
I was supporting Spain in 1994. Why Spain? No idea. I even didn't know a bit about how the Spanish played. But Spain was my favourite country then. I still don't have a clue why. One day I looked up on the globe and said Me encanta España! Those days I had even made a personal record sleeping just 3 hours to wake up and watch a match. I slept off 10-20 mins into the match though, leaving Dad to watch the rest. Spain did make it to the quarter-finals but ended up losing to Italy. The final was a tight one. I still have vague memories of that spectacular moment when Roberto Baggio missing the final penalty, thus losing the match and Cup to Brazil.
I've always had this love-hate relationship with Brazil. In 1998, they were the best team around. Ronaldo was at his peak and I couldn't resist the temptation supporting a team that I believed would go all the way. They did reach the final in a breeze and looked unbeatable. Then there was controversy before the match as Ronaldo was said to be unwell.  And that's when Zizu zoomed into the picture to spoil my party. Brazil ended up losing 3-0.
World cup was being hosted by Asian countries for the first time. EPL frenzy had caught up in school and the English superstars were a hot commodity. With Beckham as captain we all believed in our hearts that this could be the year for England. I joined the big fan club. I remember delivering a speech about the World Cup in our school assembly just before it began. The English team didn't looked as good as the hype, but got till the quarter-final when Ronaldinho exposed their weakness. A long shot left the goalkeeper wishing he was a real sea-man. Fast forwarding to the final, I was willing to support any team other than Brazil. Ze Germans couldn't do much about the mighty Brazilians who won the match 2-0, both scored by Ronaldo.

I was back to my first love this time. Argentina played great football through the group stage scoring lots of goals, most of them beautifully. Germany was the spoilsport this time in quarter-finals. It was heartbreaking to see them going out in penalties. Devastated, I looked around for any other team to support. Someone was playing the best football of his life in French shirt. Zizu, who missed out on 2002 WC was at his best for his country at the age of 34. He single-handedly dragged the French team into the final against Italy. He was spectacular in the final, until the sad headbutting incident. I was almost in tears. Often wondered whether France would've won it otherwise. Zidane in WC2006 is the best I've seen any player in a World Cup. Truly one of the greats.
Now to the present. This time it was a toss up between Argentina and Spain. One was being coached by my first football hero and the other perennial underachievers were finally finding their feet winning the Euro 2008. I went with Argentina and the group stages didn't disappoint me, full points. Again the quarter-final and again Germans. The Germans outplayed the Albicelestes, end of story. Spain on the other hand defeated the Germans (who are a very impressive team) in semi. So the final awaits. Some work of fate has it that the country I support in the final has never won. Fingers crossed.. Will my favourite country (still?!) bring home the Cup of Joy?

PS. Logos courtesy Wikipedia.

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