It’s that time of the year when the festivities are over, and we just want to put up our feet and relax for some time before the end-of-the-year celebrations begin with Christmas and then the New Year. But this year, this is not happening. The FIFA 2022 has made sure our evenings are booked. Instead of enjoying some quiet moments, we’re all shouting and cheering for our favourite teams. FIFA is one festival which is passionately celebrated the world over together!
Cricket it is ..always
From a cricket crazy country, to find people following football with equal fervour was tough earlier. Over the last few years though this trend has quietly been changing. There are more and more football fans now. This conversion is much needed and long overdue. In India, every parent wants their child to be an engineer from IIT and have the sporting (that means only cricket) prowess of Tendulkar or Kohli (of course without the hours at the net!). It’s a given.
As a result of this mindset, other sports have taken a backseat. No not backseat, they never even got on to the bus heading for sporting glories. I mean, hockey is supposed to be the national sport yet ask any child to name one hockey player and they’ll draw a blank. Can’t blame them, can we? We don’t consider other sport ‘sport’. And pursuing sports as a career, let’s not even get there. I can go on and on with my rants and experiences.
The last few years have been a game-changer, no pun intended. Our sportspersons from other sports have shown that you can’t keep the real talent hidden for long. From conquering their opponents on the mat to mowing them down at the courts, our sportspersons have been unstoppable. And this despite not getting the right kind of support and encouragement from the powers to be.
So, when one sees a lone ranger like Neeraj Chopra or Mirabai Chanu or Lovlina Borgohain emerging victorious, it just feels wonderful. Not that their journey gets easier thereon but at least their hard work has been recognised and appreciated. It’s heartening to see them as the new role models for a miniscule population, alongside the cricketing demigods.
If cricket unites our nation, then football does it for the world. We did watch FIFA earlier but got hooked once our daughter started training. Then on, she became our guide to the sport. From the regular poster boys like Ronaldo and Messi, the demigod of football, Mbappe, Neymar, Kane, Modric, Benzema, their achievements and performance has been followed sincerely. But this year there are a few new names that I keep hearing about, like Gavi, Kubo, Vinicius.
I don’t know about your match-viewing rituals but here it’s a fully charged-up scene. Once the game begins, all else comes to a halt. It if happens to be one of the favourite teams, then ….! And of course, we don’t encourage betting; not for ethical reasons but because either which way we end up paying doesn’t matter which team wins!
Personally, I didn’t so much enjoy the opening ceremony of FIFA 2022. It lacked a certain energy that was there in the earlier inaugural ceremonies: no catchy songs (no Waka Waka or One World or C’est La Vie), no groovy dances, no programmes. The dance program that they performed at the Lusail stadium was innovative, vibrant, colourful yet they didn’t connect somehow. There was too much technology and very little human touch. The highlight of the show was the BTS performance (the song was certainly not one of their best). Maybe if the complete band had performed it would have turned out better.
Boy, what a match!!
The matches more than made up for the lacklustre opening. Each game has been edge-of-the-seat types. Some of the teams have shown such promise that it’s difficult to guess who’s going to win that match. And it certainly has been the time of the underdogs. The least expected or unlikely teams have shown that one should never underestimate the opponent until the end. Did you see the Argentina versus KSA match? What a game!! Germany vs Japan? Uruguay vs South Korea? Crazy, right?!? Of course, there’s lesser drama without Neymar. And even Suarez has been pretty tame compared to the last outing in 2018.
There’s been a lot of negative publicity that FIFA 2022 in Qatar has garnered. What with talks of human rights abuse, immigrants’ exploitation, heavy-handed censorship, backroom arm-twisting, et al. Since it’s not a fairy tale, I guess there’s enough truth in most of the assumptions and allegations (even the fairy tales have a wicked witch). And it gets murkier with each tournament. Ironically, the theme for the tournament is inclusivity. There’s a nice documentary on Netflix if you’re interested. It brings to light the dark side of the FIFA. And believe me, after watching that some of the gold dust gets out of the eyes.
Keep your fingers crossed and hope that the sport somehow remains untouched and continues to spread joy. Pretty naïve thinking, isn’t it? Anyways as of now, we’re just enjoying the games. And anxiously looking forward to where it will be held next. Will miss some of the big names so have to make as many memories as possible of watching them play. 2022 has seen some big names exit. First, it was Roger Federer (another hot favourite of mine) and now these guys. The game will never be the same without them.
What about you? Which was your favourite match? Is your favourite team faring well? God, there’s so much to ask and tell if you’re following the matches. Let me know who you’re rooting for.
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