Premier League action resumes this weekend after the international break. Reflecting on how I spent the last weekend when instead of the club football, I watched international football on the television…
With the European leagues taking a breather last weekend, one got a chance to take stock of what happens elsewhere in the world of football. And what’s better than starting with your own city?
So I took a bus to Clarke Quay, Singapore’s most happening and noisy junction on football weekends. Last Saturday evening was an anticlimax though.
“Internationals lah… useless” “World cup qualifiers… hope Torres isn’t injured …the Turks play very physical football… Benitez needs him”
The two lines summed up the general feeling among the football follower. I tried to excite them by informing them that in the early hours of Sunday that Sunday we would have Argentina, Spain and Portugal in action simultaneously.
It didn’t work. This is the response that I got: “Portugal are in deep trouble in the qualifiers…. Ronaldo is not the same as he was last year…”
It was a Manchester United supporter. A major chunk of football followers here are either Manchester United or Liverpool supporters. Chelsea supporters would be third in number, followed by Arsenal.
No wonder that the ESPN Asia experts were covering the 14th March blockbuster, sitting in a temporary studio here, as Liverpool thrashed United 4-1. There was pandemonium all across Clarke Quay every time Edwin Van Der Sar picked the ball from the back of his own net. “I supported Chelsea when Jose was beating United – you see I hate the Reds, now Chelsea are no good…”
There is a fascination for the colour ‘red’ here among the fans. Majority of the fans support either Man United or Liverpool for the galaxy of stars, the history and the culture… but some also confess that their initial curiosity towards the club was simply the colour – ‘red’. I went home quickly and was about to hit the bed when I found Indian football captain, Baichung Bhutia, dancing with a lady in a reality TV show. Sure enough, he impressed everyone there, including the female judges, scoring a perfect 30/30 on the night.
The 5:30 am alarm woke me up and I opened my eyes to see God. El Diego was sauntering out of the tunnel. Buenos Aires went mad. It is believed that the tickets for this match at the Monumental de Nunez stadium sold faster than any of River plate’s match this year. Not without reason, God was giving a fresh examination. Diego Maradona didn’t look nervous in his first official game. He could not afford that either. Every time his face lit up on the giant screen, the crowds went berserk and cheered aloud – much louder than what Messi, Kun, Tevez or Maxi got. The latter four, though, got the goals that crushed Venezuela.
At the same time two other matches were being beamed live. Spain was struggling to create holes in the Turkish defense, till, United reject and current Barcelona man, Gerard Pique, scored. No such luck for Portugal though, whose home draw with Sweden was a disappointment.
But I just hope that the Premier League fans got a better start to their weekdays. Because I didn’t.
Once I started reading Africa news, it all became gloomy. A wall had collapsed at Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and had killed 19 fans. Drogba scored two goals in a convincing 5-0 win over Malawi, but inefficient ticketing system, a wall collapse of a freshly built stadium and poor administration ensured that the world is deprived of 19 football fans.