I am down with fever – World Cup Fever!

My boss’s silence speaks volumes of his unhappiness with me. I come to the office yawning, yawn after lunch, after tea; but somehow as the clock nears 5:00pm my voice gets louder, energy levels higher, smiles break all over my face as I start peeking whether the conference room is free for television viewing!

My wife’s silence speaks volumes of her unhappiness with me. Initially she thought i was reaching home in time for the family. Only to be shocked later that the 5:00pm match ends at 6:45pm, exactly when i start for home at breakneck speed – all choreographed in such a manner that by the time am refreshed and sitting on my sofa, its time for dinner and the 7:30pm kickoff!!

My four year old daughter’s shouting speaks volumes of her happiness with me. She has got the best of all bargains. Finally she has an active company with her till the wee hours of the morning everyday, which is anyways her routine time to go to sleep. Papa claps aloud, she follows suit; Papa screams in agony, she follows suit; Papa sighs in relief, jumps in joy and even cuddles her tightly for minutes while his team scores.

Life has indeed changed for me. The barber helped me get a “Ronaldo cut” on the 9th of June, the laptop screen saver got changed to breathtaking snaps of ‘El Messiah’ (to the soccer illiterate: Lionel Messi), the desktop has television schedule, the mobile wallpaper has the picture of the Julius Rimet trophy, all passwords have footballing names, and these days when i run to catch a Delhi suburban train (popularly known as metro), i don’t run straight. I purposely twist, turn and dodge past hundreds of fellow commuters, as if dribbling a ball past them. Thank God none of them think of committing a foul on me!

Contrary to belief, the warm up to this event didn’t start from 11th June 2010. It started around 11th June 2009, when the cup qualifiers were heating up, and it continued the entire year; while following European leagues and Champions league soccer – each player, team, coach and strategy has been analyzed in the mind many times over.

Life has its positives, and then its mega bonanzas! The most gratifying moment comes when friends, office colleagues come seeking opinions. And boy, don’t I have opinions? I dropped an initial bombshell that Brazil won’t get past the semifinals – the smartest way of getting noticed that I’d arrived!!!

Indians are sentimental about Brazil. As a footballing nation, we are light years away from World Cup qualification. So the best way to enjoy the world cup is to support the biggest and best team! But then I try reasoning out. Brazil are in group of death and without the charismatic Ronnie (Ronaldinho). History suggests world cup is never won by a team from the group of death. The office guys wonder at these sermons and go on to declare that we all play the office fantasy league predictor and try beating the guru!

Indians also love Rooney, and satellite sports channels ensure, all EPL players too. One visionary Finance minister way back in 1991 with his liberalization policies had ensured all this would be possible. God has been kind to him – He lives to be the current Prime Minister of the nation and see the fruits of the seeds, he once lay. Else prior to 1991, we only watched the World Cup. Another natural assumption why more Indians watch only the World Cup and stay inactive in footballing terms for the interim four years.

I must also mention, that this world cup has got well represented with five teams from Asia Oceania zone (and boy didn’t South Korea & Japan teach Euro 2004 & 1992 Champions, Greece & Denmark respectively, a lesson the other day) and the half a dozen African teams on home turf. Host South Africa’s striker, Mphela, would live to rue his 89th min miss (hit the post from just seven yards vs Mexico), for his entire lifetime, if they just miss out making it to the next round. That’s what a world cup does to you, while the god of soccer, El Diego remains the biggest box office draw.

Fair to say this World Cup is as open, as any other. Just like previous events, we could have at least two amongst the top four (Spain, Brazil, England, Argentina) knocked out before the semis. At South Africa, with the high altitudes, the inconsistent pitches, the ever more curving ball, the taxing schedule and hounding pressure, the winner would be one who adjusts faster to conditions, to the occasion. The God of football, El Diego, recently said “It’s about the best team over the next 30 days”. So anyone can win it – and I love it this way. The unknown factor gets the best out of my emotions.

Life got exciting the day the event started – at any instant over ten channels were discussing football. I now have a genuine reason not to accompany the family to boring birthday parties or irrelevant shopping trips. I love the news channels and the newspapers; the aloo paratha from Parmeet praaji, down the street, has more dollops of butter; the butter chicken guy is delivering faster and the refrigerator is stacked up with what it should be, in excess! Life is indeed beautiful. Till such time, as my kid and i continue enjoying the matches late into the nights, kindly respect my DO NOT DISTURB board and may the best team win!!!

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