Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Real Football Fan

By Ajit Chaudhuri

Football has become popular, and everyone and their aunts consider themselves a fan. How do you sift the genuine article from the bozos that are floating around in red t-shirts with ‘RONALDO’ emblazoned across the back? Here are some ways.

1. The real fan thinks that his/her baby’s first words were not ‘Mama’ or ‘Papa’ but a footballer’s name? Those first ‘mmmboo’s would have been mistaken for Emil Mboo Mboo, the midfielder from the Indomitable Lions of 1990 and 1994
2. The real fan does not associate the name ‘Schumacher’ with size, beauty or cars, but would instead think of a German goalkeeper who should have gone to jail for his assault on Patrick Battiston in the 1982 semi-final. Similarly, Socrates is not a philosopher, Wagner is not a musician, and Kiss is not a rock group.
3. The real fan cannot stand the German or Austrian national teams, even that winning German one of 1990 (grudging admiration, perhaps, at best). S/he always supports their opponents and is happy when they are kicked out of tournaments (Lechkov’s header in the 1994 quarter final was a particularly sweet moment, as was the ball dropping out of Kahn’s hands and on to Ronaldo’s feet in 2002). S/he would never, ever, forgive them for that fixed match they played in 1982 to keep Algeria out.
4. The real fan would associate the name ‘Bernd Schuster’ with that brilliant creative midfielder who refused to be part of the German team featured in point 3 above. Yes, he did go on to do other things.
5. The real fan knows that Diego Maradona is the best footballer that could ever have been. The mind does not change because he is not in a suit pimping for his country as a world cup destination or coaching some fancy team. He took two very ordinary teams to the world cup final (can you name any other player from either of those teams?), where he won one and lost one. Which other candidate for the ‘best ever’ tag did anything without brilliance all around in support. Pele in 1958 and 1970? Cruyff in 1974? The only one coming anywhere in the vicinity is Zidane in 2006.
6. The real fan watches women’s football for the football and not the women, and did not even consider a peek when Brandi Chastain took off her shirt to celebrate the USA’s victory in 1999. And yes, s/he loves Marta and Sun Wen.
7. The real fan follows the fortunes of teams out of the top four in the English and the top two in the Spanish leagues. S/he knows of Zenit St. Petersburg, Stadt Rennes, FC Tromso, Ruben Kazan and Almeria, and knows why teams don’t like to play away against FC Rosenborg in the Champions League in November.
8. The real fan does cry – but on select occasions such as when Cameroon lost that quarterfinal in 1990, or when Andres Escobar was murdered.
9. The real fan watches Indian football, and tries to do so in the stadium whenever possible.
10. The real fan starts smirking when the discussion turns to whether Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the best free kick ever. S/he has seen Michel Platini and Roberto Falcao take free kicks.

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