What is your colour?
Expectations of some high octane football, players coming out their club season-jetlags, people wary of racial abuses in Poland and Ukraine — a part of Europe that has often been in news for these reasons — the Euro 2012 is already keeping sports writers and fans for a better of the world glued to the subject. From national airlines carrying the country’s traveling team wishing ‘all the best’ to its men to brothels preparing for that extra rush of hormones that football and beer shall churn out during this 23-days festival — every slice of the Euro pizza is being gobbled up instantly.
India, with a FIFA ranking of 164 and coupled by the fact that it has pretty much christened itself as a cricketing-nation over the past two decades, is hardly a country where you’ll find football-talks floating around you. Though the sporting mindset of this country is getting a makeover, that too very quickly, the 90-minute game still doesn’t evoke the kind of mass following that it deserves. Unless, of course, you are in Bengal, Kerala or a pub during EPL weekends.
But does that mean Euro will go dry here? Nope. Euro will see its supporters in this land, and it’ll definitely not be disappointing. For you don’t always need to know football, to ‘show’ football!
While boys across the globe are presumed natural supporters of this heavily physical game, those who make money from it has a different story to tell. And, even if unlikely, girls have fast evolved as one of the leads here. Thus, they are also the favourites for merchandise makers. And the best part — girls are not shy in saying it loud that we may fight over our teams, but we have the coolest way of deciding whom to support.
“I tried out both Spain and France’s jerseys, and now I’ll support Spain in Euro,” says a 19-year-old Ritika Mishra. “The red tee is just brilliant.” Now, how uncomplicated is that a way to place your loyalty, and how unbridled is the honesty!
And if the sales reports from the official merchandise providers in Delhi are to be believed, you’ll see more shapely and well-perfumed ‘team loyalists’ walking past you this summer than the sweaty ones.
Count me ‘in’
Be it any sport, even chess for that matter, audience is important. It’s the fans that drive the game, and the game makers. And in a country whose population is more than all of Europe, you just can’t ignore them. And that population is fresh out of its big pre-summer cricket circus — aka IPL — and is now craving for more.
Sports watchers on television are a breed in themselves — a kind that be driven to unusual behaviours if not provided with its daily dope. Lack of ‘something or the other’ leaves them without topics to talk; it leaves their sleep patterns disoriented; leaves the beer tasting differently; very disturbingly turns foes into friends; and suddenly turns them into more of a family man! And trust, these are serious symptoms, which, with India’s next cricket outing over a month away, can take a toll.
So Euro will be like the much required relief-rain that everyone is craving for. And unless Sachin Tendulkar does something again, it’s unlikely that the media too would be talking about anything else. Hence, the ‘football talk in the air’ problem is also solved.
So where does that leave the ones who self-confessedly know little about the game. “I may not know the biographies, but I can always just be a part of the party,” comes another unrestrained shot from masters students Bedatri D Choudhury. “I HAVE to hang out with friends, and I HAVE to feel like an ‘insider’.”
Well, let me not quote any name who’ll purely follow Euro to see the Villas, Ronaldos and Schweinsteigers doing half-montys after scoring — it’s too big a list!
By Debjeet Kundu