Last week after ages I played the game and kicked a ball so hard that my shoe threatened to fly off. And while kicking I started calculating the angle at which my side of my foot needs to touch the ball. And in one of those moments, in the turf laid down at the East Coast Park, I realized I actually miss football.
Every bong is born unto this world with the conviction that he knows football. So every 4 years, he or she trades the Indian nationality to support Brazil, Argentina or at times (surprise surprise) Germany. And when the world is normal, he supports Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Md. Sporting. The reasons why Bongs love Football are many, but I believe it’s mostly economic. Cricket you see was a game that required significant investment even at the very basic level. For Football, it’s nothing. In fact, if you get a chance, do watch a movie called Africa United. It’s fascinating to see how a football can be made with a condom, a plastic bag and strings. Across Bengal, poverty has been a reality and that’s the reason why we chose to play football over cricket.
Of course there are these new breed of bongs, me included, who act as if they were born at Wembley and played Gulli Cricket with Alex. These guys support typically these teams – those born in the eighties support Liverpool as they had seen the Nineties, the next generation support ManU, the next Arsenal, the new breed without any respect for pedigree support Chelsea and there are whispers that some have begun to support the other ‘chesters this season. Few of the bongs seem to support Napoli and if you wonder why, please stop reading and never ever claim to have a Bong as a friend.
Now my football journey lasted every day since 1989 (till around 2001) for 5 days a week with balls ranging from an innocuous tennis ball on the basketball court, to half the playground as the junior classes, and finally with an actual football, to being the Class 12ers who could play along the entire field, whether they could manage it or not.
The best part about those days was the fact that at any given point in time there would be about 400 students running after 25 balls on a fairly large field with 6 goalposts and 50 goalies who preferred to call themselves “Flying Goalies”
The 2 guys the entire class of 2011 of the greatest school in Calcutta looked up to were Asif Pasha and Niloy Mitra. Of course there were other players, even better players than these 2 but somehow since the beginning till the end of our school life these 2 guys typically were our captains who chose the teams. Somehow I always ended up in Asif’s team and I am yet to figure out if it was because Asif chose me or Niloy did not :)
Anyway, as I said I have had a long and fruitful journey as a footballer. I started as a striker, given the fact in the penalty shoot outs I could shoot really hard and in the 30 minutes rarely did any match have any outcome :) Then as usual with other things in my life, duty called. And I figured out that my services were needed in the mid field. About the time when the world cup was happening I realized that my football idol, Kaizer had made Lothar a Libero. I still don’t exactly know what a libero does, but it sounded a pretty cool thing to say to people. (Or was it not Kaizer who invented it but was in the edition after Italia 90?) Being a libero was of course tiring and I decided to be a back and then a full back, which I defined as never having to go beyond the midfield. That’s when I made my most famous football quote, “the ball might pass, no one else would.”
But as we grew older, the effect was telling. I mean how many footballers have a 12 year long illustrious career? So that’s when I became the “Flying Goalie” though to be absolutely honest I never did much flying.
So I stood under the goalpost and the years flashed before my eyes. Was it this reason for which I had been trained? Was it for this reason that I had become a goalie? To salvage lost pride for the Foods team? I almost could hear Hollywood Sports movies go on around my head (and a little bit of Chak De India) – you know the inspirational dialogue bit.
And yeah these days the goalie does seem to get the captaincy, the cup and the babe! So fate had got me here for a reason.
All such notions were soon laid to rest. We conceded 14 goals in 4 matches. 10 of those were through my “safe” hands. To be fair to myself, I did save quite a few and apparently we fared much better than last year for which we promptly treated ourselves to a scrumptious lunch at Scumpy Murphys but still...
Fate got me here to have a nice laugh on a Saturday morning! Even she needs her funny moments!
Damn I should have remained a striker :)