Football in Kiddistaan
Let’s play “penalty kick, penalty kick”! This dialogue between my son and his best friend kicked me from reality into my own childhood memories when we used to play “ghar ghar” or “teacher teacher”. For some strange reason, the title of the game is to be repeated twice when you are less than 12 year old. But while this repeat-twice-for-full-effect phenomenon continues to live in kiddistaan, what is to be repeated has undergone a phenomenal change.
When I was young (that happened around 30 years ago), there were 9 planets, black and white TVs, only the Fiat and the Ambassador (if you were really rich) on the roads, lots of kids to play with, Gold Spot in glass bottles, Amitabh Bacchan as the angry young man and very few buildings with elevators (it was quite something to get treated to elevator rides). And there was only one game. Cricket. There used to be very few matches that were televised and it used to be quite a treat to watch the black and white antics of K. Shrikanth (yeah, he was not Shrikkanth then) and “Sunny” Gavaskar on lazy Sunday afternoons. Kapil Dev’s smile made my day and I remember capering around fire crackers the day we won the World Cup. Ravi Shastri in his Audi was the ultimate sign of success, partly due to the fact that it was the first time I was seeing a car apart from the Fiat and the Ambassador. In fact, now looking back at the innocent days, I think I probably realized for the first time that there actually could be a car apart from these two models. The ones we really were taught to fear were Viv Richards and Messrs Marsh and Boon in sublime form. The dashing Imran Khan too had the ability to strike terror in the average Indian’s heart. And that six off that last bowl by Miandad.still puts me in a state of nervous shivers. So, while Pele and Maradona were known to me (you know, like those distant relatives whom you’ve heard of, but don’t know the exact relation?), to have discussed their passes and their strategies would not have occurred to me in my wildest dreams. Football, to me, was only a name. There was only one game. Cricket.
So imagine my shock when my 11 year old told his friend confidently, “But in the penalty-kick, penalty-kick, we’ll only do curved kicks, like Messi”. The friend, not to be outdone, said cleverly “Oh, but Ozil-Ozil is more fun. You get one point only after 7 goals; the points move in multiples of 7s”. Oh God, I thought, how much do they know? My son moves seamlessly from the latest tattoo on Shikhar Dhawan (though “cricket is such a boring game ma” seems to be the latest mood on kiddistaan sports) to why only a Roger Federer can do a Rolex advertisement to why Neymar’s absence affected the Brazilian team so badly. On the kiddistaan Sportex, the effect of the six pack abs, which were the ultimate in fitness, have been factored in and now the only thing that is causing the Sportex to move up seems to be muscular shins that are capable of running “7 to 9 miles per game, ma”, my son informed me loftlily. “Running is the best. That’s why football players are the fittest. Its great for the health”, he analyzed. Well, sure, but if I stay up one more night to watch a game, I’m falling sick. Football is certainly not good for my health, I concluded. At least cricket, much as it involves lesser running, is not shown at god-forsaken hours. “Laddoos, kids” I said, calling them home for some snacks, “it fits with the football theme nicely”, I said, feeling rather clever about my latest marketing strategy for exceedingly reluctant customers. The best friend gave my son a raised-eyebrows and this-is-very-pedestrian pass and my son dished out the curved kick. “Mom, in Latin America they like to have pizzas.” Flustered, I tried to block the attack. “Pizzas, Sunday night, before the finals.”Only 3 more days to go. And then, we can return blissfully to Yorkers and boundaries, Dhoni and Kohli, sabzi and roti. Thank you God, for the cricket.