Just a few hours to go now for the World Cup to begin. I don’t know about you, but I find the hype rather stifling, and a little irritating. I quite like the previews and the info on the various teams, but going and asking just about every celebrity who they think will win is something like asking them which is their favourite book – they might not really be interested, but they choose the popular ones because they cant seem ignorant. So, like everybody says The Da Vinci Code or The Alchemist, just about everyone is rooting for Brazil.
No team has the upper hand; on their day, anybody can beat anybody. This isn’t like the EPL where Chelsea can buy a truckload of hugely talented players and dominate on the basis of sheer depth of squad and talent that sustains them over the entire season. For every Didier Drogba, they have an Hernan Crespo as backup. Sean Wright Phillips, who, for all my money would have it to Germany had he not spent most of the year in the Chelsea reserves, got just a handful of first team appearances.
Each team has its strengths, but the great thing about this game and this event is that you just can’t predict who’s going to win. A lot of people (self included) were caught off guard by Korea and Senegal last time. In the formers case, they played much above their level at home, and there were a few contentious decisions that went their way in the quarter finals. So telling someone who your favourite team is isn’t the same as telling them whom you think will win. I see weaknesses in Brazil’s centre midfield if and when they need to rest Kaka and/or Cafu, but it is likely that with a floating wingers in Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, and strikers like Ronaldo and Adriano, they’ll.
Anyway, where are you going to watch the games? I’m probably going to watch at home, or at a cousins.
Around four years ago, during the last World Cup, my cousin, a friend of his and I walked into a five star group hotel in Lutyens Delhi. A game was being projected on a large screen in the coffee shop (or was it a restaurant doubling up as a bar?). The screen was of rather poor quality, the sound was off and the game was unwatchable. What’s more, the bar was empty, and well lit (hence badly lit). So we decided to sit closer to the screen, have a beer each, and then move on. We ordered.
The waiter walked in with beer in some oddly shaped football glasses…cups, actually. Y’know the oversized coffee mugs that curve inwards at the top? Similar to thoset. They were smaller than held a little more than a pint. After joking about the mugs for a bit, we requested that they be replaced with normal, regular beer mugs, or even beer glasses – anything but those mugs that made you feel like you were sipping khaasmadhu (a cough syrup*).
The waiter looked at us, a little embarrassed. He said that he had been given strict instructions to serve beer in only those ridiculous mugs. He apologised and informed us that this was only till the World Cup lasted, and this is the managements idea to appear more football friendly because they have a large number European patrons who would like to watch football. No wonder the bar was empty.
The one place where I’d love to watch the game is Cafe Mondegar (Mondy’s) (Photos: outside/inside) in Bombay. Last I went there was four years go. Italy were playing Croatia. I was waiting for Hum Do Harami Do, with Rohan. It’s the sort of place you wish existed in Delhi, and then shudder at the thought of ‘mummy, papa, bunty and munni’ walking in and ordering maa ki daal and naan, or even makke di roti and sarson da saag (feel free to diss me on my political incorrectness): they serve beer, not inordinately expensive, they have a large, loud jukebox which has rock songs, cane cafe chairs. There were several football fans around, mostly foreigners, and they were sitting in two separate groups that were regularly taunting each other jokingly.
Update: Just remembered another case of the minnows unexpectedly winning. Greece, some of you might remember, won the Euro 2004. If I remember correctly, they were the most tenacious of all the teams, and the least flamboyant.