India’s couch football syndrome

India’s couch football syndrome

By M.J. Akbar | 28 June, 2014
Kim Jong-un’s Kimcut
If there was a proper examination with pen, paper and invigilator in a hall no one could defeat India in any World Cup theory contest.

Readers with an unpolluted, refined memory will recall a news story put out by the dregs of western media some months ago saying that the hallowed Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the Blessed Earth of North Korea, had issued a democratic order to all patriotic youth to get a haircut in his style. This Kimcut is a sort of roundhead operation in which everything hirsute below eartop level at the minimum is sheared off. The story represented gross under reporting typical of jealousies inherent among those journalists who perform part time duties as running dogs of imperialism. Even a cursory examination of mops on display in the football fields of Brazil proves that the Kimcut has become an international cult.

You will, I hope, recognise the depths of the bias. If footballers at the 2014 World Cup had generally opted for the salt and pepper drizzle on Barack Obama's head, or the early 20th century slickback atop David Cameron or the lawnmower effect favoured by Vladimir Putin, media would have gone manic in giving credit for inspiration where it was due. But because it is Comrade Kim there is collective silence. I would definitely call this an international conspiracy.

One notes with regret that India also is not getting its due after the ingenious leadership it has displayed on how to handle the rigours of a World Cup. The All India Football Federation has discovered a brilliant and consistent solution to the problem of potential heartbreak, angst and anguish that has wrecked the soul of two proud nations like England and Spain, forced to fly back home after two straight and ignominious defeats. They should have learnt from India. Never be good enough to qualify and you will never have to face the humiliation of defeat.

England have had so much practice at being thrown out before the long whistle and yet they remain too proud to follow India's example. Their fans must be masochists. Who else would enjoy humiliation before hundreds of millions glued to TV sets, most of them jeering? If you don't lose, no one demands the resignation of your coach or captain or all players above the age of 75. Everyone is safe. Have you ever heard anyone demanding the head or neck of any Indian football official? Never. Things go on as usual. Every official can continue to do what he does best — work out creative schemes to maximise personal benefits from every junket to pious havens of moral rectitude like Monte Carlo or Rio de Janeiro.

Alas, the British football fan possesses more passion than prudence. I learn that hundreds of them were persuaded by smooth salesmen in old school ties to purchase land in deepest Amazon on the assumption that property prices would rocket up the moment England won the World Cup. They are searching for justice in law courts now, but that is naiveté. British fans must become like Indians. They must abandon hope the moment their players get on a football field.

Failure, particularly of the kind of epic scale indulged by India, has its creative side effects. It is good for both physical as well as mental health.

There is never going to be the emotional strain which so many doctors believe is so terrible for the heart. See how the enormous struggle to win wrenches the gut of an Iranian or Ghana player. The Italian coach looked fit for a spell in hospital and the Spanish one for a psychiatric ward. But no one has ever seen even an eyebrow flutter on the face of an Indian official. They will live serenely till the blissful age of 100, confident that their jobs are eternal.

The only serious challenge before Indian officials is how to prepare a team for the World Cup of 2074, probably scheduled for indoor stadiums in the Arctic, the rest of the world having run out of venues by then.

The good news is that Indian fans do not much care any longer. They have acquired the best of both worlds. They can leave the actual running around to foreigners on television screens. And they can concentrate on the cerebral aspects of football, on theories of racing around in curves, arcs, spurts and swirling dotted lines which are in such evidence on drawing boards. If there was a proper examination with pen, paper and invigilator in a hall no one could defeat India in any World Cup theory contest. Others may consider football to be a game requiring the skills of a wrestler, morals of a dupe and luck of an opportunist. For Indians it is a symphony best heard from a couch conveniently near a bowl of potato chips.

Moreover, why should Indians waste precious loyalty on bowlegged domestic defenders and cross eyed strikers when TV globalisation offers a choice between two Manchesters, Liverpool, Arsenal, Barcelona and Madrid? Why waste time on Doldrum Baboos from Kolkata when Suarez can defeat England and then bite off more than he can chew?

True stars belong to the firmament. A sky can never belong to any nation.

This is the sort of noble thought that works beautifully when you have no stars of your own.

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