Sunday, September 30, 2007

God bless..

One of the better things about living in this country is that one gets to see football of most kinds (and countries), and irrespective of the hour in the day.

Over the course of this month, there was another World Cup being played out.. in China, that was called FIFA Women's World Cup. It had caught my attention on its very first day when Germany walloped Argentina in an unanswered eleven goal riot. It only set up a tournament in which traditional football playing nations showcased what their women could do with a football, in a way as potent as their male compatriots.

Moments of brilliance did not elude this version of the game either, as the girls pulled out some of the most pleasing pieces of talent one could hope to see on a football field. There was one special moment in the quarterfinal when Cristiane (seen in the picture choking Daniela and Marta) stole the lead (and the game) from Australia.. that was pure magic. Images of a young Mickael Owen pecked one's mind when the not-so-young Martina Müller shot past the defense in the semifinals to deposit the ball into the net. It is a beautiful game, they say.

The World Cup had its Final today evening and it was only fitting to see the two best performers in the series making it to the grand stage. Brazil, quite assumedly joined Germany, with a little history waiting to be written.

Nadine Angerer, the brilliant German goalie had not conceded one goal throughout the series, and today, even the two most inimitable forwards in women's football could do nothing to change that. It was almost ironical that the Golden Boot winner, Marta missed the penalty to equalize on this day. Hands covering her mouth, she winced.. but only for second. Shaking her head, she moved away. Then clapped her hands together a minute later, urging her team for one more breakaway. It never came..

The Germans won, after one more goal. The stadium exploded in celebration, and animation presented some of its most delightful faces in their camp.

Amidst all the excitement and sheer verve around though, your eyes would often stop on one individual who seemed to wear a blanket of serenity.. probably one woven of content and reflection. I was introduced to Birgit Prinz through a football show a few weeks back as something of an embodiment of German women's soccer. She was that and a lot more in this World Cup. The picture here probably sums her up more than words could ever.

The night also saw some of the most heartbreaking scenes of the Brazilians after the 0-2 loss. A young team which played its heart out, giggling and almost dancing its way to the Final, only to come up one short.. and was left to wonder what a surrogate mother a game could be when you lose. It was one those moments you see in a game, when you wish there could be just one more winner. There is beauty in tragedy too, the Greeks say; may be today.

One team gloated and celebrated, most deservedly and quite fittingly. As another forgot to check the tears that rolled down their cheeks.

That is football, I guess. There is always a stage somewhere.. with a ball on the grass and people seeing meaning in kicking it around.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The woman who wore bangles to court

So here I am going about minding my own business, checking mails, thrashing CD's.. when I literally choke on my wafers. (Yes, I have wafers for dinner). I had just seen the person I detested half of my adolescent life.

It was a moment of surreal nostalgia dipped in a single serving cup of retraction.

Long before the time when there were lifeguards in red bathing suits educating the viewers to the benefits of running along the beach on Star TV, we had tennis stars with headbands teaching us to stretch our sternocleido mastoids (ahem.. neck muscles, I was talking to a med student earlier today) on Doordarshan.

There were two reasons people watched tennis in th
ose days (of Maltova and Dyanora TV ads fame); one.. in sheer amazement of watching something so yellowishly-green (later named florescent green by the yuppies) bounce around in varying trajectories while two people determinedly try to cease its motion, and two.. Steffi Graf.

Truth be told, Ms. Graf was the greatest tennis player ever to walk the tennis courts in a skirt. Long before the Henin backhand, there was the famed Graf forehand. The Asian markets had lapped up the German and a billion walls were dedicated to Sportstar centerspreads featuring the champion. Newspapers carried page long eulogies.. blah blah.

But I belonged to other half of the generation who had enrolled their faithful following in the school of double handed powerplay and loud grueling grunts. The woman who could not be beaten, was being challenged by a teenage prodigy (the original before the Barbie's walked in), quite successfully at that. Then one fateful day in '93, the competition was torn to shreds.

No one in their right mind would, however ever blame Graf for the unfortunate incident. But, it nevertheless robbed us of the greatest tennis player ever to walk the tennis courts in a skirt.

I hated Steffi Graf for the remainder of her career. (Remember the Austrian Grand Prix in 2002, when Barrichello let Schumi through in the final lap? Ah, similar emotion.. different context).

So, anyway.. here I was choking on my dinner, as I see Mrs.Graf endorsing pasta (my brand, at that) on television. I have nothing people against endorsing pasta.. in fact, I love pasta.. we could start a new religion, Pastafarians. But not her!!

What next, I 'd see McGrath out baring his teeth for Haldiram's Rasogollas?



Anyway, let's examine the possible pastafarians in tennis.. get any of the following to endorse any flour food and you ve got this patron for life:

5. Flavia Pennetta: Pennetta is primarily a participant in many a duel with Henin Hardenne including the one when Italy won the 2006 Fed Cup, (inspite of her losing to Justine). Much attention was also begotten from the recent Sunfest Open in India.

4. Maria Kirilenko: Let's face it, one cannot look away from a blonde Russian with a tennis racquet. Another beneficiary of the Indian attention at the Kolkota open early this month. With Hantachova also present, Ana Ivanovic was the only one who missed the party. Pity!!

3. Silvia Farina Elia: During the usual rain delays at Wimbledon, the broadcasters often used to play the recorded matches on Court 3, 4 or some random low seeded encounters. Thank God for that, else one would never have got to see the Italian.

2. Martina Hingis: In the days when people looked for a face for women's tennis with a beacon and a bull horn, there was this magnificent young player who foreshadowed a career of greatness. And then imploded. Horribly tempted to say a Federer gone bad, but then that would be a good thing.

And the crowning glory goes to..

1. Gabriela Sabatini: I loved her. Still do. From those Hawaiin headbands and florescent pink racquet grips.. to the under the skirt returns, the Argentine was/is the foxiest chica of them all. As nominal as it may sound, but objectification is an infamy that the game has never spared the male (or female) audience from.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A derby (?) like no other!!

End of over 11 (13 runs) - India 82/2 (RR: 7.45)

Gambhir just walloped Afridi for two boundaries, one over and one along. I don't have Gatham in my fantasy team, due to technical reasons.. and now he s gonna go on to a 50. (The only Indians in the team - Sehwag and Yuvraj. One is not playing and one has already played his bit in the tourney. Afridi and Umar Gul are my other playing picks today). Quite apparently, I am not doing too well in this contest.

End of over 13 (9 runs) - India 98/2 (RR: 7.53)

I should technically be working at this point of time. I see people around me working, ignorant of any excitement or al least a sense of it. I have a faint urge to join them in their logically unrestrained activities. But I can't!! The almighty force binding me to this monitor is far too compelling for any mortal Indian to look away from.

13.3 Umar Gul to Yuvraj Singh, OUT, Gone! That's the big one for Pakistan.

There you go.. look at the rockafella go. I picked Umar, that does nt mean he has to go on and pluck the only middle order 'batsman' out that we have. More importantly the only one in my team!!

15.2 Umar Gul to Dhoni, OUT, Gul on fire!

See.. he can have these guys!! Go Umar.. get another one, if you like!! Get one of those plucky tailenders!!

160, I say.. in a hopeful breath of expectancy!!

17.6 Umar Gul to Gambhir, OUT, Another!

Wonderful!! Here comes Rohit Sharma.. my proverbial humara naam roshan karega son of the soil.

18.2 Yasir Arafat to Sharma, FOUR!!
18.1 Yasir Arafat to Sharma, FOUR.

Atta boy!!

19.6 Sohail Tanvir to Sharma, 2 runs, full-toss on the pads, Rohit comes down the pitch and slaps that back down the ground. A couple of bounces and to long-on as India end on 157.

Changa hain!! Chalega.. jeetenge!! There is an unfamiliar air of expectancy about the Indian team nowadays. A feeling robbed from us, since the not so distant days when a certain Indian captain jumped onto a frenzied Md. Kaif in 2002. We may not go on to win this one, but the sense of disapproval is absent. We dont have any ghosts of heroes in the team (not this one at least) anymore. The plane seemed wide open for a hero to be born every match. And it would be enthralling to see if one pops up today. I would love to see an Indian team similar to this one, take on the men in yellow later on.. oh, wait.. it is on already!! Man, these games are short termed!!

0.5 Singh to Mohammad Hafeez, OUT

Contrary to popular opinion, this is an unfortunate thing to happen early on in an Indo-Pak innings.. Whenever there is a wicket down in the first over, we lose!! Stats may not agree, but I insist. After all.. superstitions win matches, not stats.

2.3 Singh to Kamran Akmal, OUT

This, however is a great thing to happen!! Two wickets in three overs generally means.. we gonna win. Check the stats!!

5.4 Sreesanth to Younis Khan, OUT. Direct hit!

There is definitely something weird with the world of cricket when Indians start getting direct hits. And catching the batsmen short actually!! Divine signs..

11.3 IK Pathan to Shoaib Malik, OUT

Finally!! Errm.. it does nt help of course, it that paves way to an Afridi entry. Bugger better play today!! (And get out two runs short of the target on the last ball).

11.4 IK Pathan to Shahid Afridi, OUT


IK Pathan 2-0-7-2

Check that shit out!! Please, o' good God, remind him of this spell when he bowls to Ricky next month!!

End of over 14 (4 runs) - Pakistan 92/6

IK Pathan 3-0-11-2

Ditto, God.. ditto!!

15.6 IK Pathan to Yasir Arafat, OUT

We gonna win!! We cannot possibly lose this from here.

Pakistan 138/7
17.5 Sreesanth to Sohail Tanvir, SIX

Ahem.. Sreesanth is the by far the most Olonga-esque Indian bowler I have seen, in my two decade long career as a cricket enthusiast.

17.6 Sreesanth to Sohail Tanvir, OUT, Comeback!

(Sheepish grin) Well.. point proven.

18.5 Singh to Umar Gul, OUT

There goes my chances at some (any) respectability in the Fantasy League.

13 needed from 6 balls now. This big final has gone right down to the wire. Misbah on strike.

One wicket!!

19.2 Joginder Sharma to Misbah-ul-Haq, SIX, full-toss outside the off, that's not the place to bowl at this time. Misbah is cool as ice, lines this up and pounds the ball straight back down the ground. This is a baseball style home run. Such incredible hitting under pressure. You have to give it to Misbah.

How the hell did he manage to do that.. I mean, bowl a full toss!! One wicket, for the love of God.. where is Yuvraj Singh?

19.3 Joginder Sharma to Misbah-ul-Haq, OUT, India! It's all over here!

Nevermind, Joginder Sharma will do!!

Ghastly jerseys notwithstanding.. the Eagles fly. 56-21!! Talk about a drubbing, (from men wearing yellow and blue.. for gossake!!)

Bad video here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I never thought I would ever sit through a game of football, featuring VfB Stuttgart (which btw, is our home team - whovudda guessed I 'd have a hometeam which plays in the UEFA Champions League..) and Glasgow Rangers. That day in an unfortunate self presented itself as today, as I waited patiently for the Barca game to be aired. After 90 minutes of inanely absurd display of seemingly second-division football, the screen bears 6(!!) minutes of highlights. My wrath shall soon be reflected in Group E.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bernie's done it again!

(I ve decided to keep the ranting limited to sports on this blog)

My vishesh tippani of the day:

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I promised myself I would start another one if India pulls it through from,

End of over 46 (6 runs) - India 275/5 (42 runs required from 24 balls, RR: 5.97, RRR: 10.50)

Well.. they did.