Sunday, July 8, 2007


Sporting talent is something which I was never really blessed with but I tried to make it up by sheer enthusiasm, something like filling up the Mariana Trench with a bucket of water. And then there were those magic moments that happened once in a quarter century which provided me with false inspiration to persist with a particular sport, no matter what common sense and sheer respect for my dignity dictated!

It was a hot summer day and class was out for the "Games" period, a period much longed for through the week, a mid-week breath of fresh air from classroom imprisonment. With the FIFA World Cup fever in the air, football was the flavour of the day, pushing cricket to the background for a change. As with any organized sport played by a disorderly mass, this game was related to football only in the way that there was a soccer ball involved somewhere in the melee that was in progress at the middle of the field. There was a whole lot of 'foot' involved with kicked shins, bruised knees and sore hips, but the 'ball' part of the game emerged only for those rare few seconds into the open before the merry amalgamation of defence, offence and mid-field of both sides swallowed it up again. Which side of the field was ours and which theirs was a secondary concern, not half as important as getting that foot to the ball pushing aside all that interrupted.

As is evident when Pele's jogo bonito (beautiful game) became a joust for dominance, it was sheer hard work under the unforgiving sun. Sweat was now officially the 23rd player on the ground. And then at the most opportune moment, some one showed up at the ground gates with a bottle of water! All enmity and rivalry for that much-desired sphere suffocating under our feet was forgotten. It was an out and out race for the life providing liquid, the players were off for it like a storm. This was where I saw my opportunity. All this while, when the world was coming to an end over a mere ball, a few people were taking it easy. The two goalkeepers and the portly lazy bum of a defender (in the opposing side, of course) Vipul. Now the field was empty and all that stood between me and eternal glory were the opposing goalkeeper Sidharth and the aforementioned Vipul!

I am sure there must have been that proverbial glint in my eyes as I waltzed past Vipul who was thankfully blessed with the reflexes of King Kong in extreme slow motion. Sidharth was a good goalkeeper in all fairness to him but the long period of inactivity during the entire game had left him a little blunt. I footed the ball past him in a flash right into the corner of the goal and closed my eyes, arms upraised in silent acknowledgment of the cheering masses. A few moments later, I realized that the silent acknowledgment was to a silent crowd too. The period was not over yet but our sports teacher had blown the whistle and my fellow players were trooping back up to the classroom. And here I was reveling in the glow of my achievement with no one to witness it! Now you know why India never makes it to the World Cup... The real talent is never appreciated ;) Back to classes and life went on, but I'll always remember my first strike as clearly as if it were yesterday whether any one else chooses to commemorate it or not!