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There’s one major topic of conversation everywhere right now: World Cup

IF YOU see people wandering around sleep-deprived, or every bar and lounge tuned to just one TV channel, it shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the FIFA World Cup happens once in four years. Even non-football fans can’t help but be up-to-date on footy happenings. As a friend recently complained to me, “Even if I don’t watch, everyone else does. And everything is only about football.”
So writing on football seemed derigueur and quite in keeping with the mood of the moment. However, most related topics have more than been touched upon in the media: sexiest players, sexiest hair, sexiest WAGs (wives and girlfriends, for the uninitiated), sexiest tattoos, sexiest cuss-words on the pitch. Even the Google Doodle depicts a new football cartoon everyday (not necessarily sexy, thank heavens). And everyone seems more preoccupied with the footballers’ sex lives than their own (The Mexicans can’t, the French can).
So I decided to keep it uncomplicated: just check in on what the excitement is about.

It’s simple, said actor Vinay Rai, whose Facebook banner photo displays his Deutsch-mania. “Fans build the game’s excitement.” A former national rugby player who gave it up for the movies, Rai describes football as ‘90 minutes of sheer excitement without any breaks’. Rai watched his first World Cup match in 1990 in Italy and was instantly hooked. “I watched Germany playing and I have supported them ever since. I will change my allegiance only when India qualifies for the World Cup.”

Since we are number 154 in the world rankings, that seems a long way away, but Rai says, “Look at some of the African and South American nations, where underprivileged kids with amazing success stories have made it to the national team.” India can do it, he insists.
Possible? Why not. With Bangalore’s own team, Bengaluru FC (bengalurufc.com) and its very own super cool fan club, football mania in town is on the rise. At CounterCulture, Whitefield, open air large screens feed the football frenzy, and crowds are bigger than ever, says manager Chandran. Fans enjoy the extended weekend closing time, watch matches and knock back drinks named Hand of God, Brazuca and Flying Dutchman.

Vishal Nagpal of Biere Club and 153 Biere Street agrees. “There is so much excitement attached to the World Cup. Every player plays his best for his country.” Despite the late timings, groups of fans gather at the large screens at pubs. With the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Indians can heave a sigh of relief, as match viewing will be easier.

Vinay Rai

Vinay Rai

Rai adds watching tournaments like the FIFA World Cup is a kind of therapy. “You can immerse yourself in your favourite football hero’s fighting spirit. Sports fans tend to identify with their heroes’ exploits and every country, irrespective of size, needs sporting heroes. And big names like Ronaldo and Messi have to prove themselves for their countries.”
Meanwhile, champions Spain are out (shocking and bad), so is England (not so shocking, still bad) and Portugal/Ronaldo hangs in there by a thread as I write. People are tweeting and commenting about Robin Van Persie’s flying dolphin-like goal, Ronaldo’s Zorro-style haircut, Pepe’s head butt and Klose’s first-touch goal. Not to mention the happy celebratory jigs (best synchronized victory dance? Ghana and Colombia. Check out YouTube).

The colours, emotions and intensity are building up online. Trending topics on Twitter this week are all football-dominated. With #FIFAWorldCup the most tweeted event in the world ever, every match sees plenty of LOLs, rants and witticisms. Like football fan Anton Perlkvist (@World) tweeted, “Spain was looking hot in 2010, but now they are looking Chile.”

The FIFA World Cup, however, stays hotter than ever before.

-Ruma Singh (Ruma Singh presents a column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city. firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com)

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