Being a Woman
The world is awash with the colours of football jerseys. Blue, white, yellow, green and red are the latest primary colours. Now that Season 4 of Game Of Thrones has come to an end, the World Cup bandwagon on the social media has become bigger and louder. Here in Kerala too, people are displaying the most bizarre behaviour with regard to the game and the players. I was astounded by a recent news item which mentioned a gentleman who had painted his house in Brazil’s colours. The thought of all that yellow and green makes me want to lie down for a moment just to regain my equilibrium. I’ve lost count of the number of people going around sporting a variety of team jerseys.
While this war of nations rages all around, I fervently hope that nobody asks me for my opinion. At the risk of being annihilated by irate fans of the sport, I have a teensy confession to make. You might have heard of people who are technologically-challenged, well suffice to say that I’m mentally challenged when it comes to sports. At least nobody can accuse me of favouritism since mention of any kind of sports activity is met with the same blank stare from me. Due to my older sibling’s influence during my teenage years I’ve managed to get a working knowledge of cricket and football. However I have strong objections when it comes to the vocabulary used and the rules. Why should there be a silly point in cricket ? I ask you my dear friends, if the point is so very silly why have it ? Boggles my mind every time I hear it. And what’s with the helmet kept behind the wicket keeper, or is it the batsman ? Anyway, aren’t those contraptions supposed to adorn the head rather than the grassy ground ? Let’s be practical here, if it’s of utmost necessity, why not just have a small stool placed there. At least somebody can sit on it ! I’m equally befuddled by football as well. If there’s an offside, shouldn’t there be an onside to balance it ?
I was not always such an ignoramus. In fact I was quite the sports chick. No raised eyebrows please ! As a teen I was heavily influenced by my afore-mentioned sibling. My brother was and is completely immersed in the world of sports. He reads the newspaper back to front, starting with the sports page, which sufficiently clarifies his priorities in life. He actually converted his passion into a career and worked as a sports journalist. We are the two opposing ends of the sports-interest spectrum. Anyway, during my teenage years, I had pictures of sports people covering one wall of my room. Cricket, football and tennis were my favourites though now when I look back, I think I was more interested in the people playing the sport rather than the actual sport itself. In the West Indies team I can never forget the speed of Malcolm Marshall, the steely glare of Andy Roberts, the batting wizardry of Gordon Greenidge, the Big Bird who was Joel Garner and the brilliant Clive Lloyd. The English had the angelic David Gower, the utterly immovable Boycott, tubby Mike Gatting and the original enfant terrible of cricket, Ian Botham. Alan Border was the stable captain of the Australian team which had such differing characters like the quirky Greg Mathews and the silent Steve Waugh. Richard Hadlee is the only cricketer from New Zealand who has stuck in my memory. The there were our arch rivals, the Pakistanis.The dashing Imran Khan was loved unquestioningly but the brash yet brilliant Javed Miandad was never a favourite. The Indian team too had its share of memorable characters. I was never a fan of the talented Gavaskar who I thought was quite uninteresting with his eternal plodding. Winning the 1983 world cup made instant celebrities of Kapil Dev and team. The bald as a golf ball wicket keeper Syed Kirmani was adorable and joining him in my list of favourites were gentlemanly Roger Binny, rough around the edges Amarnath , tiny Madan Lal, dashing Sandeep Patil and the maverick Srikkanth.
Coming to football, the 1986 World Cup was the first and last world cup I watched. I was struck by football fever and sitting up till the wee hours with my equally enthusiastic brother is a cherished memory. Witnessing Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal and his other brilliant goal in the same game were some of the unforgettable moments. I used to hold conversations about Peter Shilton, Rummenigge, Zico, Platini and Lineker. Unfortunately those are the names I still bandy around. My unfortunate sibling had to keep explaining the offside rule to me whenever I got impassioned about goals that were disallowed. The meaning of that term still eludes me. When it comes to tennis, the great rivalries overshadowed everything else. Navratilova with Chris Evert and Ivan Lendl with Jimmy Connors and later John McEnroe. Lendl with his prominent cheekbones and inscrutable face was the antithesis of the highly expressive McEnroe. Of course Lendl had a long array of opponents like Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. I kept up with the game till the advent of Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini. A stunning poster of the glamorous Sabatini was the last one I ever put of a sports person. She was the perpetual underdog, invariably meeting Graf in the finals and losing to her.
When my brother went away from home for his post-graduate studies, my interest in sports saw a rapid decline and later I swung to the other extreme and became totally disinterested in it. I think there’s something in my DNA – I need to blame something ! – which makes me incapable of storing any information related to sports in my brain. I do try to read up on the latest sporting event so that I can at least look informed during conversations, but at the crucial moment my mind goes blank, and I look like a fish with my mouth silently opening and closing without uttering a sound. The advent of new players by the thousands do not help me in any way.There are certain aspects that still interest me. In cricket, I love to watch the batsmen chatting to each other in the middle of the pitch. What would they be talking about ? The latest episode of Game Of Thrones or maybe even how the quality of food on tours is not as good as it was. As for football, the World Cup songs captivate me each time, though I was disappointed with the current one. My favourite still remains the Cup of life by Ricky Martin. I’ve given up on tennis because there’s a new player on the scene every day and it’s too much of an effort to keep track.
Mr. A’s passions are Formula One racing and the Tour de France, both of which have such convoluted rules that I end up without any idea of who the actual winner is. He used to take great pleasure in sharing the game’s highlights with me but I think my blank stare creeped him out. Nowadays he prefers discussing it with my teenage daughter who surprisingly is interested in these uninteresting events. I still have my lil one for company. We happily curl up together and go off to sleep while the other two talk about Alonso and Vettel.
The day Messi retires from football, the Williams sisters forgo tennis and Dhoni leaves the Indian team, I’ll cut my last ties to the world of sport. Then I’ll be a sports illiterate in the true sense of the word. Sigh !