United by football

There has been a wind of change in the way football is considered in India, with such a huge pool of talent waiting to be harnessed. DEVABRATA MAITRA narrates how fans in India and around the world celebrate this spectacular event – The FIFA WORLD CUP 2014

On the June 12, 2014, the world came together for the start of the greatest show on Earth -The FIFA WORLD CUP 2014.  The realm of Samba and carnivals gear up to host the play offs where football is not just another sport; it is Life! No other sport in the world has such a frenzied following.

It all began with two hundred and nine teams competing against each other in their respective confederations. It’s finally down to thirty two teams playing sixty four games spread over twelve cities. This year’s edition has a new name of the football being used for the matches- “Brazuca”- which means the Brazilian way of life, the mascot is called Fuelco- based on a three banded armadillo and its mixture of two words- fuetbal (football) and ecologia (ecology).

It is the largest tournament organised by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The inaugural edition of the football world cup was played in 1930 in Uruguay, where the host country emerged as champions. Since its inaugural edition it has been a regular feature except in 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War.

Nineteen world cups have been played so far, and Brazil has emerged winners the maximum times (5). But each world cup brings something new to the table. For example Italy the winners of the 2006 edition failed to make it to the quarter finals in 2010; the unpredictability of the tournament makes it all the more interesting. There is a sense of frenzy when this tournament is on.

People all around the world, do all kinds of things to celebrate and mark this tournament. From the statue displays of the footballers on the streets of Kolkata, to the various haircuts carried out by the patrons of the biggest stars of the game. Renowned Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik created a sand sculpture of the national flags of Brazil and Croatia. In Seoul women hang papers football on a tree to wish their team.The streets of Hong Kong are adorned with some caricature models of World Cup football stars. Astronauts play football in space in honor of the world cup and recently in the major cities the sports bars showcase the matches where supporters of various teams almost end up in fistic ups! It is rightly called the WORLD CUP FEVER!

The only gloomy side of this fever is that India does not feature amongst the 32 nations who make it to the play offs. On the Fifa chart, India ranks an abysmal 152. The last time India made it to the playoffs was way back in 1950.

With so much of talent, especially amongst the seven sisters states where football has always been in the blood of the people. It has always been a sport which has come to the people naturally. So much so kids from the age of 5- 6 start playing football and are not well seen upon by their peers if one does not play the sport and that too with a certain level of skill.

In recent times there has been a wind of change in the way football is considered in India, with such a huge pool of talent waiting to be harnessed the advent of the Indian Super League, a joint venture of IMG and Reliance Industries with the All India Football Federation marks a new beginning in the future of the sport in India. Guwahati amongst the other eight cities selected for the ISL, will be the home of the North East United Football Club which Co-owned by John Abraham & Shillong Lajong FC.

This is a being seen as a huge step towards developing football and harnessing talent from all over the country. Each ISL team has been given a clear mandate of spending at least two crores the first year on developing football at the grassroots level. Such initiatives are slowly allowing talentedyoungsters to make it a career over traditional studies.

In the year 2017, India will host the under seventeen football world cup, which will be a huge boost to the development of the sport. Being the host nation, India will get to take part in the competition. Football lovers all over the country are looking forward to this as a stage where more importance will be given to grass root level development.

Moving on, some of the major questions on everyone`s mind are which team will get to hold the 18 carat golden trophy designed by Silvio Gazzaniga in 1970? Who amongst the star players will be able to take their nation to glory? Which team will be the surprise package?? Well these will be answered over the next month, and many more will be raised for the next edition which will be held in Russia in 2018.

Here`s wishing you all a wonderful time, soak in the essence of the biggest show on earth and I would like to quote a line written in the Indian Express do describe the world cup – “Divided by land, United by Football”.

Salute!!

Devabrata Maitra

Devabrata Maitra

Devabrata Maitra is a graduate from IHM Mumbai and works with the Taj hotels resorts and palaces. He was born in Shillong and his interests include history afficionado and leisure writing.