I have been agonising over the absence of India in the World Cup. We seem to lack the basic temperament to play this game. Not that we haven’t attempted. Many an Indian has tried his hand at football. That’s the problem. Football rules don’t allow use of hands. We should try our legs instead.
Another problem is that Indians play so many different types of games and tend to get confused. While playing football, it is important to remember that the ball must be hit into the net, not over the net as in tennis. While approaching the goal-post, Indians try to maneuver the ball towards point and extra-cover. Such off-side shots are disallowed in football. Also, Indians have the habit of hitting the football outside the boundary line, believing that it will fetch them six runs, but football rules are slightly different. The most awkward moment for Indian football was when one Indian defender, thinking that he was playing kabaddi, tackled one of the opponent forwards, bringing him down and crushing him . Apparently the tackler was from Goa and a Goan constrictor at that.
But, all is not lost. W.Bengal is producing some great footballers. Mohan Bagan, for instance, has had some great players like Hiralal Mukherjee, Samar Banerjee, Sudeep Chatterjee, etc. These surnames Mukherjee, Banerjee, Chatterjee, I am told, are Anglicised versions of traditional Bengali names like Mukhopadhyaya, Bandopadhyaya and Chattopadhyaya. East Bengal had a goal keeper called Bhaskar Gangopadhyaya, who anglicized his name to Bhaskar Gan-goalie.
The reason why Bengal is able to come out with such great football talent is because the Bengali language converts all ‘va’ sounds to ‘ba’ sounds. “Vande Matram” becomes “Bande Matram”, “Viswa” becomes “Biswa” and “Ravindranath” becomes “Rabindranth”. Consequently, when the rest of the country is struggling to vend the wall like Veckham, Bengalis can effortlessly bend the ball like Beckham. The day is not far off when a team of Bengalis will play the World Cup and conquer all the other teams. The proud captain can then exclaim, “Beni, Bidi, Bici”.
Yes, these Bengalis can certainly do magic with the football. The most famous football magician from Mohan Bagan is known as P.C.Soccer. When the opposing team is inching menacingly towards the goal post, he can make the entire football stadium disappear, with his magical bond, sorry magical wand.
With that bit about the Wand Bagan, let me jump off the bandwagon now, by reciting these lines from Tagore’s Gitanjali, that beautifully captures the feelings of the Indian footballer and his futile quest of a goal…
“There are times when I languidly linger
and times when I awaken and hurry
in search of my goal;
but cruelly thou hidest thyself from before