Friday, January 13, 2012

The football fan.

I was amused to read this news report yesterday :

East Bengal had to bear the wrath of fans who laid siege to their home turf with players and officials locked inside for about 30 minutes following their humiliating 1-4 loss to minnows Aryan Club in the local football league on Tuesday.

Angry with their second successive loss, three days after they were blanked 0-2 by bitter-foes Mohun Bagan, the fans turned violent near the exit gate, forcing the players to remain stranded in the ground before police could pacify the situation.

The police sneaked through the back door to rescue the team, especially East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan, who was the prime target of the supporters.

Why do people take a game so seriously? That’s because any sport was intended as a benign form of war and to keep tribal instincts at check. Any game therefore has the potential to degenerate  into surrogate warfare, at the slighest provocation. To excel in sports one needs to hone one’s competitive spirit with a view to inflicting a defeat on the opponent.The flip side of this build-up  is that any failure is considered too humiliating for the sportsmen and the fans alike, which leads to violence and bloodshed.

Last month, a football referee in Venezuela was shot dead by a fan after a match, because he had refused the substitution of a player. Football, more than any other game, seems to activate the reptilinear cortex of the brain and to cause the most primitive behavior.

This tendency was well illustrated in a short story, " A slight case of sunstroke",  by Arthur C Clarke set in a nation called Perivia in South America. The story describes a tense football match being played. Towards the end, the referee disallows a goal scored by Perivia and the crowd of 50000 refuse to take it lying down. They simply,instantly and literally  reduce the referee to ashes, One of the spectators, the narrator, explains the manner in which the referee was killed:

Have you ever annoyed anyone by flicking a pocket mirror across his eyes? I guess every kid has: I remember doing it to a teacher once, and getting duly paddled. But I had never imagined what would happen if fifty thousand well-trained men did the same trick, each using a tin-foil reflector a couple of feet square.

A mathematically minded friend of mine has worked it out for me, not that I needed any further proof, but I always like to get to the bottom of things. I never knew, until then, just how much energy there is in sunlight; it’s well over a horsepower on every square yard facing the sun. Most of the heat falling on one side of that enormous stadium had been diverted into the single small area occupied by the late referee. Even allowing for all the programmes that weren’t aimed in the right direction, he must have intercepted at least a thousand horsepower of raw heat. He couldn’t have felt much; it was as if he had been dropped into a blast furnace.
“They play football for keeps in Perivia”, concludes the narrator in a matter-of-fact tone. A slight case of sunstroke, indeed.

Yes, they play football for keeps in Kolkata as well.

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