It was entirely unexpected, a bolt from the blue so to say. I mean to be called a ‘Philistine’ by one’s own friends isn’t a normal routine thing. But it happened recently when one fine day the Football season arrived and my friends learnt that I didn’t give a damn about it.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I neither commend nor condemn Football. I am just a simple, innocent, and ignorant soul who wouldn’t know if Soccer and Football are two different things or the same; to whom Brazil is a country with rich Coffee resources. But I take the courage to ask, “Is this apathy tantamount to call for drastic measures such as social ostracism?”
My friends did precisely that to me. They all went into ‘Eat Football, sleep Football and drink only whatever’ mode and as a result all the talk was centered on the wretched ball. And I didn’t have much to contribute. My only memories of the game belong to my school days. I was the goalie in those days for everyone else found it killing having to wait endlessly to lay their hands (or rather their feet) on the ball. I didn’t mind that. In fact I wouldn’t have liked it better any other way. I used to calmly sit reading a novel or a letter. And whenever, occasionally the ball came near me I would charge at it like a mad bull. Thump! and off it would go sailing across the field. Sometimes a bloke would score a goal but no one seemed to mind that much.
Well as I was just saying, once the World Cup matches started, suddenly I found myself tongue-tied (a rare thing, my friends will tell you). Initially I thought that silence was golden and so sat out a few sessions at the canteen quietly. But making paper rockets and biting one’s nail is no fun after a while and I hankered for the social contact that Aristotle crowed about so much.
And since the ball was literally in my court and I thought that in Rome one should do as the Romans do, I decided to join the brigade to talk about Football. Alas it was but no avail! It wasn’t as if I didn’t try. Once they were talking about this bloke Salas and I said, ‘That’s interesting.” They were all piqued by my comment and waited. I continued, “Why, that is the first name palindrome that I have ever known.” They hated me for that, I guess I didn’t make the grade. I tried again when I told this guy, “Wasn’t yesterday’s match smashing. That Team A really mauled Team B blah blah …” (I no longer remember the names of the teams). Well he got angry and left in a huff – now how for Chrissakes was I to know that he had rooted for the losing side?
So I am a pariah now. I understand. After all, no one wants a wet blanket around and party-poopers are always regarded to be spoilsports. Yet at times I feel I am a ‘lone-sane-man-against- this-Football-crazy-world’. I don’t quite relish the situation, for Lord’s sake, that way one ends up a martyr. And I don’t want to be a martyr, I want to live and I want my friends to say of me, “He is a jolly good fellow.”
But I can feel things will get better, my fortune is on an upswing and my sun-sign has forecast that life will look better soon. I also know the reason – you see good ol’ Cricket tournament is round the corner. The ‘Independence Cup’ is catching on and I look up to Tendulkar and Jayasuriya for my salvation.
It is my first article that appeared in the ‘The Times of India’, Pune supplement, under the ‘Humor’ column on June 24, 1998. I continue to view Football rather disinterestedly. As a kid we all were obsessed with Cricket – playing it on the streets and watching it on TV. Guess those early memories get ingrained and tend to stay with you.