“Do you lack the adrenaline rush or something? Why don’t you watch football?” asked Arjyak at the end of the bloggers meet.
I came back home and asked my dad, “You do not play football, why do you stay awake and scream all night?” My father said, “Which Bengali did not play football when they were young, tell me. He is not a Bengali at all. Shob khelar shera bangalir tumi football!” The last line might loosely translate to “the best of best of all the games for a Bengali is football.” I murmured to myself, “Dad, me!”.
Photograph: Anirban Saha
Next morning i set to discover this city’s cultural ethos, of which football is a very important part. Here the kids grow up watching their elders discuss about Maradona, Ronaldo and Messi. Messy affair it seems, more so – they know very well, India is not a part in the world cup.
“So would you want, your son to become a football player?” The answer was not encouraging. “Amra goal ta kemon dilam bol?” A wide smile, an earthen cup of tea and a wide chest did not help me understand which “Amra” he referred to. I kept scratching the camera grip.
An old man in the adda told me, that it is more about the sentiments of the people around. Yes sir, definitely. Because the home team of Mohun bagan was the first Indian team to win against a European team in 1911. Or is it because Mohun Bagan is slightly a decade older than FIFA itself?
“How can you forget the East Bengal Mohun Bagan football matches?” Yes, are you speaking of the high on energy match where people watch football less and hurl more abuses they had innovated and stocked, since the last match? Oh, are you proud because the salt lake stadium is the second largest football stadium as per capacity? The response was grim and i thought it best to bid farewell to the adda.
Photographs: Anirban Saha
I really do not understand the frenzy. I really do not understand the sentiments. The love for the game is understandable; it increases the adrenaline rush even if you are watching it through the view finder. But to color the interiors of your home with yellow and maroon, your building with blue and white even before the Bengal government waivered the taxes, to cover all the lanes in the locality with Brazil national flags, to paint the walls and the barricades with emblems, symbols and yes, scream all night right outside my room not letting me work. I do not understand.
Photograph: Anirban Saha.
Photographs: Akash Bhattacharya & Zishan Asad
Add to it, the social media. With one goal Messi scores, my news feed is flooded with updates. Messier when someone bites the other on field – updates, memes, expletives, jokes and what not?
“Don’t you find the football players cute?” Well, i did not find it necessary to answer that question. But is that why you watch football? Which team do you support? The ones which your boyfriends do, right?
Photograph: Anirban Saha. TCS Football Tournament and captains fighting over a foul.
“It is about the excitement of the game when you play it. You will not understand.” Perhaps I will not.
But who cares? The rest of Kolkata are mad about football. An old couple from Kolkata was all over the news for making it to the 9th consecutive football world cup. The husband is 81 and the wife in her 70’s, they save all the money they can, in 4 years, only to spend it in the football world cup. Almost every friend I have, plays football, discusses football and fights over their football teams. Perhaps, it is time I give in and appreciate their sentiments and be a part of the frenzy, even without proper reason.
Photographs: Soumya Shankar Ghoshal.
I dare not say that it is without a proper reason. It is “love for Phootball”. It is this love for football that makes them write poems and even songs. Wait, i will paste for you one from Satyadip Basu’s wall post.
“Teen minute’e goal kheye chaar minute’e shodh.. Prothom-ardher shesh logne bhanglo protirodh.
Dwitiyardher shuru tei somota phiriye, rokhhoner doshe abar porlo pichiye,
Bhagyo ektu shohaye hole jitto nigeria, herey giyeo bhalo khele jitlo amar hiya.
Football to amra jani egaro joner khela, mesi chara dosh jon sudhui bhir korche mela.
Eka messi’r kadhe chore bishwo cup joy,
Emon asha kora bodh hoye ghoro toro onnyay.”
Are you one of them who remains awake all night to watch the football match? What is football to you?