Friday, August 31, 2007

Did You Know???

In an age dominated by the lazy game of cricket, that even a pretender like me can play with aplomb, the news of India reaching the final and then winning the Nehru Cup, screamed at me for attention and then filled me with a genuine feeling of happiness. If you still thought, it was another cricket tourney, forget it. Be ready to blink...the game was soccer and the opponents were not our regular South Asian neighbours. I went through this video and countless articles on the triumph with hope of a turnaround in a sport that India was genuinely good at until the mid-90's and then faded away. It can't be a coincidence that India's performance in athletics, football, tennis, and countless other sports took the downward trend once cricket attracted our singular attraction? A regular, pleasing, thrilling sight on train journeys through Kerala was local youngsters playing football and volleyball and a small crowd watching took that place for a while, but last year again i saw those small-timers back to playing football and i rejoiced. Maybe the soccer World Cup last year has certainly helped India.

The Nehru Cup held in TVM in the late eighties was my first initiation into watching a sport as a spectator. A C.V.Pappachen goal from the left flank beating three Czechoslovakian defenders and netting the ball from an almost 180deg angle to the goal mouth is still fresh in memory. I.M.Vijayan debuted the next year for Kerala Police who won the Federation Cup, following which Kerala won the Santhosh Trophy after 18 years. V.P.Sathyan, the captain of the two victorious teams, who tragically killed himself last year was the hero of every malayali then. In school, I still remember every one of my classmates playing football with these names on their mouths. In the eighties and early 90's Kerala sport reached its pinnacle with supreme performances in athletics by PT Usha, Shiny Wilson and co, in basketball with CV Sunny, Jayashankar Menon and the rest of their Kerala Police team, volleyball under late Jimmy George besides the legendary football team I wrote of earlier.

Some years back a very talented young footballer who promised a lot and should have been part of this victorious team, Pradeep Jose(not sure that is his name, memory has faded, there is a kerala footballer, Vinu Jose, i think he is his brother, or maybe...), whom I had seen playing for Calicut University once, on that superb Trivandrum Doordarshan programme, Kalikkalam, who made it to the Kerala State team and indian team but died of typhoid, unknown, uncared for, in a hospital in Andhra Pradesh where he had gone, representing Kerala in some tournament. Last year or year before, I saw a Santhosh trophy match, i think the semi or final, which could be termed listless at best, long overhead cross passes failing to reach their intended recipient, clumsy tackles, a boringly sedate "friendly" performance, and i flicked channels, wondering how things came to so low a level. Its heartbreaking to see Leander stretch himself to his limits to keep India in the Davis Cup match after match, and no youngster coming up to replace him, either in skill or spirit and you wonder how, in earlier times, a steady flow of talented players like Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Peas and Mahesh Bhupathi kept arriving to take over the baton from the older set.

Is cricket responsible? Are we responsible? Were the men who marketed cricket more smarter than the ones who helmed football, hockey and athletics? With enthusiasm, I told my colleague of India winning the Nehru Cup and he scornfully remarked, "Maybe it was some local team." This same person keeps bombarding me with cricket scores each time India plays. If an Indian, can show such extremes of apathy and empathy for two Teams' in Blue, all of us can imagine, what sort of inspiration, support and pride indian sports persons outside cricket have to play for. I don't know if its a mentality developed as an offshoot of globalization, that the weaker ones are left by the wayside...but we see it happening everywhere. In the agricultural sector, in movies, in sports, arts and in almost every aspect of Indian life, a lot of what has been welded to make up our India has been ignored and left to fend for itself. Surely, all this doesnot bode well for us. Ironically, it needed an Englishman to coach, impart confidence and set free a young set of caged boys from the stigma of being ignored by their own countrymen and gain their attention, not by marketing, sponsorship or hype but through a renaissance on the football ground. Is Indian football rising from the ashes? I'd like to believe so.


silverine said...

I truly hope it is rising from the ashes! I think other sports will also get due attention now what with Indian players playing for foreign clubs and sports associations. Money, if not a passion for sports will surely ensure that lucrative games will catch the attention of youngsters.

mathew said...

Jiby..I remember those times..when pappachan and Joe Paul Ancheri were idols...seriously hope that this triumph works wonders..

If South Koreans who doesnt exactly have the bet physique for the rigours of football can make it..why not us..

And strangely we have people goin gaga over EPL..primera liga..bundesliga..Hope all fans actually promote the sport by attending the matches back home..!!

When you mention football..I guess Hockey is another sport which is in it death bed badly needing a revival..

you are writing eye opener posts!!

wanderlust said...

Amen to your post.
BTW, did you watch 'Chak De'?

Anonymous said...

surely you joke.. hockey and football have no place in india.. not even cricket.. all we want is media-manufactured idols.. which are easier to find in cricket than other sports, which explains why cricket is so famous.. what a drip..

Preetha Nair said...

Even I was about to ask...Chak de kandooo? :) :)
Love the way you narrate

b v n said...

"every one of my classmates playing football with these names on their mouths" - hey...our goalie called himself was so built in :)

I mean, football as a sport needs to be more shud say "people"ised (like sevens in malabar) we have the money in India..we can do things

Praveen said...

Theres no doubt that cricket has sunk the popularity of all other games.

The problem seems to be that takers of other sports do not see it as money earning with which they could live the rest of their lives with content. Unless this is ensured, there would be no takers for these games.