“Please raise your hands who watched the world cup in the night and still managed to turn up for school today…..”, asked the disciplinarian school principal, proud not just for waking up till 4 in the morning but also one of the very few seventh graders who was actually listening, I had my arm up and about. “I am thankful to all of you,” she said. It was a bit weird at that time to realize its significance but every world cup since ’94 has brought with it it’s own set of trials and tribulations, not to mention the euphoria and pure ecstasy of supporting an alien nation and living out their footballing revelry. As much as I am a sports buff supporting anything from ‘gully danda’ to Nadia Comaneci in the Olympics it’s an awesome experience but just can’t say the same for this one though. First, it was the construction of the stadiums lagging behind, then South Africa being an undeserving host(having never before qualified for it), now that it is well underway, its the official match ball “Jabulani” and ear-splitting decibel levels of the trumpet-like reincarnation, “vuvuzelas.”
From what has been shown on the television, can’t fault the host country for the lack of enthusiasm, organisation or the party atmosphere which has accompanied it but the number of fumbles and some howlers namely by Robert Green and the Algerian goalkeeper has brought into sharp focus the use of the “Jabulani”. Even coaches, players and fellow goalkeepers have criticized it saying it is one of the worst that has come into play for a long time. It prompted the manufacturers, Adidas, to defend it saying that since the matches were being played at an altitude it was creating some pressure around it and hence the difference in trajectory and the bounce. It could be the reason why Bolivia is one of the very few countries who were able to defeat the “Albiceleste” 6-1 in the south American qualifiers not too long ago always playing all their matches at “la Paz” which is the highest national capital in the world. The tempo in the games, in general, has also been laborious with the average number of goals scored is less than the previous world cup but it hasn’t stopped any of the participant supporters or neutrals to blow the “vuvuzelas” which has become the trademark of this world cup even putting the official mascot “Zakumi” out of public imagination. At first, it did look and sound like a novelty but I think the only person having a “blast” with them is the inventor laughing all the way to the bank with this plastic horn. The sound emanating from a vuvuzela has become the top downloaded tone for iPhone users but the constant playing in the stadiums is giving them a whole new ‘buzz’ altogether. Spectators have every right of expressing themselves but it drains out all the shouting amongst the players, the ‘usual’ atmosphere, leaving an empty feeling in the living room thinking more about mosquito repellents rather than the formations being employed by the teams.
Another interesting facet of this world cup has been the choreography or the goal celebrations, a fitting tribute to Roger Milla who started the impromptu dance back in Italia ’90 for Cameroon.
Europe and South America are evenly poised in terms of the number of cups each continent has won but none of the African teams seems like reaching the semi-final stage. Hope it is proved wrong and with the likes of Germany, Spain, England in a spot of bother it would be great to see a new team lifting the cup this time instead of the usual suspects.