Friday, June 29, 2012

Cup tournaments and shifting loyalties

2008 was the year when Pep started putting his imprint on Barcelona. The Blaugrana were such a brilliant team that it was impossible to see beyong Spain in Euro 2008. Besides, wasn't it time for the perenially under-achieving Spain to announce themselves on the World stage. And so, I supported them and they ended up victorious.

By 2010, the Spanish brand of tiki-taka was, let's all agree, getting a little tiresome and despite the fact that we all knew they would win the WC, a big part of me shifted loyalties.  Despite boasting of successive generations of brilliant footballers, the Flying Dutchmen had always flattered to deceive. Infighting and huge egos had always been their bane but under Marwijk, it looked like they had put it all aside to fight together. I rooted for the Oranje until that shocking final when Nigel De Jong set out to kick the Spaniards from the whistle. I didn't quite enjoy Spain winning the tournament with boring but controlled wins but it was still deserved.

Come 2012, I returned back to my roots. I first fell in love with The Fatherland in 1986. Maradona was at his imperious best and I still remember watching the final at my uncle's (actually, my mom's uncle's) place in Kailasapuram. It was Doordarshan those days but still the atmosphere at the Aztec stadium could be sensed/felt on TV. I have vivid memories of Rummenige and Voller pulling us back to 2-2 before Burruchago scored that breakaway winner which was an absolute dagger to my heart. Flash forward to 1990 and Lothar Matthaus lifting the WC was at that point in time, my greatest high in football. Die Mannschaft under Klinsmann were a joy to watch in 2006 but under Low, they've gone farther and this brave & fearless team now play with a certain intensity that is difficult to cope with. Its been 22 years since Germany last won a trophy & so I supported them in Euro 2012. Alas !!

Along the way, between 1986 and 2008, I've also come to admire the Italians a lot. Post 1990, a lot of the Germans like Matthaus and Klinsmann played for Inter and that made me follow Serie A and the Azzuri regularly. In fact, the first fan shirt I owned was of the Azzuri. During those days when I played central defence at school, my biggest idols in football were not the goal-scoring heros but the solid, defensive rocks Cannavaro and Maldini. While catenaccio is often reviled by the pundits, I've always been fascinated by the organisation and discipline that it involves. Between 1994 when the Italians finished runners-up in the WC, 2002 when we had to suffer the ignominy of getting knocked out in Rd 2 & finally winning the WC in 2006, every Italian fan will vouch for the fact that supporting the team is a roller-coaster ride. 

Which brings us back full circle to the finals of Euro 2012 - who am I gonna support? The Azzuri, of course :)

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