The IPL fever goes down a few degrees this evening as even King Khan makes way for King Kahn — the legendary goalkeeper of FC Bayern Munich. The German club takes on Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, bringing to an end Oliver Kahn’s 20-year-long career in Bayern’s colours. Never mind if Bayern will be represented by second-rung players, and the champions of the Indian league will be playing more to avoid a drubbing than to create an upset.
To be fair, the home side will have more than given the visitors a run for their money if it is not overwhelmed by the pace and skills associated with European football. For far away from Europe’s marquee leagues, this is to be Mr Kahn’s swansong match. And all eyes and lenses will be on him as he hands over his gloves to his successor Michael Rensing during the second half, and do a lap of the stadium. Bayern’s ever-reliable keeper’s contributions have earned him four consecutive ‘UEFA Best European Goalkeeper’ awards and two ‘German Footballer of the Year’ trophies, besides the Golden Ball he won in the 2002 World Cup.
So it is a proud moment for Indian fans that Mr Kahn chose Kolkata to sign off. Unfortunately, this is also a reminder of India’s idling soccer potential. Some of our clubs are older than top teams in Europe and command support that dwarfs theirs. Yet here we are, desperately trying to push the goal post every time visitors come calling. Chances are that tonight’s friendly match will be no different.