Soccer finals don’t get any bigger than this: Manchester United playing against Chelsea in the Champion’s League final in Moscow. Okay, okay, so the London team in blue lost to the Manchester team in red not too far from Red Square, scraping past the Roman Abramovich-owned Chelsea in a pulsating 6-5 penalty shoot-out. But what struck beady-eyed us sitting here in ’indoostan, glued to our tellies right till the moment when Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs lifted the European club trophy at 3.26 am India time was the sheer mixture of quality and high-octane entertainment provided.
Television cameras beaming the match live to millions worldwide lingered lovingly on the fouls and the battered bodies as well as on the goals and the subsequent faces. This was Jacobean theatre performed by the two English clubs full of a non-English dramatis personae. For those who see everything in IPL metaphors, the Russian roulette of penalties deciding the match had a ‘last over in Twenty20 cricket’ flavour about it. But that’s like saying Jennifer Lopez vaguely looks like your aunt. It’s the gargantuan spectacle of the Champion’s League tournament, sprawled across countries and months, that could provide a workable model for the Indian Premier League.
For us sitting here in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Bhatinda cheering on either Man U or Chelsea might seem a tad strange to the guys at the bar in the Old Mancunian or Stag’s Head. It may seem odd to even the supporters from non-Manchester and non-London who follow the tricks of the trade of their non-English heroes playing in either club to find Indians roaring in cheer or collapsing despair to the proceedings of a ‘European’ tie. But as the gladiatorial spectacle evident from Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium in the wee hours of Wednesday night here showed, Lalit Modi and gang could pick up a tip or two about truly globalising a spectator sport.