The day the World Cup started, my family’s loyalties were neatly divided. My full-half was an ardent supporter of Brazil while my teenaged daughter, understandably, favoured England. And I, being an inveterate opportunist, kept my loyalties to myself. Then, as the big event progressed, I kept on aligning with one or the other underdogs. It helped me enjoy all the matches.
I was not perturbed even when Ghana, the last of the underdogs whom I supported lost to Brazil, for I knew they had no chance. Thus, when the game entered the quarterfinal stage, I was ready again to play merry-go-round with my support. As soon as the team that I rooted for lost, I switched my loyalty to the next.
Meanwhile, there was peace at home since both Brazil and England had also entered the quarterfinals.
The night of the match between England and Portugal, and between Brazil and France was a long one for us. We finished our dinner early and settled down to watch the big duels. In the first match, all went well till half-time.
Then as Beckham fell to an injury and Rooney to the contrived red card, the atmosphere inside our room became tense.
To make matters worse, my daughter noticed Cristiano Ronaldo’s mischievous wink as Rooney was leaving the field. She cried foul. I was at pains to explain to her that human nature was the same everywhere and that the referee had his limitations.
Then, as England fought valiantly, her hopes for an English victory came alive. But then came the penalties and the inevitable. It didn’t help matters that the clinching penalty kick came from Cristiano Ronaldo, the villain of the piece, according to her. She fell silent holding back her tears.
She recovered a little for the match between Brazil and France and now joined her mother in rooting for the former. I was noncommittal again and kept on enjoying the game. Then, when Henry scored that beautiful goal from a pass from Zizou, a hush fell over the house.
When the match ended, for much of my family the tournament was over. Except for me, for I still had four teams to play around with my loyalty during the semi-finals and two for the final.
So, I remained glued to the TV till the end. Only one thought kept coming back to me again and again. What if India had qualified for the Cup? Surely, I could not have seen football for what it is — a source of pure joy.
Don’t they say there is a bright side to everything?