There's a reason why we should all be turning our eyes towards the Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Friday evening when Argentina plays Venezuela in an international friendly football match. Well, actually there are three reasons.
First, if all is right with the world, we should get to witness the greatest practising footballer in the world at the height of his prowess. It doesn't matter that the match is a friendly. In the Beautiful Game, 'friendlies' at such a level are high-quality encounters minus the staccato, flow-breaking interruptions of dives and fouls we see in more 'serious' games. So, if everything becomes focused on showing off one's on-field abilities, Lionel Messi should be tantalising. As could be a new name we'll learn to remember.
But we should be watching Friday's match also to watch the watchers - those at the stadium. Brought to the fixture like moths to floodlights, these are people untied by the usual glue of national pride or overt participation in the game. They will be watching the match for the sheer love of watching an art form unfurling in its highest level outside the arena of a television box. It is like a theatre full of people with little or no ability to dance hoping to be entranced by the magic of the Bolshoi Ballet. It is this purity of devotion towards a beautiful contest - aided by the hero worship of Argentina, or Argentina's Messi or FC Barcelona's Messi (or a combination of all three) - which makes Friday's friendly such a great event that goes against the grain of how people are drawn to things and events.
In fact, we'll be able to watch and appreciate Friday's game more 'purely' and without any distraction than any Argentine or Venezuelan whose hearts will be contaminated by bias unconnected to football itself.
And that, amigos and amigas, is the third and best reason to watch a football match between Argentina and Venezuela being played in India.
Amit S Rao is a Mumbai-based writer