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Updated: June 4, 2014 15:09 IST

All you wanted to know about the FIFA World Cup but didn’t ask

SHREEDUTTA CHIDANANDA
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The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide by Novy Kapadia
Special Arrangement The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide by Novy Kapadia

In The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide that arrives ahead of the 20th FIFA World Cup, Novy Kapadia takes the reader on a comprehensive tour of the previous 19

An estimated 909.6 million people watched some portion of the 2010 football World Cup final on their TV sets. “Additional out-of-home viewers,” a television audience report produced for FIFA said, “are likely to have pushed the total reach to over one billion.” KantarSport, the media-research company that authored the document, also revealed that coverage of the competition had in all “reached over 3.2 billion people around the world – 46.4 per cent of the global population.”

For universal appeal, no other sporting event can match the football World Cup. From the shantytowns of Accra to idyllic cafés in the Alps, people are consumed by the same fervour for the tournament. On June 12, the curtain will go up on another edition of football’s merry quadrennial jamboree – this time in Brazil, a country not so much a cradle of the sport as a cathedral.

In The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide that arrives ahead of the 20th FIFA World Cup, Novy Kapadia takes the reader on a comprehensive tour of the previous 19. A popular football broadcaster on Indian television, Kapadia begins with the tournament’s origins and leads a winding way through the years; from Uruguay 1930, when four European teams grudgingly travelled by sea to remote Montevideo, past the heat of Mexico 1970 and a mesmeric Brazil side’s brilliance 12 summers later, to the first African World Cup in 2010.

En route, there is no shortage of drama or intrigue, not the least of which is supplied by India’s withdrawal from the 1950 edition. Kapadia dwells on this engagingly and at some length, and laments the “missed opportunity”. That India’s footballers declined the invitation only because they preferred to play barefoot – as opposed to FIFA’s rules of wearing shoes – is a misconception, he argues. “The apprehension that Indian players would have been out of depth because they had to wear football boots is exaggerated. It has just become a self-perpetuating myth,” he writes. In reality, a number of factors contributed to the decision, Kapadia believes, with India letting slip a chance to turn into a top international side.

For all its joy and beauty, the World Cup is no stranger to on-field violence and a number of its skirmishes – the Battle of Santiago, the Battle of Berne, the Battle of Nuremberg – find mention in the book. Other matters of controversy are touched upon as well – Diego Maradona’s positive ephedrine test and ban, West Germany’s cordial, mutually beneficial 1-0 win over Austria (the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’ they called it), and Geoff Hurst’s goal in 1966.

The book is ready reference material, with dates, results, venues and detail on significant games from every World Cup.

Trivia and numbers also make it to a special section to indulge the anorak – long tables on penalties, yellow-cards, referees, attendances, goals scored or conceded, games won or lost.

There is delight to be found in the vignettes at the end of each chapter, curious bits and bobs like Attilio Ferraris’s smoking habit (40 a day), Ferenc Puskas’s considerable diet, and Gordon Banks’s reliance on Beech-Nut gum.

Brazil 2014 gets a chapter of its own at the end, with the groups previewed and the fixtures listed. The build-up to this World Cup has seemed like a long one; much fun is expected.

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