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Memoirs of a football fan

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THEIR ONLY GOAL Soccer fans display their love for the game in many ways. Here's one
THEIR ONLY GOAL Soccer fans display their love for the game in many ways. Here's one

There was a time when the World Cup meant cricket and not soccer...

It was the first week of June 2002, only a few days to go before the World Cup would kick off. However, there was a problem; the World Cup would be telecast in the subcontinent by a relatively unknown channel at that time, Ten Sports. And I was not receiving Ten Sports. To find out why I called up my cable operator. Excerpts from the `enlightening' phone call are provided below:Me: Sir, why am I not getting Ten Sports? Which band is it coming on?Cable operator: Sorry, we are not giving Ten Sports. Me: What? (All along I had just assumed that it was problem with my TV, I never thought of this disastrous possibility) The World Cup is starting in a week's time. Cable operator: Illai, World Cup is in 2003. (2003? It felt like someone had dropped a 1,000-tonne sledgehammer on my head. I was speechless) Hello, anyone there? I could not respond as I was still speechless. As I gradually regained my composure, I realised the cable operator had all the while been referring to cricket. For him and many others here, World Cup meant the Cricket World Cup, nothing else. He even went on to explain his `business model' and how it was economically unviable to subscribe to a pay channel, which was just showing soccer and not cricket. Sigh. It was the end of my dream of watching the World Cup dream. Or so I thought. D-Day had arrived. Defenders France were to take on Senegal in less than half an hour and I couldn't get to see any of the action. I was in a depressed state when my cable operator called up to tell me he had made necessary `arrangements' so that I could watch the World Cup. I was ecstatic. I ran and switched on the TV and what did I find? No, not Ten Sports but some channel which was testing my eyesight. And the audio? It was virtually non-existent. Between the grains and blurs, I could figure out Henry running up and down the pitch. With no commentary and poor visual clarity, the match seemed like one of the build-up shows to the World Cup - `Glorious moments of World Cup: 1934' or a game from some such outdated era. Of course, the quality of the French game that day was worse than the transmission on this channel. As the matches in the group stages continued, I was getting accustomed to this new-found channel. Every time a player scored a goal, I had to switch over to a news channel to ascertain the identity of the player who had scored the goal. As the tournament entered the knock out stage, a divine intervention did happen. I could actually recognise the players without straining my eyes. This divine transformation was, well not exactly divine, as my cable operator had found a better `arrangement'. It was time now for CCTV (some Chinese channel, I suppose). The video quality was good but what about the audio? The commentary was `fantastic', indeed, my favourite was this line "Chi ching chu xing wah cing xing ping ping, BALLACK, GOAL!" Yes, it was as good as having no commentary at all. But now I didn't have to switch to a news channel to find out who scored the goal. A small step for the cable operator, a giant leap for the football fan!It was the day of the finals. By this time, owing to loads of news coverage, many non-football fans decided to take up the matter of coverage with the cable operator. He yielded at last, not completely though, he couldn't sacrifice his `business model' at any cost. So what was his new `arrangement'? CCTV continued but miraculously with English commentary now. Had the Chinese commentators learnt English overnight? Nope, the audio was from a different channel, but video was that of CCTV. The audio and video were completely out of sync to the say the least. Here is a sample: Ronaldo scores the goal, celebrates, ball is back at the half line and game is about to get underway when I hear the commentator's voice, "Oliver Kahn fumbles, Ronaldo pounces on it, it's a goal!" Thinking back, I am amazed that I actually watched almost every match despite all this. Now, did I just say `thinking back'...? VIDYA RAO

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