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FIFA fever grips fans

For some it's a serious pursuit, for others a passing frenzy, but the greatest appeal of the World Cup is that it has been able to attract a diverse audience

Stavan Jain swears he has not seen anything like this in 20 years of cricket fandom. As things head to a climax in the football World Cup in South Africa, the 27-year-old has done away with the wager book and is living solely on short-term loyalty.

“I made a few, lost a few, stayed up late, pored over analyses, but all that counts for squat now. If Germany doesn't win, I'll be gutted. Yeah, I like cricket. But comparing the cricket world cup to this spectacle is silly,” he says.

Jain continues to fiddle restlessly with a can of diet coke. A huge hoarding of Cristiano Ronaldo with the ball at his feet looms in the backdrop. Here, in the sprawling sterility of an upmarket hang-out, he is one of the several mall-rats clad in German colours.

“Even for somebody who tunes in only during the world cup, the quality of Germany was apparent from the first match. Ozil, Mueller, Klose, Schweinsteiger… I can keep going… Germany is so on dude.”

Whatever tidbit and whichever statistic Jain plies us with, however, appears toothless after ten minutes spent with Prabhu Jayabhaskaran. This beefy software engineer from Madurai has bet more than just his happiness on the chances of the reigning European champions.

“Spain for the Cup and Villa for the golden boot,” he chants.

Tenuous logic

Deterred little by past experience of having squandered over a thousand quid on a punting website, Prabhu is willing to put his money where his mouth is. In his case, the zeal is backed by rather tenuous logic.

“I'm a fan of Liverpool and Torres especially. Looks like the chap doesn't want to score in this edition, but Spain going all the way will just do it for me,” he says with a shrug.

Though the media seems to have done a thorough job in convincing people that the World Cup is the next best thing to happen to humanity after Obama, there are a few that refuse to buy it.

Krupa Karan, a network engineer from the city, poohs poohs the quadrennial's claim as the premier sporting event.

“Yes, it is possibly a bigger spectacle. But in terms of quality, I would go with the Champions League any day. In fact, a few players have said the same thing. The teams are stronger and the contests are at another level.”

However dismissive Krupa might sound, there still walk those whose tread on earth is aided by those very items of footwear that are vociferously propagated by Villa and Co. during breaks in telecast.

“I bought these for two months' worth of pocket-money,” says Sriram Ravichandran, pointing to his sneakers. I'd been wanting to buy a pair ever since I saw Rooney wear it in a commercial. And the next thing you know the guy hasn't scored and England is out.”

Perhaps the greatest appeal of the World Cup lies in it being able to attract an audience of such diverse interest and following; the month-long melee lends itself as easily to serious pursuit as it does to a passing frenzy. And there are those who have already planned for their holiday arc to include Brazil in four years' time.

“That will be something else,” says Jain.



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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 1:10:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/FIFA-fever-grips-fans/article16188179.ece

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