Football

A reliable guide

NOT JUST DATA-DRIVEN Sports commentator Novy Kapadia in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

France is best equipped to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup. So says Novy Kapadia, sports commentator and an authoritative chronicler of football. To prepare the fans for the World Cup, starting June 14, he has come out with “The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide” (published by Hachette India), a veritable feast of stories of this most beautiful game on earth.

The updated edition of the book, which was first published four years ago when Rio hosted the Cup, is embellished with fascinating statistics, lucid match descriptions and six pages dedicated to India’s missed opportunity at the 1950 World Cup.

Well, India had none to blame for not making an appearance at the World Cup hosted by Brazil. “Only 33 countries had signed up for the qualifying matches. India was grouped with Burma and Philippines. Both Burma and Philippines withdrew and thus India qualified automatically qualified for the final rounds. Sadly, India withdrew from the 1950 World Cup after the final draw was made. The official reason stated by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was disagreement over team selection, and insufficient practice time,” writes Kapadia.

A self-goal?

As Kapadia reveals in the book, the “Brazilian organisers wanted to make their tournament more representative and were keen to have a team from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. They even offered to pay most of the expenses. India’s entry remained in the draw till the tournament started and no other team from Asia was invited. When India did not turn up, pool III became a three-team group with the winners Sweden qualifying for the final round-robin league phase. It seems AIFF procrastinated and let this opportunity slip by. Indian football is still paying the penalty for missing this once in a lifetime chance.”

In this edition, Kapadia has concentrated on what the Indian football fans want. “The focus has been on outstanding matches because that’s what the Indians look for. I have kept the description crisp because elaborate details do not always interest them. There is an interesting quiz at the end of the book and there is statistics too. Young people enjoy quiz and stats but I have tried to reach out to people of all ages,” says Kapadia.

Book cover

Book cover  

Reflecting on his experience of collecting material on football writing, Kapadia states, “The 1974 World Cup was the first tournament to catch my attention. To read about the tournament, I would visit the British Council and go through every newspaper. And then there was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with its spectacular commentary. Indian papers did not carry detailed reports and it was only much later, in the 1980s, that we got exhaustive coverage of the World Cup. Television coverage made it a fascinating spectacle and now the internet has opened the floodgates on information regarding the game from all over the world.”

The Guide discusses Brazil’s humiliation in front of home audience in 2014. “A great team once, a good team now, Brazil has always evoked emotional attachment from fans in India. To most, Brazil being routed by Germany was not a surprise. But it could be different this time,” says Kapadia.

Looking forward to the World Cup in Russia, the global fraternity, notes Kapadia, is going to lament the absence of Italy and The Netherlands, who could not qualify for the tournament. “The best thing about this World Cup is that it will be an open tournament. It would be a farewell World Cup for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and I don’t see Portugal and Argentina progressing beyond the quarter-final stage.”

Each World Cup is discussed astutely where Kapadia sums up the matches, highlights the upsets, picks some outstanding players from the tournament apart and includes an anecdotal page titled Extra Time. For the upcoming tournament, he has thoughtfully also written about the technological assistance for the supervising officials.

Kapadia, who has covered several World Cups, picks the following 16 for the knock-out stage: Uruguay, Russia, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Argentina, Croatia, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, England, Poland and Columbia.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 6:54:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/a-reliable-guide/article23737160.ece

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