Beyond Brazil

Noted commentator Ghaus Mohammad says the passion with which Indians follow the FIFA World Cup is incredible

Published - May 01, 2018 01:44 pm IST

AVID FOLLOWERS Ghaus Mohammad with Novy Kapadia at the Olympic Stadium in London in 2012

AVID FOLLOWERS Ghaus Mohammad with Novy Kapadia at the Olympic Stadium in London in 2012

India’s has a unique way of participating in the FIFA World Cup. Every four years, the nation wakes up to the football extravaganza. What if India does not qualify to play this truly global event. The passion that grips football lovers, young and old alike, is seen to be believed.

For Ghaus Mohammad, a noted sports commentator who has reported events from Singapore, London, Melbourne, Islamabad, Colombo, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Beijing, Guangzhou, Doha, most of them with noted commentator Novy Kapadia as partner, it is part of India’s “fascinating football culture.”

Ahead of the World Cup (in June), Ghaus says, “It is one game which triggers a national interest even though India is not one of the participants. The passion with which Indians follow the football World Cup is incredible. Traditionally, Argentina and Brazil have been the teams with mind-boggling following in India but now we have youngsters hooked on to Spain, Germany, Portugal, France.”

As Ghaus observes, “Fans in India have begun to follow various teams because they watch the action on television. It is no more just Brazil or Argentina. The fan involvement is unimaginable and I have seen it first-hand.”

Having commentated on three World Cups – 2006, 2010 and 2014 – Ghaus does lament the decline of a team like Brazil. “It was once a certainty that Brazil would figure in the last four. Not anymore. Their extraordinary skills have been shackled by the Europeans, who are best equipped to win at 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Africans can create some upsets but I can’t see them win the Cup.”

Ghaus backs a European team to win the Cup in Russia. “European teams are most professionals and can come back from any position. You can see they also pick up the least yellow cards. African teams are temperamental, like the south Americans. You can always expect European teams to figure among the top.”

“Germany is my all-time favourite team. They dominated the Cup in Rio and decimated Brazil in a classic display of attacking football. The Germans know the conditions well and appear the fittest. What I really like about Germany is they have equally good substitutes and that keeps their momentum going.”

As Ghaus rightly pointed out, the absence of Italy, four time champions and runner-up twice, has robbed the 2018 edition of much glamour and flair. “In 2006, I, Novy and Harsha (Bhogle) were returning from the studio (in Singapore). Harsha asked me to pick the winner between Italy and France. I backed Italy because it was a complete team with 11 players capable of playing in any position. They beat France mainly because of some great defending by Fabio Cannavaro.”

In his view, Nigeria can be a “dark horse”. There is scope for “Russia” to go the distance and “Egypt” to surprise the football world. Switzerland is “fast” but it is an ageing side. There will be some pulsating contests at the World Cup but “Germany is my team. It is the top ranked team in the world and has an enviable World Cup record of 13 semifinal appearances and have lifted the cup four times (1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014).”

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