It’s that time again, when every four years half the world’s population goes completely crazy over a bunch of men in coloured jerseys running around a large field after a small ball. Meanwhile, the other half of the population prays for those thirty one days to pass as soon as possible. It’s World Cup Football time. And until one nation declares it’s supremacy over the rest, those of us who are not fans are doomed to a month of packed sitting rooms and scary cheers in the middle of the night. ‘If you can’t beat them join them,’ the old saying goes, and I decided to dredge up some sportsman-like spirit and join my football-addicted husband on the couch. As he cheered, sighed and groaned at some fancy footwork, head butting, own-goals and proper goals, I realized that I was getting bored. Soon enough I found myself propping my chin in my palm and wondering what was so great about the beautiful game. It’s not like we were getting paid, or becoming fitter by some country winning some match. What exactly is the thrill in watching others play?
Now, I’ve never been much of a sportsperson. The only thing I knew how to play was Badminton and that too because my Dad also loved to play. In school I used to invent ‘n’ number of excuses to get out of physical training class. From ‘stomach aches’ to ‘headaches’ to ‘my Doctor thinks I’m too skinny as it is’, I’ve tried them all and mostly emerged victorious. Yet there were those games that even I wanted to plunge into. And my favourite was Kho-Kho. Twelve of us squatting in a line, alternate players facing opposite directions while the other team sent chasers to tag the players. As the chaser ran around the line to touch the ‘tagged’ person or the dodger, the dodger would run between the line and try to evade being touched. It was an exhilarating feeling sitting there in the playground, dust kicked up in your face from the panicked heels flying. I would sit, poised to take off as soon as I was tagged, with my heart beating as loudly as I have ever heard it. Gulping in deep gasping breaths of air, I would run, heart pounding, muscles straining either as the chaser or the chased. At the end of the game, drenched in sweat and covered in grime, we would shake hands with each other and go home content after having played a good game.
Then there was the roughhouse favourite, Kabaddi. All the girls in our class were asked to wear pyjamas under the school uniform on the days our Physical Training teacher designated as Kabaddi day. Anyone who watched us play would have concluded that whoever labelled women as the weaker or fairer sex, was definitely blind or clinically insane. Girls were dragged on the ground, pummelled, sat-on and even got their hair pulled as opposing teams tried to make them lose their breath and stop them from uttering the Kabaddi mantra. Games usually ended in high-pitched screaming matches and even fist fights. It was total chaos, but it was total fun!
And now I sit on a couch watching men in brightly coloured shoes kicking around a ball, wondering what all the excitement is about. My husband thinks that I cannot appreciate the game because I am a control freak. He says that I’m the kind of person who needs to be in the thick of the action in order to really enjoy it. And I say, isn’t that what sports is about? I’m sure Football or Cricket wasn’t invented because some caveman thought, “Oh I would love to see a bunch of people kicking a rock around!”
He probably invented it as he realised that he liked kicking the rock around. Which brings me to the conclusion that, as the years passed the majority of us seem to have evolved from sportspersons to sports spectators. In an age where my friends tell me that they would rather get a Nintendo WII to play some tennis at home, rather than get out on a court, something tells me that the time is not far when the whole concept of sports is shrunk to one virtual playing field.