There is no doubt that Germany simply dominates world football in recent times when it comes to their national team competing in major tournaments. And when I am referring the term of “recent times”, I am referring to a period of around 10-12 years. The records speak of themselves when it comes to German national team performance from say 2000 onwards:
- FIFA world cup: Runners up in 2002, Third place in 2006 and 2010, Champions in 2014
- European Championship: Group stage in 2000 and 2004, Runners up in 2008, Third in 2012 and 2016
- FIFA Confederations cup: Did not qualify in 2001, did not play in 2003, Third in 2005, did not qualify in 2009 and 2013, Champions in 2017
That made me think on the main reasons behind the phenomenal success of the German national team, when comparing with the other great footballing nations of Italy, France, Spain, England, etc in Europe. I have deliberately kept the Latin American countries out here, because I believe there the supremacy is kind of polarised with Brazil, Argentina when it comes in national team level competitions.
- If we look at the club level team compositions across the big leagues in Europe, German leagues take the least number of foreign players. Going by 2017 UEFA report, foreign players in Bundesliga accounts for 49.2%, whereas the number is 55.5% in Serie A in Italy and a staggering 69.2% in English Premier League. So, chances of junior players coming up and playing a top league is much high in Germany than say in England or Italy
Now, let’s look at two foundation level parameters specially for junior football – youth football focus and competent coaching staff availability:
- The focus of German football has been their youth and development at the youth level. Only in that way, you will have a steady supply of quality players who can dominate football at an young age. The Bundesliga clubs spend around £85m (2014 data) annually on their youth academies, which is one of the highest in the world. This focus started sometime in 2000, when they felt that the German team in Euro 2000 was too “old” and hence could not compete
And the results of the investment was evident before the last world cup of 2014, when they became champions. At that point of time, gifted young players coming out of this system was too plenty. All the now famous players are a result of that focus – just look at the names and their age (as on 2013) – Julian Draxler (19), Andre Schürrle (22), Thomas Müller (23), Holger Badstuber (24), Mats Hummels (24), Mesut Ozil (24), Mario Götze (20), Toni Kroos (23) and the list goes on. No wonder, these players played such a vital role in their 2014 world cup win
- Coming to qualified and competent coaching staff in Germany. There are 34,000+ qualified coaches in Germany now as compared to around 3,000 in England. Hence, the ability to groom, develop and produce quality youth footballers is much high in Germany
Finally comes German precision, logical thinking and having the nationalism feeling rather than individualism traits that are seen in other leagues.
- During 2010 world cup, the Germans had an average ball possession time of 3.4 seconds. The leadership believed that if they can cut down on this parameter drastically, not only they can put the opposition totally off-guard but will enable a fluent, fast paced football which can prove to be the big differentiation factor. They teamed up with SAP and aided by a product made by SAP for German football, they cut down the possession time from 3.4 seconds to 1.1 seconds. The precision thinking along with technology makes Germans a leader by a big margin when compared to any other team in the world. If you want to read more details on this unique thing they did in 2014 world cup, click on the below link:
- The other focus has been on their techniques and no longer great physiques. If you see German team of 2014 world cup, just look at their matches and find out how many times the ball is lost due to a first poor touch or how many unforced errors comes up during passing or how possession is given away cheaply. The numbers will be much lower than what you will see in other big teams in that world cup including Argentina, Brazil, Holland, etc
- Finally it comes to developing an inclusive culture based on open communications and individual responsibilities. This is possible because German’s do not have big “stars” in their teams like Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, etc. I think even the biggest of the stars of German soccer today like Tony Kroos or Ozil do not claim individual showmanship on or off the field. They would rather play as a team and not have big ego’s on individual supremacy within their own teams. In recent times, the German teams have players coming from different origins – Polish, Turkish, Moroccan, etc. However, the emphasis on inclusion within the team and emphasis on community never replaced individual accountability.
This was best seen in Neuer’s interview after the quarterfinal win against France in 2014 world cup. When he was congratulated by a reporter on an excellent save in stoppage time against a Benzema shot, Neuer first credited his defense mentioning that they narrowed him to the extent that Benzema had no other option but to take a shot on the near post and then he mentioned “and if it goes in there it’s a goalkeeper error”.
No wonder the success stories of Germany is huge in recent years. I would say if growing footballing nations like India would like to work out an overall success model in football that will allow them to taste success in world football in next 10-15 years, they should emulate the German model.
Now we wait to see whether the same Germans can win the 2018 world cup again or at least reach the finals. Well, time will tell ….
It is just less than 7 days left for the kick-off of the FIFA World Cup 2018. The international friendly practice matches are almost done as the last testing zones of the strategies to be adopted in the world cup. The final 23 number squads have been finalised and published to all early this week. Now it’s just the final build-up before the crescendo begins with colour fans, drinks, music and of course, lots of football and action on and off the fields.
Few days ago, I had written a blog (see the link below) wherein I attempted to arrive at a trend of European football as most of the players across continents dream to play in Europe due to more exposure, money and limelight.
Now if we analyse the final teams of each of the countries and try to find out which clubs contribute these players (across all 32 teams), following hypothesis is again reinforced in today’s world soccer arena:
- Europe attracts world talent undoubtedly than any other continents, including South America
- Within Europe, it’s mainly the English Premier League (EPL) top teams who contribute the most. No wonder, EPL is the most popular league in the world with most viewing, maximum money inflow, etc. Probably the EPL is not polarised with just 1 or 2 top teams; there are at least 7-8 teams who are close to each other and give strong competition in the leagues. However, what baffles me is that why English Clubs are not so successful in UEFA Champions League in last 8-10 years !
- Apart from EPL, it’s La Liga in Spain who contributes a lot. Then they are followed by France, Germany and Italy.
Here is the data:
|England (across 4 clubs)||51|
|Spain (across 2 clubs, no prizes for guessing which are these clubs !)||29|
|France (from 1 club – again no prizes for guessing !)||12|
|Germany (from 1 club – again no prizes for guessing !)||11|
|Italy (from 1 club – again no prizes for guessing !)||11|
If we go deep another level of the above data and look at the club names (arranged in an ascending order based on the number of players coming from the clubs), it’s obvious that there are no surprises coming up. It’s the known big-shots who are shooting again big time :-)
So irrespective of which country lifts the world cup this year, Europe and the listed clubs will take pride on their contribution to Russia World Cup 2018 !!
The campaign and the hopes for millions are done for another four years. The journey has been completed with an exit from the World Cup after reaching the semi finals. The best balanced team has beaten us convincingly in the final knock out match of India. The response from millions of Indian fans has been written with lots of disappointment, which is quite natural given the passion for the game. However, some of the extreme reactions targeting and questioning the basic integrity of the players have forced me to think that is this the same old story of immaturity once again back ?
Let’s for a second pause and take a step back to visualise the situation before the start of the World Cup. The signals were very ominous for the Team Blue before the start of the campaign:
- World Cup in Australia where the pitches tend to be too bouncy for Indian liking
- Comprehensively beaten in last two overseas tours in England and Australia, tending towards complete “white wash”
- Weaknesses of top Indian batsmen against fast bouncy pace bowling known by the world
- Last 7 years haven’t produced a class fast bowler who can perform at overseas grounds. There have been patches of individuals who started with lots of hope and then fading away into oblivion with mediocre performances.
- Indian bowling attack, specially the pace attack, have been torn apart by the opposition repeatedly.
- Ishant Sharma was destined to lead the pace attack and yet sidelined due to injury
- Morale have been at the lowest ebb ever, specially before the start of the biggest spectacle in international cricket
- World Cup schedule demanded no “easy” matches for India in the start to gain some confidence
- Dhoni’s leadership style questioned due to many controversies, on and off the field.
With the above scenario, the hopes of an average Indian fan was very pessimistic to start with. Jokes were around if at all India can win against some of the minnows, there will be hundred reasons to open the bubbly to celebrate.
After one month, India performed above expectations, having all win records in all matches, having bowled out all oppositions in all matches, pace bowlers excelled beyond expectations in all matches, batting up to the mark in all matches, Dhoni back to his cool skilful captaincy in all matches …. except for the disaster that happened in the semifinals against a much stronger team of Australia in their home conditions. That too when the crucial toss going against India.
And then hell broke lose …. Suddenly the same set of people who thought initially that India will be lucky to even reaching the knock out stage, went all arms and daggers out against the Indian team. With such low expectations from the team, when the same team just surpassed all the wildest dreams, suddenly the guns are out blazing to shoot them down ?
The dramatic Times Now channel went on the offensive with comments that Dhoni should have showed some more sad faces after the loss, players did not want to win and hence have been cheating the millions of fans, the captaincy was absolutely ridiculous, the bowling has been pathetic, etc etc. Yes, there have been a failure in that match, but to brand the entire team with those negative comments is totally unfair.
It looked like that after the match, if Dhoni, Virat and others had shed tears on the ground like that of de Villiers, we would have been convinced that they were actually trying to win the match !!! Whether the same set of players are devastated by the loss within themselves is not important, they should have expressed themselves with sorrow, tears, wrenched faces, then we would have said “well played” !!!! Come on, give us a break !!!
I can only wish that more maturity comes to the responsible media channels, more compassion and understanding is shown by the average Indian cricket fans. Let’s not make yesterday, once more !!
Another year has just passed by and as we welcome the new year of 2015, I took the first new year resolution that I will pen down 10 defining moments of 2014, which I feel had impacted the world. I am sure 2015 will be an exciting and good year for me – because, here I am taking time out on 1st Jan to honour my new year resolution. Believe me, this is a record for me and I pat my back myself :-) Coming away from the self-glory mode, let me focus on really writing on the 10 defining moments (in a chronological order based on the time of occurrence)
1) Early 2014, most probably around Feb, we came to know the devastation being caused by the outbreak of Ebola. While the outbreak of Ebola is not new to mankind, what this made me feel that we are probably still hundreds of years behind unravelling the mysteries of nature. While technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in last few decades, still we are at a mercy to understand life and it’s manifestations through different forms – some makes us smile with hope, some makes us cry with despair. We can only hope for the best in the years to come ….
2) Political muscle power has been in display over hundreds, thousands of years. In olden days, kings used to force into others land in search of valuable resources. People have killed people easily in wars fighting over territories and show of strength. Ego’s have played big in many leaders of the world, past and present. Wars have been inflicted under the excuses of “imaginary” weapons; gaining “strategic” geographical positions to keep an eye on what others are doing; crippling economic growth or at least try to do so has been in play for years. So, when the Ukraine conflict started in Feb / March ’14, we are once again reminded of the erstwhile Cold War in action. While that struggle of power still continues, sometimes I laugh at the irony of human civilisations – on the one hand we give “peace awards” and talk of peace, harmony, development, growth; on the other side, the same hand does not hesitate to take action to break the same peace & harmony ! What a contradiction of human beings !
3) Disaster hit us when the ill-fated flight of MH370 just disappeared from everyone’s eyes. Yes – just “disappeared” ! In today’s world, when technology is in fingertips of people everywhere in the world, it is sad to convince ourselves that a big flight with so many people can just “disappear” from everything ! Or are we really convinced ? Till date, we have not got any conclusion of this disappearance – and till that happens, let us humans remain optimistic with the belief that the individuals in that flight are safe somewhere !
4) Came May’14 and came an event that has been rare in Indian politics for last few years. Came a political party with absolute majority by itself in forming the government of India after many, many years – thereby decimating the main opposition party by a huge margin. While I will not deliberate on whether this is good or bad for India, what we all have to admit is there is a big brand of NaMo on the rise – that one individual can take on everything and yet succeed in winning the elections is something I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Positive perception of India is on the rise since that day, stock markets have been consistently high – only thing to wait and watch for is whether the “acchhe din” (good days) have really come or not.
5) For every four years, sports lovers across the world always wait for the grand event of FIFA World Cup to happen – so, Jun’14 was the time of the year when people lifted themselves from their frustrations, problems of life and focused attention on the sand, beaches, beauties of Brazil. As always, this world cup also brought great tactical football – apart from that, two things really caught me unawares. Firstly, how frustration and disappointment on performance in one match can bring the demon out (again !) of a star and classy player of Luis Suarez! It was hard to believe even after seeing the replays that he actually bit a player (again!). The other thing was apparent from the first game – Brazil was riding on hope, emotions rather than quality play in the world cup. But that’s not what surprised me – the utter desolation, collapse of their play and riding on emotions was so spectacular that they conceded 7 goals in a world cup semifinals ! Germany scored 3 goals in 76 Seconds and 4 goals in 4 minutes (have a look at this article) – can you still believe that ? I have never witnessed such a collapse in football ever, that too in a semifinal of a world cup !
6) Oct’14 witnessed the recognition of human peace – the Nobel Peace Prize‘s were awarded to Malala (Pak) and Kailash Satyarthi (India). Contributions by these two individuals are undisputed – one a very “matured” girl, the other a great person. But what this made me to think that while so much animosity, fighting happening on a daily basis along the Indo-Pak border, here are two individuals from these two nations talking peace, walking hand in hand. Such contradictory visuals – but you still feel that one day, this “dispute” will come to an end and then common people from these countries can actually walk hand in hand.
7) Indian football arena was suddenly buzz with excitement with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) in Nov’14. Optimism was running high and expectations were that Indian football will improve by leaps and bounds after this month-long tournament. Rationale was that if you practice, play and rub shoulders with players like Del Piero, Anelka, Pires, Materazzi, James, etc, definitely something will be transferred to the Indian players, apart from sweat and dust. Well, I had already shared my personal views on ISL in one of my earlier blog entitled “Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror?” (https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/indian-super-league-isl-the-saviour-or-the-conqueror/). But definitely football had become more “family” game when you saw families going to the stadiums. Whether that enthusiasm still runs high when iLeague starts is something to watch for.
8) Internet freedom has been under threat for sometime now. Internet was defined as a place where expressions can be shared “freely”; technology is being advertised even today as “technology does not discriminate” – but in last 5 years, I have seen a throttling of such speech by ruling governments, whenever someone expresses opinions which does not suit or favour the parties in power. I personally feel that internet should be kept “free” and governments / corporations should not clamp down on the benefits for their gains. I also feel that control should be exercised by police if internet is used to violate laws (like fostering terrorism, human trafficking, etc). But broadly if technology can provide cheap facilities to common man for communication, expressions – then why will organisations intervene and try to control that for their benefits, monetary or otherwise. The small incident that happened in India in Dec’14 forced me to think on this topic – that is when Bharti Airtel planned to impose VoiP charges on consumers just because they are unable to compete with the likes of WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, etc. While this was an incident of curtailing net-freedom because of profits, the issues of internet freedom will continue to haunt us in the years to come.
9) Throughout the year 2014, oil prices have been falling steadily. The oil price has fallen by more than 40% since June, when it was $115 a barrel. Currently is around $70 a barrel. At a meeting in Vienna on November, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls nearly 40% of the world market, failed to reach agreement on production curbs, sending the price tumbling. Also hard hit are oil-exporting countries such as Russia (where the rouble has hit record lows), Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela. While experts can analyse why this is happening, my guess as a layman is that again the reason of “conquest” amongst nations is probably the main reason. Of course, as a common Indian, I welcome this “fighting” amongst nations for a change – because at the end of the day, I can buy petrol at a cheaper price. Thanks for this “disagreement” and hope that this “disagreement” increases more and more in the years to come.
10) Finally, as I was almost certain the year will come to an end peacefully with no major incidents, came another out of the blue related to Indian cricket. The “sudden” retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket at the end of the 3rd test at MCG between India and Australia has opened up all kinds of theories. We love controversies, we love “sudden” decisions, we love to be “experts” – we definitely had another opportunity to voice our opinions, have debates amongst friends and foes, listen to TV “experts” discussing on the issue, etc. Definitely the year ended with a huge energy level for sure :-)
So, with an opening balance of high “energy” levels, I am sure 2015 will be more energetic than ever. With this, I wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous new year 2015 !
The Indian Super League (ISL) has just kicked off in India with a great optimism that it will transform Indian soccer and the “sleeping giants” will wake up and be a formidable soccer power in next 10-15 years. Yes, it has attracted lots of attention in the recent past – good money flowing in, a large number of “star” world cuppers will be in action, lot of media hype surrounding the event, Bollywood and Sports heroes in the fray, big advertisements – all the ingredients for a masala dish are out and are being mixed in true Indian fashion.
As I welcome a sudden energy surrounding Indian football, my question is whether ISL the saviour or the conqueror ? When I mention the word ‘conqueror’, it automatically implies that there will be a victor AND there will be ‘death’ of someone. Also, when I use the word ‘saviour’, it means saving or healing an existing disease AND that does not imply death of anyone. Of course, I will prefer ‘saviour’ any day! But based on the events that led to the build up of the event, I have a feeling that ISL is acting as the conqueror rather than a saviour!
We always talk of “inclusive” growth – but in this case, we do not see that happen. Irrespective of the quality of Indian football, over 100+ years, we had Indian football clubs like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan, Salgaoncar, Dempo, etc etc who have been serving Indian football. Yes, the quality was poor – but that was not just the problem of the clubs, but the problem of India as a nation. Hence, if we have to improve the quality and make the “sleeping giant” wake, it has to be started using the same clubs where the footballers play for the entire year. But what do we see here ?
We suddenly have a new tournament with a total NEW set of teams and management, ignoring the current structure and totally ignoring the current set of clubs. It’s like the equivalent of the cricket Packer Series – only difference is that this is allowed by the India football federation, AIFF! If the same model was implemented to improve the i-League using the existing clubs, definitely this would have improved Indian football by leaps and bounds. Nowhere in the world we have seen improvement of football by ignoring current set of clubs – even in Japan, the existing J-League was “enhanced” when Zico and other international players went there to play and boost Japanese football and not creating new football teams, new tournaments, etc. Can we imagine that to improve say cricket in Netherlands, all current teams/clubs are ignored and a new tournament comes in with new teams ? Or to improve Indian cricket standards in test matches, have totally new teams, new tournament and ignore the Ranji Trophy along with all the current state teams ?
The message of ISL has been “I am rich, I have money, ‘poor’ people will start licking my shoes; so I don’t care about others – but lets make a tournament for 3 months and lets have some fun” … will this really improve football ? If the answer is “yes”, then out of 12 months, we play a tournament for 3 months with a set of players, teams, coaches and then for the rest 9 months, the same players goes back to the poor old infrastructure, back to the ‘poor’ old clubs, back with the poor quality coaches ? And in spite of that, our football will improve ? Come on !
If the ultimate design is “kill the old clubs, kill all tournaments like i-league, Federation Cup, make this the only tournament”, then probably Indian football will improve, but by that process it will lose many supporters who are loyal to the existing clubs. The best way to test the popularity of ISL is to have an ISL match in parallel to an East Bengal – Mohan Bagan match and see which match attracts more spectators. I think I can predict the answer ….
Let us not make this ISL the whims and fancies of some rich people, time pass for some bollywood stars and cricketers, who still does not address how the long term old clubs will improve their infrastructure, bring in more experienced coaches, bring in modern sports medicinal research into play. Yes, Indian football needs complete overhauling, but not in this fashion. If same money, stardom, infrastructure was used to enhance the main football tournament in India, the i-league, then definitely our soccer standards would have improved in the long run, without “killing” someone by design!
At the outset, I was totally pessimistic on today’s final between Atletico Madrid (AM) and Real Madrid (RM) – simply because Real Madrid was a much superior team in terms of individual players, experience and style of play. This effectively meant that Atletico Madrid as the “weaker” team will play to a strategy that will be hardly entertaining. As I believe a weaker team will have to play defensive and a “negative” brand of football, relying on either counter-attacks, slice of luck or eventually the “lottery” system of penalties. This is the way I have seen football evolved over years and I had written the same in an earlier post (click on the link https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/the-evolution-from-a-laymans-eyes/ to read the same). But this is not the topic that I want to write on today. What I want to share with you are my thoughts on some defining moments of today’s game.
Firstly the gamble of playing an injured Diego Costa backfired on AM. Not just of being deprived of a prolific striker, but also consuming one of the important substitutions which will be costly specially if the game went into extra-time. And as destiny would have it, the match did went into the extra 30 minutes, thanks to a last-minute injury-time equaliser. Whether a star player who is injured should be brought into the playing XI is always debatable, but I personally believe this is worth a gamble. Because one chance or one flick resulting in a goal can be priceless plus the morale of the others rise tremendously when you have the star striker playing, when many people think he won’t.
Then came an ultra-defensive display of AM for next 30 minutes. Hardly the RM creative players got space – be it Ronaldo or Gareth Bale or anybody else – only exception was Di Maria who was threatening to break free through some skilful wing play. In the history of the game, there have been many instances when defensive-playing teams have pulled the result in the end … and they have done defending doggedly in their own half. However, what I found a difference between AM and other defensive teams of the past, AM forced the opponents to keep the ball in the mid-field and not just in front of their penalty box. This is indeed a credible strategy – as the pressure of soaking of attacks just in front of the penalty box is too high. Very often, the team’s succumb and one moment of brilliance of the opponents or one mistake of the defense can lead to disaster.
But the “mistake” came from RM – an almost trophy-loss mistake from the experienced Casillas. I still wondered what he was thinking ! The AM player Godin was getting an innocent center, there were 2 stoppers behind Godin, the ball was even not within the small box and on top of it Godin had his back towards the goal – so the most he can do is to head backward, which can never be powerful. But to my dismay, Casillas went ahead, was caught in the no-man’s land and that tame back-head was a goal !! Just reminded me of 1990 world cup when Zenga, the Italian goalkeeper, made a similar mistake against Argentina and that had resulted in the elimination of Italy when the world was thinking that Italy should be the champion!
Then was a continuous spell of dogged defending – very often by 8-9 players. By that time the pressure increased from RM and in spite of the defense, Di Maria was breaking the defense – however Ronaldo and Bale were often spectators. So, my thought was that either there will be a mistake or a blunder for RM to come back to the game, or it would be a victory of AM. My thoughts were almost coming true … almost …
Then came the equaliser in the 93rd minute of the game – just 2 minutes away from the end of the match. And I felt that there was a big mistake by AM in their defense. Yes, it was a great corner and a great header by Sergio Ramos, but what was the defense doing ? I will not blame why Ramos got the space to head without being challenged greatly (as that kind of movement and head flick can happen without much challenge).
I will blame the strategy of defending against a corner – normally you keep two defenders keeping the ends of the two posts with the goalkeeper in the middle. And the reason you keep those two defenders is to thwart out a perfect head or a perfect shot – which will beat a goalkeeper when the ball enters through the corner. To me, irrespective of the quality of the goalkeeper, there is that space having the width of a ball which an out-stretched goalkeeper will never reach – if you can place there, whether in a dead-ball situation or a penalty or a shot, the chances of getting a goal is 90% … and that is why you keep those two defenders to protect that precise situation. But here, there was no defender at all manning the posts – and so a perfect header from Ramos was beyond the AM goalkeeper Courtois to protect. Look at goal below for you to judge:
So, just 2 minutes away from the match, a drastic mistake aided by a perfect header … the match was equalised and the die was cast.
It was now just a matter of time when RM will tear apart AM – as not only they got rejuvenated by that life given when they were about to die, but equally AM players will feel the despair of being so near and yet so far. And now you have a rejuvenated RM coming at a despairing more-mentally-tired AM with full venom for 30 minutes. So it was just one goal and the flood-gates will open … and it so did … the strike from Gareth Bale after a mesmerizing run by Di Maria – the match was over. Two more came in as a bonus.
So, at the end of the day, I felt the right team won and the right spirit of the game was upheld – a spirit of positive, entertaining football (instead of a negative defensive brand of soccer).
PS : I don’t know who was the Man of the Match – but my choice would be Di Maria as he alone threatened AM continuously and was definitely the architect of the Gareth Bale goal
Those who know me well will vouch with full conviction that I hate waking up early in the morning and I prefer to be a late-night person. So, when I had a grueling three weeks in office including some of the weekends as well, I had looked forward for a day off yesterday when at least I can sleep till late in the morning. I had just landed on Thursday night in London from a business trip and was on my way home thinking of the next day off from office. The next day was Friday and so effectively an extended weekend for me … the day was 15-Nov-2013.
And yet it is amazing that I setup the alarm at 3.45 am on that day (remember a holiday for me !) which will allow me the 15 minute settling down before the last journey begins. Because that was the day I knew for sure Sachin Tendulkar will walk in to bat for the last time in his life. I had to be part of that walk, I had to accompany him for his last innings. And so it was a cold morning in London, me waking up, wrapping up in a blanket, sitting on the sofa, switching on the TV at 4 am (9.30 am India time) and waiting for the Master climb down the stairs from the pavilion amidst a deafening sound of “Sachiiiiiiiiin Sachin”. Yes, I could not afford to sleep for some more hours on a holiday, because within me my heart told that I should at least sacrifice some hours of sleep for a person who became a part of my life.
Why is it that Sachin Tendulkar became part of myself, became so integrated with my life, became so much embedded with my heart and emotions ? He does not have a great personality, he does not look great, he definitely does not have a Amitabh Bachhan-like voice, he rather looks like a dwarf on the field, his mannerism while batting is not great – specially his squatting while holding a part of his body is quite comical …. yet this person, whom I have not ever met, had unknowingly become a part of myself !
Probably it was the similar age between Sachin and myself … maybe it was the time when I could imagine myself being represented in the great sport of cricket through the body of Sachin … maybe it was the classic straight drive with a straight bat whether be in the front foot or backfoot … maybe it was the courage of one Indian cricketer who could counter attack the pace bowlers who tormented Indian cricket throughout the years …. maybe it was his humility … maybe his grace while batting touched me as a cricket lover …. maybe his passion for cricket and India … maybe it was a combination of all these.
While I was young and growing up & Sachin was also growing and maturing to the best ever batsmen ever, I had two “guru”s defined in my life and I used to tell openly that to my mother – one was Kishore Kumar and the other Sachin Tendulkar (It was much later on that I learnt Sachin also loved Kishore Kumar songs so much – what a pleasant coincidence !). It was a common fact that if Tendulkar played well, my mother used to say that my mood will be very good and that I will eat that extra bit during dinner. My uncles knew about this and very often during family occasions used to plan within themselves and pretended to throw discussions with the message that Sachin was a rubbish batsman – and my reaction was predictable – I used to fight hard to prove that they were totally wrong.
Later on came Saurav Ganguly as the successful captain of India. With him came the common debate amongst most Bengali’s hovering around the point on who is better – is it Sachin or Sourav ? And the debates often rose to heated discussions with expletives being thrown left right and center. As was with every fan, I could not tolerate any ill-speaking of Sachin and sometimes to cover up his failures, I had to think of some different point of view so that I can divert the debate to some other sensitive topic so that people forgets the main reason behind the debate.
Every match of Sachin, every Indian match was something I need to watch – whether it is India vs Bangladesh or India vs Australia, it did not matter. And when Sachin used to bat, the tension was doublefold for me. If Sachin hit a four on a delivery, I used to force my friends not to shift from the seats they were seating till the over is finished. Generally the unofficial rule for me became – ‘first Sachin should score runs, then India can think of winning’ – a selfish way of thinking, no doubt.
So during the last 24 years, starting from the debut vs Pakistan till the end against West Indies, I grew up with Sachin … and the lines got merged with his playing and my growing up. His success made me feel as if I am myself successful, his failures made me scramble for excuses like ‘the ball was simply unplayable’, his centuries made me feel that I had went to bat and scored a century, his brilliant over at the Eden Gardens Hero Cup final made me shout “finally, we have got a great all-rounder” …….. without me knowing consciously, over the years Sachin became me, I became Sachin in life.
And so, when Sachin’s last day came today on 16-Nov-2013, I am personally feeling a great void within myself … as if I have retired and will not know what to do tomorrow morning. People say that I am not that much an emotional person – but I literally could not hold my tears when Sachin walked back up the stairs on 15-Nov-2013 after making the majestic 74. It is so rare that a person whom I have never met could have impacted myself so much.
This story is nothing unique and all Sachin fans are perhaps experiencing the same feelings … that is the greatness of the man. So, when through BCCI I get the above personalised digital photograph of Sachin, I feel like a teenager once again – elated, happy and showing off the picture to everyone.
Today while I say THANK YOU SACHIN for the immense pleasures he gave to me for my last 24 years, I sign-off here with an online magazine on him, a small tribute to “a part of my life” (called Sachin Tendulkar) from myself : https://flipboard.com/section/all-about-sachin-tendulkar–bAlhRO
Wish Sachin all the best for the years to come …. and if ever I happen to meet him face-to-face, I will probably shake his hands and say “you made me complete as a human being … thank you for that”
There are many more qualified and experienced people than me who have been pouring in tributes to the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar … and right fully so. And yet here I am, another one of those million die hard fan of that man, trying to write something on that same man. But this will not be about his achievements, batting technique, him as a human being, etc…. simply because I am not qualified to do so. Rather it will be about asking some basic questions, which only that man can answer.
What made you feel Sachin, that at that young age of 16+, you could take on the world all by yourself ? I know young blood always boils … always think that I know everything and others are damn fools… but still, inspite of that don’t care attitude, how can one think of actually facing the greats like Akram, Waqar, Imran, Walsh, Hadlee’s of the world… it’s like as a boy entering the job world and thinking that I am at the same level of a CEO and take him heads on…. wow!
How is it that you continue with the same passion on your job day in and day out without feeling bored, tired? Even in charity matches, you have been dead serious.. didn’t you feel not motivated even for a single innings or a match? I am sure the answer is no… wow!
How is it that you do not have a single gossip or scam your entire career, when you know the entire media is clicking every moment and actually waiting for a great masala story to emerge ? Even the greats like Tiger Woods, etc had their own quota of blemishes … some minor and some major… but you never appeared as a news headline apart from cricketing reasons… wow!
You went through the era of betting in Indian cricket and was probably most impacted during your captaincy … and that’s one record which does not look great. Yet, you never went public taking names, never threw muck to anyone… knowing very well that your records as captain is going down the drain… any mortal person probably would have reacted violently to save his own back… and yet, you kept the calm image forever through out your cricketing career ….. wow!
You have played against so many players, you have played under so many captains, you have played with so many players… and yet, it is rare to find even one person criticizing you for doing something that is against the spirit of the game. Yet you have faced so much sledging and abuses on the field by so many players… wow!
You have been a super star, a God like figure for such a long time… and I have seen that a star even for five, six months develop an ego so big that often it engulfs his own achievements… and yet, you have been the most loved team player in all teams, even when you are led by people who are so much younger in age, both in years and achievements … and never it appeared that your ego is coming to the forefront … wow!
Actually I can go on with so many such questions that I myself will feel fatigued… yet, after each such question, the answer will be a simple wow!
You truly have inspired generations !
The curtains are dropping down the horizon
Destiny has played with some
Some had tears of happiness while others had of disappointment
Yet the dreams go on and on ….
The sun will rise again tomorrow to alight a fresh new day
Morning sky will be lit by the white clouds
The smell of the dew will die down slowly
The sweat will start to drip from the faces
Yet the dreams go on and on …..
The struggle and fight continues
The quest for excellence envelops the fatigue of the human body
The limitless sky calls for perfection
And we fight on for another day
As tomorrow will come after four years
And our dreams will go on and on
Till the day we reach our dreams
We strive along the flowing river of commitment
And reach out our hands for your support
When we meet again, we will fight and yet be friends
As our dreams will go on and on ….
See you there after four years to share our dreams