Sunday, August 30, 2015

This Beautiful Game

250 million people play it in 200 countries - the Beautiful Game, as termed by the iconic Pele' . Football, also called soccer in North America, is more than a game. It is a passion, much more than a pastime for most. Wars have been fought over the game and many a riot has taken place. Twenty-two individuals take to the field and morph into a team, if they wish to win.

One such game was played last Saturday by boys from Nepal and India. The prize was the championship of the inaugural South Asian Football Federation Under-19 tournament. After 22 years, Nepal won an international championship. That too against perennial 'big brother" rivals India. But more than that, it was a victory that Nepalis needed sorely. A devastating earthquake four months ago, a heart-rending massacre of security personnel less than a week ago, the never-ending political morass of constitution making, people needed something to cheer about. Attending my first ever international football match (not via TV), I could feel the throbbing expectation of the spectators as the two teams took to the field. Played in a small stadium, holding about 3,000 people (with many more crowded in the balconies of surrounding buildings), the enthusiastic cries of "Ne...paaal, Ne...paal" resounded as if there were 30,000 fans present. Arguably, one of the oldest people watching the match, I saw the fervour and single-minded unity of the young people wishing, hoping, wanting, praying that Nepal will win.

Braving the hot sun, I stood with a few family members for three hours lost to the magic wound by the Goddess of Football. Memories of playing the game in school, in the school alumni team and finally, for UNDP, in the UN League in New York slid through my mind as if vignettes in a play. It was good to feel young again. It was good to cheer for the national team. It was good to celebrate a historical victory.

Eleven Nepali boys, with emphasis on NEPALI, brought an almost forgotten joy to the people of this struggling country. They did not play as Gurung, Magar, Limbu, Tamang, Newar, etc., but as Nepalis united as a team, keeping the "raato chandra ra surya" flying high proudly. Therein lies a lesson which really does not have to be spelled out here.

1 comment:

HORATIO said...

This evening the Nepali and Indian national teams meeting in Pune for a 'friendly'. Let's hope Saturday's psychological momentum will help Team Nepal, the underdogs.