Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two wishes..only two wishes.. for the world cup

My first wish has come true...
All the four countries of Mercosur (Brasil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay ) are now in the quarter finals. This is the first time ever, all the four have reached quarter finals together.

Mercosur is Mercado Comun de Sur which means Southern Common Market. It appears that the World cup is looking to the Sur, as a famous Tango song says,
El Corazon mirando al Sur ….. means …the heart is looking south.

All these days, I had been cheering and shouting,
¨Vamos Brasil, vamos Argentina, Vamos Uruguay and Vamos Paraguay¨
Now I say …
Parabens…Felicitaciones… Felicitaciones… Felicitaciones.
These mean congrats in Portuguese and Spanish.

Mercosur has now become a formidable football powerhouse….
Brazil has won the world cup five times..Argentina and Uruguay have won twice each.. Paraguay has reached Quarter finals for the first time.

My next wish.. … it should be a Mercosur final on 11 july…

I have only two wishes….only two...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Football fidelity: An Indian diplomat’s dilemma

This article has been distributed by IANS newsservice and published in Indian media today.

Here it is

Football fidelity: An Indian diplomat’s dilemma (Special)
By R. Viswanathan, IANS
June 9th, 2010
I applauded and cheered when Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, the three countries of my accreditation as India’s ambassador, qualified for the World Cup in South Africa. But this diplomatic honour has now come under challenge from the football rivalry of the three countries.
The Argentines say that since I am resident in Buenos Aires I have no option but to cheer for the blue and white stripes. The Uruguayans tell me not to forget their country which won the first World Cup in 1930 beating Argentina. They went on to win a second cup in Rio de Janeiro in 1950, defeating the Brazilian team and shocking the 52 million noisy Brazilians into silence.
The Paraguayans say as an Indian diplomat I should show more solidarity with the underdog and should not be on the side of superpowers. Paraguay had beaten Brazil 2-0 and Argentina 1-0 in this World Cup qualifiers. While I face these three corner shots, there comes another one. ¨Don’t be a traitor,¨ shout my amigos from Brazil where I had spent four memorable years.

In this supercharged atmosphere of no-holds barred rivalry, I found the only way to survive is to practise the old-world diplomacy. In the olden days, much before people got into Twitter troubles, there was a saying, “a diplomat is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing”.
In the first few months of my arrival in Buenos Aires, the most important question I faced was not on the nuclear or climate change issue but, “Are you going to be a Boca or River?” The rivalry between Boca Juniors and Riverplate teams is one of the most intense in the world. Even marriages and friendships are built or broken on the issue of loyalty to the team which passes from generation to generation.

The match between the two teams in the Boca stadium La Bombonera is an unforgettable Argentine experience. I kept my neutrality until I fell into the trap of Francisco, the vice president of the Indo-Argentine chamber of commerce and a Boca fan. He offered to take me to La Bombonera and arranged the best seat. But when I was about to sit, he said very loudly, “This seat is only for the Boca fans who are ready to live and die for the team. Are you ready to take the oath of loyalty to Boca and be a fan through victories and defeats?” With hundreds of excited and fierce fans staring at me, I had no choice but to say “I do”. Then the ritual started.
I was made to jump up and down with Boca songs. I was indoctrinated with stories of the illegitimate ancestry of Riverplate players and the most appropriate words to describe them. They put a Boca shirt on me and said, “You can change wives but not this shirt!” In South America, marital infidelity is forgiven but not football disloyalty. So I am now stuck with the Boca shirt. My friends from River have vowed never to forgive me and are planning to petition the government of India to send a River fan as the next ambassador.

World Cup time in South America is low season for work and business. My Argentine colleagues in the embassy are converting the office into a sports bar stocking it with the essential liquid and solid necessities to last for a month. Conveniently for them, the game timings will be 8.30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. Argentine time. The game watching will be preceded by an hour of preparations and followed by two hours of analysis, celebration or singing of sad Tangos. The Argentines advise the Indian staff “In Argentina , do as the Argentines do.”

This is the time of “sonrisa de esperanza y sollozo de pasion” (smile of hope and cry of passion), as the Tango of Carlos Gardel says. It is an exciting and unique experience to be in this part of the world during the world cup. There is just no escape from the media frenzy and public fever with non-stop debates and analysis. The 40 million Argentines become judges, prosecutors, critics and umpires at the same time. The current topic of debate is on the freedom given to the Argentine team members to have sex during the World Cup, the only one among the 32 teams which has got this unique privilege.

One cannot talk about football without a reference to Maradona, who scored with the “Hand of God” and is now the irrepressible coach. Sociologists say the best way to understand Argentina is through an understanding of Maradona, who has gone through ups and downs like the country itself. When asked by the media, “what will you do if Argentina wins the World Cup?”, he said, “I will run naked around the Obelisk monument”.

It is not only the footballers who use provocative vocabulary. Even Argentine diplomacy sometimes adds colour to the drab world of the excellencies. In 1990, Guido di Tella, the Argentine foreign minister, said Argentina had “carnal relations” with the US…and the American diplomats did not know what to make of it!

(R. Viswanathan is Indian ambassador in Buenos Aires. The views expressed in this article, special to IANS, are personal. He can be contacted at ambassador@indembarg.org.ar)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Kerala soccer fan paints Argentine colours on his auto rickshaw

Amigos Argentinos.... A fan from the backwaters of Kerala is cheering for Argentina in his humble but colourful way by painting his autorickshaw in Argentine colours.
Buena Suerte...

Here is the news published in India:
MALAPPURAM - A soccer fan from Kerala has painted his three-wheeled auto rickshaw in the blue and white stripes of the Argentina flag and offers free ride to those, who support the Latin American team. Parakan Nazeer supports Argentina because he believes its soccer stars are among the favourites to lift this year’s world cup that kicks off in South Africa next week. Nazeer, an auto rickshaw driver by profession, drives around in his colourful auto trying to garner support for his favourite team in the coconut-laden backwaters of Kerala. “Right now, I am quite anxious, there are many teams with a chance, who will be the lucky one, we don’t know. Argentina has a chance and I am supporting Argentina,” said Nazeer. He has spent around 5,000 rupees to convert the auto into the Argentinian flag colours. Nazeer travels to the nearby villages in a bid to increase the number of supporters and also explains about each players, their style and strong point of defense. “The Brazilian supporters have been telling me to convert my auto into the yellow colours of Brazil, but I am an Argentine supporter and sticking with my team,” Nazeer added. He plans to continue driving his vehicle in its current avatar until the world cup ends and Argentina lifts the trophy. Nazeer has also placed some heavy bets on Argentina and hopes that his team will repay his faith in them with a victory.

Kerala, one of the three three states in India where football is more popular, is preparing for the world cup with posters, debates and bettings. Below are two posters in a village, saying in Malayalam ¨Varunnu Argentina¨which means ¨vamos Argentina¨.