My Choice/ Heroes in tale of dashed dreams
Long Whistle/ Collina shone the brightest
In The City

July 1: 
Looking back at the World Cup, I find a cemetery of dreams. Doesn�t appeal to me one bit. We started off starry-eyed and with hopes that promised to endure. I talked about Michael Owen, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Hidetoshi Nakata, Davor Suker and Gabriel Batistuta. Then the Davids of the soccer world played their tricks on acknowledged giants like Zidane, Nakata and Batistuta. And Suker was nowhere to be seen.

Maybe Ronaldinho did bring back a sparkle, but as I see it � and this is despite his brilliant pass to Rivaldo and despite his freak free-kick goal � he has a long way to go before he can join the ranks of the greats.

One-on-ones scare him, it seems, and he has to gain in physique. Today�s soccer needs a blend of talent and power. You need to endure, you need to be able to fight back. Look out for a new, improved Ronaldinho running at a league near you soon enough.

Michael Owen did do a couple of star turns � more like asterisk-turns, really � but he played the role of the dwarf, as if he was scared skipper David Beckham would slap his wrist for each good turn. Don�t talk of one good turn deserving another... I will give him credit for the gift goal, though. He kept his cool, and slotted it risingly and well. But, look, if you can�t do that at the World Cup level you should not have left England�s summer on such a long trip in the first place.

Thierry Henry I did not mention, but wished he�d shine. He painted the town red, instead, and was promptly marched out. These things irritate me, just like huge renown-trails that actually precede the person.

Luis Figo was to have set things afire and David Beckham was supposed to have at least matched his hairdo in charisma and wife Victoria in soccer prowess (did I get the order wrong?).

I wouldn�t waste your time talking about Figo, but I�d give credit to Beckham for being brave and playing out his stay, even after a major injury. The Englishman earned his beer allowance, at least. So I was quickly running out of choices. That was when these Davids grew to be men. That�s how I noticed Senegal�s Papa Bouba Diop, though I did miss Cameroon�s Patrick Mboma, and that�s when Turkey�s Hasan Sas and Mexico�s Cuauhtemoc Blanco came out of the box and onto my face. I wasn�t even missing the Italians.

However, to please my often sceptical, dyspeptic and acrid senses, I was presented with Junichi Inamoto and Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn and Morientes and Rustu Recber and Tony Sylva and Ahn Jun-hwan and Rivaldo and Cafu and Miroslav Klose and Bernd Schneider, and Ronaldo. Ronaldo?

Wasn�t I expecting him? Okay, that was the day when, over toast and jam and tea at breakfast, I had said: �Ronaldo, maybe.� Henceforth I�ll keep such hasty comments till after dinner.

And that was when I relaxed, and told myself there�s treasure yet in this sunken ship. That was my second World Cup of 2002.

I had been toying to narrow it all down to one man in the last few days. Who said being critical was easy? If I asked all the king�s men, each would have a different view. It took time, but I did close it down, finally, to three! I�ll name them, all, but not in order.

Ronaldo: Why? Because, No. 1, he is Ronaldo. I guess that isn�t good enough? Okay, Ronaldo for goals, Ronaldo for power, Ronaldo for opportunism, Ronaldo for sheer strength, Ronaldo for will power, Ronaldo for talent, Ronaldo for Brazil, Ronaldo for presence of mind, Ronaldo for style, Ronaldo for charisma, Ronaldo for � and to use that ugly corporate word � image. Need more?

Blanco: Because of his �hop� (pretty cool, huh?), because he is hardworking, because he is different, because he moves into goals, because he drove Mexico back from the pits, because he has a great future ahead of him, and plain simple because I, Habeeb, like him.

Sas: He manages the wings, he is speedy; he manages the middle thrust, he is smart; he manages the withdrawn position, he has a cool head; he manages the team, he even set things up for Hakan Sukur; he manages the halfline, he is the gamemaker; he manages a final on the bench, he is a team man.

Those are my cards. All of them. You are free to take your pick.


July 1: 
The World Cup kicked off with UAE�s Ali Bujsaim conducting the France versus Senegal match superbly. The tournament concluded equally well for men in black with Pierluigi Collina � the second Italian after Sergio Gonella to supervise a World Cup final � handling the Brazil-Germany clash with flawless precision.

In between, of course, there were a large number of lapses, protests and rebukes. But normalcy returned from the semi-final stages as the good work of Collina & Co. went a long way in erasing unpleasant memories of the earlier rounds.

Collina was a household name well before he stepped onto the Yokohama Stadium pitch Sunday evening. Players feared him as much as they respected him. Still, he had a duty to perform in the most charged atmosphere. And how well he did it!

Collina had watched Brazil and Germany very closely in their earlier outings and assessed both teams. And as if to show who was the boss out there, he flashed the yellow card at Roque Junior and Miroslav Klose within the first 10 minutes. The players got the message, making Collina�s task easier for the rest of the match.

Not for a moment did Collina look tense or anxious, and even had a smile when Lucio struggled to put on his jersey the right way. This is exactly how a referee should conduct himself � be relaxed and don�t be strict unless you have to. He is easily my pick for the 2002 World Cup finals. Danish Kim Milton Nielson and Bujsaim would rank as No. 2 and 3.

Bringing up the �rear� in my list are Korean Kim Young-joo, Spaniard Antonio Lopez Neito and Tunisian Mourad Daami.

Collina was ably assisted in the final by Swede Leif Lindberg and Englishman Philip Sharp on the lines and fourth referee Hugh Dallas, while Kuwait�s Saad Mane did Asia proud by handling the third-place play-off match between Turkey and South Korea efficiently.

Fifa�s aim for this World Cup was to clamp down on the �cheats�. But I must say the referees failed to tackle this growing menace. Only nine were cautioned for play-acting in 64 matches when there were dozens of other such incidents.

Brazil�s fifth conquest brought the curtains down on an eventful meet which perhaps saw more controversies than any previous edition. Hope Fifa has taken note so that the genuine mistakes can be rectified in a manner acceptable to all.


July 1: 

Peerless win 2-1

Subrata Guha and Laltu Mondal scored apiece to give Peerless a 2-1 win over Howrah Union in a first division group A match of the Calcutta Football League Monday. Shyamal Samanta struck for Howrah Union. Basanta Chowdhury of WB Police and Bapi Samanta of Kalighat scored in a 1-1 draw, while Sonali Shibir and Wari AC settled for a goalless truce.

The game between City AC and Mohammedan AC ended 2-2. Jadab Mondal and Ashoke Sinha scored for City, while Ohidul Islam and Sabir Ali did the job for Mohammedan AC. The Kidderpur SC-Milan Bithee match had to be abandoned after 21 minutes due to rains.

Table tennis

Anirban Nandy and Kasturi Chakraborty won the men�s and women�s titles, respectively, in the Cossimbazar table tennis meet Monday.


MEN: Anirban Nandy bt Subham Chowdhury 11-8, 6-11, 5-11, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7. WOMEN: Kasturi Chakraborty bt Avanti Sinha 12-10, 11-13, 11-8. BOYS: Subhadeep Das bt Niloy Basak 11-7, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9. GIRLS: Pallavi Kundu bt Soumi Mondal 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 7-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-7. SUB-JR BOYS: Sayan Paul Roy bt Sourav Ghosh 12-10, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5. SUB-JR GIRLS: Soumi Mondal bt Shabana Parveen 15-13, 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 4-11, 11-5. CADET BOYS: Souvik Kar bt Mriganka Saha 11-8, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8. CADET GIRLS: Gargi Nag bt Shreya Ghosh 11-8, 11-8, 3-11, 11-7. NURSERY BOYS: Priyabrata Das bt Tapas Sarkar 8-11, 11-8, 13-11. NURSERY GIRLS: Medha Moitra bt Shramana Dutta 11-8, 7-11, 11-7.

Chandok shines

Karun Chandok has finished third in first qualifying for Round 8 of the Scholarship Class of the British Formula 3 championship. The 18-year-old was second fastest in the testing. In both tests on Sunday, Chandok ended up second quickest, barely 1-100th off JK Tyre teammate Civio.

Today in sport

FOOTBALL: Calcutta League � 1st div group A: Eastern Coalfield vs Railway FC (R. Sarobar); Bata SC vs Customs (SAP); George Telegraph vs CFC (Bagan). 1st div group B: Aikya Sammilani vs United Student (Md. Sp); Sporting Union vs Taltala DS (EB). Matches from 3.30 pm.

WATERPOLO: Dr Bimal Kumar Chandra all-India open meet at Azad Hind Bagh from 3.30 pm.


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