Freedom like a waving flag

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By The writer, a former professor of English at Jadavpur University and a happy senior citizen, can be contacted at SAJNI MUKHERJI
  • Published 25.07.10

The World Cup is over. One month of spectacle and bonding between generations. I have communicated intensely with former students, friends and family about it: by email, on Facebook and in person. I’m still not always sure about “offside”. Sometimes I think the referees are not either.

Large flags all over the city have been cheering. (I mean our own Calcutta, not Soccer City or Jo’burg). The passion with which players and their supporters sing the rousing anthems with hands over their hearts is also moving. (I am particularly fond of the Haydn music in Germany’s anthem.)

Okay so some of the games were boring: Brazil-Portugal was excruciating, the final itself was played appallingly: Shaolin soccer according to the city’s karate cognoscenti.

Germany played scintillatingly one day to ruin it on another. Yo! to Spain who in sports lingo “peaked” when it mattered most. The third/fourth place play-off was delightful. My team is Brazil for the lacy way in which they spread out over the entire field and delicately pass the ball around but one forgot the heartbreak of their loss to develop fresh loyalties.

Jagat the parrot, sponsored by a television channel came a poor second to Paul, the omniscient octopus. A young friend of mine wrote a delightful limerick about him: Oh hark to the tale of young Jimmy/ In Sabbath school did he see me/ He seemed rather small/And confused by St Paul,/“You’re kidding! They canonised sashimi?

At a dinner we went to, carefully scheduled between semi-finals, there was a young man (son-in-law by adoption) who spoke in specialised appreciation of Germany at the final in 1966. “Hey!” I said: “Were you even born then?” “Of course I was,” he replied, “I was two years old!”

Significant events are transmitted through generations. Maradona’s Hand of God victory is part of this kind of folklore. I can recall the total despair of a certain young man when he heard Maradona had been grounded for using banned drugs: he stood in the doorway of our flat as his six-foot-plus frame crumpled several times saying: “I am finished.” He still supports Argentina passionately and is now my own son-in-law.

This son-in-law, a nephew and his son actually made it to South Africa for some of it. They are back with “awesome” memories, vuvuzelas and jerseys of their favourite teams.

I don’t go with the people who are glad it’s over: I have experienced withdrawal symptoms since the grand finale. Normal sleep hours cannot compensate for the entertainment we have all had.

Here are some quiz questions:

● Which player (allegedly) winked after Rooney was red-carded out of the World Cup of 2006?

● Which country won the first ever World Cup?

● Which team did Puskas lead in the final of the 1954 World Cup?

● In 1966, which team tried strong-arm tactics with the plucky little North Koreans and failed?

● Which country defeated Brazil in the final of 1998?

It is a little over a year since the start of ‘Autumn Flush’. I should like to use this opportunity to thank all those who read it and those who write in with their thoughtful remarks. I love all the letters except the ones that ask me to give English tuition. It has been a great year for me: for a sense of community with other senior citizens and also, surprisingly, with many younger people who have written in.

Let’s adopt the World Cup football song for ourselves. You can of course dance with Shakira to Waka waka. I love the other one: “When I get older, I will be stronger, They’ll call me Freedom, Just like a wavin’ flag.”

It is more appropriate for us than the multinational cold drinks company that uses it as a signal tune. What do you think?