French connection Zidane, the agony and the ecstasy - Two worlds, 30 km apart, bond together in common big-screen beam and cheer for common ballplayer

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By ZEESHAN JAWED AND PATRICK PRINGLE
  • Published 11.07.06
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Two giant screens in two worlds. One set up just for Sunday night in the rainswept mud-caked Hatkhola Math of Chandernagore, the other switching from cinema to soccer for a few special hours at the plush INOX (City Centre). Both bound by a common beam (the World Cup final from Berlin) and a common ballplayer (Zinedine Zidane).

?Bon soir,? was the greeting before the kick-off from a team of senior citizens. Not in Paris, but in Chandernagore, where the old and young had congregated on the para Puja field for France?s final showdown with Italy.

France was their team, Zidane their talisman. From 1815 to 1950, Chandernagore remained in French control. Most things French ? led, of course, by football in World Cup month ? continue to find favour here, 30 km from Calcutta. ?Every kid in this town loves Zidane and does not miss any of his games. What can possibly match watching Zidane on the big screen in the Cup final?? demanded Shubho, of Hatkhola Nunatala Jagaddhatri Puja Samiti that made the grand telecast of the match happen, with corporate backing from Vijay Mallya?s UB Group.

?Zidane zindabad?, the war cry rent the moist Sunday night air, accompanied by drumbeats. ?Zidane eka jitiye debe,? prophesied Sikanta Roy of Yubak Jyoti Club, wearing a ?Zidan? T-shirt for the big night.

With the kick-off, the skies opened up. Hatkhola Math became a sea of umbrellas and raincoats, floaters and slush. Not even the weather god could spoil Chandernagore?s tryst with Zidane at midnight.

It was raining at City Centre, too ? beer and popcorn, that is. If on the Chandernagore field it was all France, at the Salt Lake multiplex the Le Bleus did manage to outnumber the Azzuri by some.

Faces painted, beer or coke in one hand, cellphone in another, they all trooped in for some ?cool? football fun, at the show being put up by Sunil Mittal?s Airtel and INOX. ?God knows what it would have been like if Brazil had made it to the final,? wondered Subhasish Ganguly, general manager of INOX (City Centre).

Only one man could make up for the absence of Ro-Ro (Ronaldo-Ronaldinho). Zizou, of course.

Right from the kick-off, every time Zidane touched the ball, there was a roar. The penalty he chipped over Buffon drew cheers that carried from City Centre to Chandernagore and vice versa.

But if on Hatkhola Math it inspired many youngsters to do a Sourav-on-the-Lord?s-balcony and dance in the rain, at City Centre it brought the beautiful people, led by actress Koneenica, to their feet and drew comments like ?Zidane is god, maan??

If ecstasy embraced the dozens of Zidane devotees in the sixth minute, there was agony in store in the 109th.

Long before that, when Italy equalised in the 18th minute, while a hush had descended over the 100-odd Chandernagore crowd, murmurs of support for the Italians were heard from among the 1,144-strong audience at City Centre. ?Mark my words, Italy will be hard to beat from now on,? said a closet Italian supporter in the Salt Lake plex.

As the battle in Berlin dragged on, the crowd in front of both screens separated by miles grew restless. And then, it all came crashing down. As Zidane head-butted Materazzi?s unguarded chest harder than he had headed Teamgeist against Buffon?s outstretched glove, the plex and the para square drowned in gasps and groans.

?Zidane eta theek kore ni,? was the verdict in Chandernagore. As the hero-turned-villain trooped off, so did his fans. The curtains had come down on the Cup at Hatkhola Math.

At INOX, people didn?t budge till Grosso had buried the ball in the French net one last time. And yes, they cheered the new world champions and gaped at the fireworks. Hatkhola Math was dark and deserted, mourning a maestro.