10th July. 02:33 A.M. IST
Brazil 2 – England 2
You are sitting cross legged on the mat in front of the television. You started the match on the sofa set. But as the match progressed, and first Rooney and then Beckham rattled the Brazilian crossbar, you slowly crawled towards the TV.
The air conditioning is roaring on full... has been for the last two and a half hours. Outside the Bombay monsoon is raging. Your windows rattle and shudder every few minutes when a gust of rain-laden wind crash into your building.
You, however, are still cooking. Your palms are cold and pale. You can actually feel your chest pounding. Your eyes the size of saucers, your lips crushed together into thin lines. Your jaws bite and relax every few minutes. The rest of your body is perfectly still. Next to you Fungus lays stomach down corpse-like on the floor, his chin on the cold mosaic flooring.
Fungus has his palms across his face. He looks at the TV screen through the gaps between his fingers. He too is still and silent.
The video signal is perfect. There is too much ambient stadium noise in the audio. Whistling, chants, drums. Heart beat. The commentators try to maintain a semblance of sanity in their modulation. But it is getting a bit too much for everyone. Especially you.
Both teams have been overly cautious since extra-time began. But still England have the slight upper hand. That amazing burst of offensive football in the last ten minutes of regular time to come back from two goals down seems to have given new life to all eleven players.
The Brazilians still seem to be reeling under the shock of seeing sure victory being stolen from them at the death. But it takes more than mere intimidation to beat the gold and blue.
The doorbell rings. And rings again when there is no reponse. Your room mate walks in from the bed room.
“Bastards open the door no? Do you have to watch the match without missing a moment?”
Fungus replies without looking away from the TV screen. “Shut up cricket bitch.”
Your roommate opens the door and pays for the food. The delivery boy asks if he can step in and watch the TV for a couple of minutes. Roommate shrugs his shoulders. “Ok”.
Robinson kicks the ball down the pitch. Lampard jumps up into the air and wins the ball. It falls to the Beckham’s feet. He picks up the ball races down the wing. Head bent down in determination. Fungus sits up. Out of the corner of your eye you see the clock on the TV.
God! One more minute. God please please please…
The Beckham sprint runs into a wall of gold and yellow near the corner flag. The Brazilians are throwing everything into defence. Samba flair is useless if you came second. Beckham looks around desperately for support. Every moment he spends scouting for options another Brazilian runs back to lock down the penalty area.
And then suddenly he sees his opening. Beckham turns around and races down the line DOWN the pitch!
“F!@#! What is he doing?” you utter.
“Rooney” fungus says.
Beckham snaps the ball into Wayne Rooney who fell back to create an opening for himself. Wayne Rooney has some space. He uses the pace on the ball and runs back into the centre of the pitch. The Brazilians scramble back.
Wayne Rooney looks up at the Brazilian goal only for the merest fraction of a second. And in that one moment you know something is going to happen. Did his eyes just gleam?
His left arm extends as he balances himself. A shot from thirty-five yards! No! His right leg swings up. You draw in your breath, Fungus buries his face in his fingers, he can’t bare to watch. The foot rushes down towards the ball. Wayne Rooney grimaces in determination. His foot crashes into the ball.
Time stands still.
It was an accident really. That time when you saw your first football match. You were browsing between channels looking for cartoons when you caught a broadcast of the old English first division on TV. This was in the late eighties maybe. You barely remember who played in it. Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace. Maybe it was West Ham. You are not sure. But you remember there were only a few minutes left to win the match and someone was taking a corner. Why was everyone in such a hurry, your child’s mind wondered. Did they get prizes or something?
Later that day during dinner you sat with dad and told him about the match. He sat and told you all the rules. He was an old club player himself. He was pleased his son was beginning to take to the sport as well.
Time, in your mind, begins to move in small excruciating slices. The shot was good. On target you think. But was it too hard? Rooney is in mid air when the ball launches itself from his foot. It has power. But will it go in? A corner of your mind begins to wonder where Dida, the Brazilian goalkeeper is. If he is in line… no…
You were not particularly good in it at school. But you played your heart out. By class seven you were running through a dozen pairs of uniforms every year. Being a committed defender who dived on your asphalt covered school ground was not easy. Rips and cuts and bruises every day.
Dad shouted at you in front of mom but later called you from your homework to watch Diego Maradona on TV. He is very good you know, dad said, but not as great as Pele. Pele became your god. Maradona the impostor.
Fraction of a second after fraction of a second. The ball sails past an outstretched Brazilian foot. Your eyes register a million tiny details. Dida begins to move to one side. Will he dive? Does he have to? The clock! This could be the last chance… please please…
Then they made you the goal-keeper of the class team. You were ecstatic and, against the wishes of your mother, forced your dad to buy you a pair of Chinese football boots. Canvas uppers and stupid rubber studs that broke off; one stud a week. You saved a penalty in your second match against Section C and became a celebrity for a month.
The ball swerves outwards. Is there too much spin on it? Oh no. These new Teamgeists are simply too responsive. But has Rooney got it right?
By junior college you were a committed football fan. You loved France and England. Anyone but Brazil. They won everything. But you still loved Pele. And you adored Arsenal. And the Premier League.
In 1990 you rooted for the UAE. After all you lived there. Germany thrashed them in the first match but they still managed to get a goal in. Yippee!!!
The ball hurtled through the air. Fatalist thoughts began ricocheting around your head. It could hit the cross bar. It could spin away altogether. Dida could reach it just in time. Maybe there was a Brazilian defender out of eye shot who would lunge in with his feet. Or his head. If he intercepted the ball please let him die of a concussion you pray. The ball… it was almost there…
You were portly in engineering college but they still took you in the team as the reserve goalkeeper. Partly because the main goalie was better at scoring goals than the forwards and often got pushed up after half-time. Partly because you cracked a lot of jokes and was good timepass on tournament trips.
Then one day you went played for the B team and let in 11 goals. Or maybe twelve. You don’t remember. You remember the reception back in college. F!@#.
Dida leapt into the air. His left arm outstretched. The ball zoomed past yet another outstretched boot. Almost there now…
You enjoyed the world cups and always took leave from office to watch the tournaments. At heart you remained an England man. Home of Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa and all the others. Why did England never win?
It clips the very tip of Dida’s outstretched glove. The deflection… it is large enough…
But every four years you waited for the men in white and black to lift the cup. But nothing ever went right for them.
It hits the post…
Maybe this year would be England’s year the media had said. This year England might finally pick up the cup after 1966. But everyone said it boiled down to two things. Will Rooney play? And can England beat Brazil? You prayed day and night, slept on your left side, wore your lucky watch even if it had a crack in the glass. Please please…
Please please… Fungus and you sit like statues in front of TV. Your mouths open in a silent scream…
If England won it would be the ultimate ending to the world cup. They came so close to losing it all so many times this year: last gasper against Sweden, penalties against France, nine men against the Netherlands. It all adds up to this one final match... this moment...
The ball ricochets off the bar and flies…
But Brazil! They have been impeccable in the competition. Strong, fast and cocky. Unbeatable in any pundit’s book. But what did Motson say the other day? Wayne Rooney might mean the difference…
… and smashes into the back netting. The Pizza boy screamed first. He had his arms in the air. Fungus and you hug each other. Wayne Rooney sinks to his knees.
p.s. Two posts in one day??!! I know...
p.p.s. To the football buffs out there with excel sheets: if Sweden win their remaining two matches and England beat Trinidad an England-Brazil final is very very possible. (Smug)
p.p.p.s. Second issue of Hafta is out too