Sunday, 17 July 2011

Go ladies, Go

If you are a sport's fan , you are somewhat spoilt for choice today. If you fancy sublime South American football, the Copa America is on in Argentina. The final day of the British Open golf, with all the hype surrounding the next Tiger Woods - Rory McIlroy may be your choice. Or the majestic Tour de France, the world's premier cycling event, thankfully free of any doping scandal so far. But my pick of the day is none of this.

You may be forgiven for not realising that the World Cup football final is on today. Yes, right. World Cup Football. Rub your eyes again. Yes. Its the Women's World Cup football final.

Before you groan and switch off, just consider the fact that the Women's World Cup has produced more drama, excitement, heartbreak, and joy than the boring Copa America going on at the same time featuring the likes of Lionel Messi. 

Women's football is something of an anachronism. If you have watched a women's game, it is played at roughly half the pace of men's football. In no other sport is the gap between men and women so obvious. Other sports try to make women wear short skirts to attract viewers (shame on you, badminton). Women in football wear the same awful shorts that the men wear. They aren't good looking - there are no Maria Sharapovas in footballs. So why should you get all jumped up about a sport where "there is nothing to see".

Here's why. The referee hardly blows her whistle in a women's football game. The game flows. There are no crunching fouls, no head butts, no cynical theatrical posturing. There is plenty of skill, even if the game is at half the pace. They play as a team - there are no huge heroes although Marta of Brazil has a cult status similar to her more illustrious male counterparts.  And therein lies the beauty of sport. Its not just the sheer standard or professionalism that matters. Its the joy and excitement it can bring, even if the standard is just club level.

The World Cup has had its many moments of drama. Germany was hoping to win for the third consecutive time and that too on home soil - but they were beaten in a gripping classic in extra time. Brazil, a perennial favourite was beaten on a penalty shootout in the semis in another nail biting encounter. And two wonderful teams have made it to the finals today. The United States, a powerhouse in the game, but not doing very well recently, made it against the odds with grit and determination. In a land where sport is at a sorry state with the lockouts of the NBA and the NFL, the ladies have brought great cheer. And what of the other finalist ? Nobody gave them a hope. After every game, they hold a banner "To our friends around the world, thank you for your support". Post the recent tragedies in their country, there was always going to be public support, but even after they dumped Germany in that historic game, they are being supported by Germans - such is their charm.

TV ratings are through the roof. Germans, the most  masculine of nations, and probably the only country where the natives call it the Fatherland instead of Motherland has embraced the World Cup totally. TV ratings in the US have zoomed with a public charmed by the story of ordinary athletes, not multimillionaires, achieving glory. But in the land of the rising sun, nobody even knew there was a tournament going on when it started. But, with each win, the momentum has snowballed. The vagaries of time zones means that the final starts at 3.45 AM Japanese time. You can bet there would be many up and cheering the Nadeshiko with bleary eyes.

Its Japan vs the United States tonight. Its Christie Rampone vs Homare Sawa. For once, I can't bear to see either team losing.


Sandhya Sriram said...

wow Ramesh, do you have 48 hours in a day. Have you cast your charm on the wheels of time as well... how do you manage to follow the debt cieling of US of A to the Vanity of Chinese companies and yet watch a slow game of football between unsung heroines and bring them out in such beautiful words that one feels as though having lived the jubiliation of success, pain of disappointment and the anxiety of the finals with you.

Cudos Ramesh. Blessed is the day when you started blogging!!

Vishal said...

I did notice that Copa America is on and it is indeed boring. Where in the world did you come up with this little gem? Shame on me for not knowing this! Though the game is important from standpoint of both the countries, I would rally for Japan. Btw, I would love a male football game even more without fouls and butts :)

Anonymous said...

I've promised myself to cut back on my blog commenting and put that time into some other things I need to accomplish, but this blog ropes me into commenting with every post! Great topics.

For the life of me I will never understand those who do not like sports. Sports is all the drama of a Shakespearean sonnet (without all the murder and stuff) in a real world format. Which is exactly why this World Cup is drawing so much attention.

At the death, the US women's team scored the latest goal in World Cup history (Men and Women), literally seconds to spare, to send their game into a penalty shootout. Oooo how I love the penalty shootout, wish it came standard with every draw, but I suppose that its being reserved for knockouts adds to the drama.

Then there is Japan (the smallest team), you look at this team running around out there against the likes of Germany and the uber tall Swedes, and wonder how they have a chance. It's an almost biblical matchup of David v Goliath every time they take the pitch. Then you watch them play and see how high their work rate is and the brilliant passing of their midfielders, dare I say, very Barca esque. Not only that, they really seem to be having fun out there. Couple that with the banner they unfurl, how can you not like this team? I obviously want the US women to win, but I won't be the slightest bit upset if Japan wins.

It's been a great tourney and I am greaty anticipating the next few hours. Ladies, your putting on a helluva show.

zeno said...

Is there something that you are not aware of? Some sports you dont follow?

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - As always far too kind, but when underemployed, its easy to read up on all sorts of useless trivia !!

@Vishal - Yes, Japan won in a penalty shootout. No chance of the male game being less cynical.

@Hopfrog - Firstly much honoured by your wonderful comments in this forum. Secondly, I am completely bowled over by your sports interests. Knowing so much of soccer, in a land where its not the most popular game is amazing. Doff my hat - its been my privilege to have known you through Mark's blog.

Alas you lost yesterday, but the head must be held very high for the way your team played and conducted itself. This once, I think even God was behind Japan, perhaps in atonement for the miseries he has caused that nation recently.

@zeno - Much that I don;t know about and don't follow, but much tickled that I can zap you guys with some useless trivia.

Anonymous said...

@Ramesh, Well I think the two of us are a rare breed even amongst sports fans. There is something about sport in its various formats that seem to fascinate us both. I'm sure you'll agree, we're richer in soul for it.

Cracker of a game, enjoyed every bit of it. Didn't think Japan would have a chance in a PK shootout, but Japan's GK, despite taking a lot of criticism and being labeled the team's weakest link, came up huge and will be welcomed back as a national hero.

Exkalibur666 said...

Completely agree with you. I am a die hard soccer fan and have been following the womens world cup as well and they do play a game with a lot of skill (although the pace is slower). The viewership is also increasing atleast for games involving the big teams.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the Japanese!
Kudos to the ladies!!
Kudos to their coach!!!
Kudos to this blogger who can keep us hooked on to these things.
Wouldnt have read more about this but for your post.
Despite the earthquake , tsunami and the ongoing nuclear crisis , great spirit indeed.
I understand first time an Asian team is winning this World cup.

Must have been a nail-biting match.
Hope you catch some sleep tonight!

Ramesh said...

@Exkalibur - Oh yes - there was a lot of viewership. This tournament has been a great success.

@Hema - Wow you read up on it ??? Yes a great bunch of players and coach; they are a credit to the sport.

RamMmm said...

Trust you to track off-beat and interesting topics! Hats off to the Japanese ladies and the gentleman who brought light on them to us.

Reflections said...

Dare I admit I dont follow football all that much but after reading ur post I definitely wd have sat up all night to watch the match but alas I came here a day too late & alaser no tv channels at home;-D

Super post Ramesh....thanks!!!!!!

sulo` said...

u rly watch 'em all ;) Awesome!!! Leme take some inspiration 4m you :) am sure it must be fun :)

Ramesh said...

@RamMmm - Just as the blog itself is - off beat. Not sure about the interesting though !

@Reflections - Now that I know that you are a sportsman too; easy to tickle your interest. Someday a badminton game with you, maybe ??

@sulo - Well; its not for everybody. I ama sports nut, s I watch all sorts of things.

Reflections said...

Oh yes ready for badminton game anytime....we may not be in the same class as u but we promise to make up for it with enthusiasm;-D

We???? sulo & me ofcourse;-D

Sulo :) said...

ha ha!!! Chech, am in... ;D

suloooooo! said...

i am not a nut as you are, but i do like to watch sports if i hav co., else i dont... :(

gils said...

!!! women football!!!! thala....neenga engaayooooooooo poiteeeenga

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