Two things that FIFA should immediately do

1. Make sure the match balls to be used at the World Cup are the same as that used in the previous year's Confederations Cup and all international tournaments in between. The outer print / design can be different, but why should a completely new ball manufactured with new material / technology be used for the first time in a World Cup?

2. Introduce video referal system. When we have someone watching the match on high definition television with super slow-mo reviews from different angles, and we have the referee / assistant referees on the field, running and judging with thousands of vuvuzelas buzzing around them, you know who will get the decisions right!
2a. In all cases where the players are sure the referee has got a decision wrong, they should get a chance to challenge that. It is there in Tennis, Cricket, etc and there is no reason why it can't be there in Football. There is no reason for a player wrongly given a red card to sit out one / two matches, just because the referee got the decision wrong. In a tournament like World Cup, that incidence can be a differentiator.

Value of life

There is a huge uproar going on in Kolkata over the suicide of a 13 year old school boy. The suicide happened after the boy was caned by his teachers at school. Everyone is after the school administration for practicing corporal punishments.

Call me insensitive, but, I would like to look at this incidence from a different angle. It is not corporal punishment which bothers me. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of this practice as I don't think it creates a positive learning environment. All I am saying is that it is not a deal big enough to die for.

I know it is a punishment that has been practiced for decades. The first paragraph of "Swami and Friends" by R. K. Narayan mentions the headmaster with his cane! When we were in school only few years ago, we have been caned at school. I know a friend who took transfer of school because of caning. But never would anyone of us think about taking our own lives for things like these!

What has changed that had not changed from R. K. Narayan's time through our time in school that has suddenly changed for the kids today? Are the kids these days too soft? Kids commit suicide because they flunked their exams. As a nation, are we raising our kids too pampered? Have we stopped teaching our kids to appreciate the value of their lives? If people can attempt suicide because of such trivial issues, then I am sorry to say, they probably deserve to die. And as a nation we would continue to be physical and mental weaklings.

Brazil... la la la, la la, la la la....

I started writing the last post thinking I would write about Football World Cup and my support for the Brazilian team. Instead, I started thinking about my father and wrote what I wrote. So, here's another football themed post...

I am a Brazil fan because my father was! He was a big fan of Garrincha and wore the number 9 shirt after Garrincha. Of course, Pele is one player who everyone knows, but my father always maintained that Pele was Pele because he had players like Didi, Vava, Garrincha, etc around him. When I started watching football, the Brazil hero was Socrates and Zico. I can never forget the 1986 World Cup quarter final between Brazil and France, where another hero of mine, Michel Platini was playing. Over the years, during every World Cup, Brazil has produced more than one hero, be it Romario, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Dunga, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, or Roberto Carlos. This year, I am hoping that Kaka would play to dazzle the world!

This year's team seems to be defensively the best in a long long time. Their goal-keeper Caeser is considered the best in the world today. They had not conceded an international goal since last October till yesterday (when they conceded a goal against Tanzania). The midfield is both creative as well as physically very strong. The weakest link of the team seems to be the lack of a prolofic striker like Ronaldo or Romario. However, they do have the talented Fabiano and Robinho in their squad. Another trivia will illustrate why the Brazil team is so feared. In their squad of 23, barring the three goal-keepers, there is only one player who has not scored in an international match. That means 19 players in the squad with experience of scoring in international matches. Rivals, stay scared!

Is it just Football?

It's that time again. Time when a bunch of blokes would form a team, and run a green ground trying to get one single ball to a specific area of the other side of the ground. And the whole world will go crazy about it! That is the magic of Football World Cup. My father, who was a football player himself, introduced me to this magic, and Football and World Cups were a big part of my growing up!

My first memories of watching international football on television is the Mexico World Cup in 1986, when we first got television at home. My father would explain the finer aspects of the game to me - what off-the-ball-movement was, how the goal scorer got in to a position to score, how a defender anticipates the trajectory of the ball. After a couple of World Cups, I was in a position to discuss those aspects, and would sometimes suggest him the matches to watch (he would only watch one match each night). Every four years, those 30 days would be a time of special bonding between us - it was our time, at times when we would collectively get scolded for watching too much football by my mother, times when we would set our alarm clocks so that we could get up at 3 a.m. and watch a match! Even at times, when I was not in Kolkata during the World Cups, I would call my father up and discuss teams, and get his opinion on players.

This year, I will watch the matches, but for the first time, I would not have anyone to discuss the matches with. I am not sure I will enjoy this World Cup as much as before!