MY FIFA EXPERIENCES
The year 2018 is going to be a great year for me, because it’s the FIFA World Cup year! This will be the fourth World Cup that I’ll be heading to since 2006.
I fell in love with the ‘Beautiful
Game’ as a 10-year old, thanks to Diego Maradona. Ever since, it was a dream for me to watch my favourite players live in action at the biggest stage that football can offer, and in 2006 I worked hard to make that dream come true. Each tournament has taken me on a different ‘trip’, so to speak.
In Germany (2006), I saw Lionel Messi make his World Cup debut, and got to experience sitting in the stadium as a fan for the first time. FIFA had Fan Zones - or areas outside the stadiums or in the city centres, where large screens were set up for free viewing. Surrounded by beer and food stalls, it was a 24-hour party zone!
In South Africa (2010), I was able to witness some great football by iconic players, including Uruguay’s Luis
Suarez, Holland’s Arjen van Robben and Robin Van Persie, and the great Spanish team with Iniesta, Xavi, Torres, Fabregas, Casillas…all at their peak. I was also lucky to procure a World Cup semi-final ticket at a very reasonable rate, from a depressed Brazil fan! (Brazil had lost in the quarter-finals).
Brazil (2014) was a different planet, football-wise. The passion was intense (akin to India-Pakistan cricket matches) and the Fan Zone at the Copacabana beach in Rio cannot be described in words. If Brazil was not leading by half time, you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. I also got to watch a match at the famed Maracana stadium in Rio. However, the most fun I had was watching matches in the streets with regular folk – young and old, men and women. They danced from the beginning to the end of each match, and then some!
The advantage of football over cricket is that the matches last only 90 minutes. If you include the travel time et al, it’s only three hours of your time that is blocked on match days. You have the rest of the time to explore. Photography is yet another of my passions, and each of these countries provided for large and diverse subject matter in this regard. In Germany, I just walked around the city centres of Frankfurt and Munich exploring the beer gardens, for some great shots of people. In South Africa, the areas in and around Cape Town were spectacularly beautiful – the Table Mountain, Stellenbosch Vineyards and the drive to the Cape of Good Hope. We were also lucky enough to spot all of the ‘Big Five’ game animals on a trip to the Kruger game reserve
– a very rare sighting, according to our hosts. Again, Brazil offers much more by way of food, drink, street parties, beaches and sights. That said, my favourite place was the city of Salvador, which has one of the most photogenic neighbourhoods to walk around in.
One thing common to all these countries which is worth pointing out, however, is the exposure given to young artists. There are lots of accessible spaces that host musicians and dancers, and exhibit art. I’ve even photographed an entire residential neighbourhood where all the walls are explicitly reserved for street artists to show off their work. In fact, in Brazil, having artistic talent is like being an IITian – it’s seen as the passport to a great future. In fact, these very experiences have played a key role in my developing ATKT.in – a platform for college-level artistes in India.
This year, Russia is going to be fun, too. Moscow and St. Petersburg have an incredible history; both medieval, dating back to the Soviet Era and World War
II. I’m also looking forward to checking out the local pop-rock scene, which is apparently thriving. Plus, I will get to watch Lionel Messi at his peak. I’m getting butterflies in my stomach already!