Back Beat




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 – 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!

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