Sucker for Soccer | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:04 PM, July 14, 2018

Sucker for Soccer

Well, the World Cup continues. The South Koreans are back home but are greeted with raw eggs. Thank Heavens, it's not North Korea; instead of eggs, it would've been ballistic missiles. Not sure if it is a coincidence, but South Korea is reducing its work week from 68 to 52 hours so that people spend more time with their families in order to boost the country's birth rate. Well, that's something WE in Bangladesh don't need, and in case if we ever DO, all we'd have to do is reduce by one hour our daily use of Facebook…

Back to soccer. 8pm and 12am midnight, for the past one month in Bangladesh, have seen the peak use of electricity and the peak consumption of junk food, only to be beaten by consummation by honeymoon couples during the longest lunar eclipse of the century on July 27. The games have had even better viewership given the lull in Bangla serial dramas from across the border, thanks to the strike of their association of technicians (maybe they are also glued to Sony Sports). If anyone is happy from the blackout of these drama serials, it is Sultan Suleiman.

The soccer fever in Bangladesh is perhaps credited for the 2.4 percent increase in Facebook's share value from increased social media traffic on the topics of Argentina and Brazil. This propels Mark Zuckerberg to becoming the third richest person in the world in terms of net worth, toppling Warren Buffet, whose family has now probably deleted their Facebook accounts.

But I have to say, with two world-class football matches every evening, cricket has taken a back seat. Not only that, in comparison, cricket seems rather slow. I had to watch some chess to realign my motor skills to upgrade cricket to a fast game again. And the Tigers help too—playing the game at a rapid FIFA style by being all out at 43 in their innings against the West Indies. Perhaps the Tigers are also suckers for soccer, finishing the game quickly to go back to the hotel to watch World Cup football, only to find out that there is no game that evening. Ok, ok, it was a class test, not a semester test—bat in hand, football in mind.

Bangladesh is no longer in the World Cup, with Germany, Brazil and Argentina now becoming history and the World Cup now being relegated to being the European Cup. Even the lure of Kazan can't keep Brazil in the tournament—the city promises a piece of land to Neymar in return for a hat trick by him against Belgium. Neymar falls short (no pun intended), but the city keeps its promise, perhaps solely for Neymar's mettle in falling and getting up 30 times. Neymar literally bites the dust, while Suarez refrains from biting. Despite losing in the quarterfinals, Brazil does score two goals and Belgium only one—thus Brazil proves that giving, rather than taking, can also bring joy. And Brazil's same side scorer Fernandinho definitely deserves the Golden GPS.

Meanwhile, Argentinian flags remain hoisted all over Bangladesh—the Argentine squad may have left Russia, but the World Cup still has two Argentine referees. But Argentina HAS been in the finals in the past 32 years—in 1986 it's Diego Maradona with the “Hand of God” and in 2018 it's Nestor Pitana, with the hand of the referee.

The hopes of many were to see Messi and Neymar meet at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, but instead, they meet at Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow.

But a surprise and quiet progress is by the English team. Funny, when it comes to games, Great Britain splits into three countries, though, in this case, it was divide and knockout as the indomitable Croats force a Brexit (Britain-exit), or should I say, Exit (England-xit). England hasn't been in the finals since 1990, when Croatia was not even born and Prince Charles was Prince Charles.

Croatia continues to wow, just as its president, flying coach, sitting in the stands sporting the red and white jersey—not to mention her snazzy pictures going viral. It all starts with the surprise loss of Russia where the blame is to be heaped on I wonder who (the Russian Football Union or the KGB?).

So, now, we're down to the finals. Who will win in the finals is anybody's guess. If we really need to resort to a celebrity soothsayer, let's drop Paul the Octopus or Achilles the Cat but go for Kohli the Cricketer. For Virat Kohli seems to be the sure shot predictor—his team has never won the IPL, he gets married in Italy and Italy takes a Roman Holiday from the 2018 World Cup, he supports Germany and it is All Quiet on the Western Front, he then supports Argentina and it's the Malvinas and finally, he supports Brazil and it ain't no Mardi Gras.

Do us a favour France and Croatia. Give us a good looking game, just like your two good looking presidents. And for Heaven's sake, please do NOT take it to penalty shootouts. Remember, the motto of the average viewer: The penalty for missing a penalty is a penalty…


Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.

E-mail: Naveed@NaveedMahbub.com


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