With Fingers Crossed
Just before FIFA season starts, my mom, Eliza Fernandes, 49, begins her novenas and prayers to every saint she can call out to. She only prays for her favourite team BRAZIL. On the day Brazil is playing, she finishes all her chores well in advance. Nobody is allowed to disturb her for the next 90 minutes. 15 minutes before the match, she says a final prayer for every player in the team. Her prayer is for sportsmanship and for accepting defeat with a smile, if they lose. The irony is, she forgets to pray for herself, because more than the players she gets into her shell. She has a different way of even crossing her fingers. It's the ring finger and the middle finger that she crosses, not the pointer. That's her superstition again!
While the match is on, she doesn't move from her couch. By the second half, if her team is not winning, she cries and prays again, but if they are winning she starts betting with my brother, my friend and me. Sometimes we have a pot-luck party. If she wins the bet, the party goes on till morning. But if her team looses, she goes into depression and starts crying. When Brazil drew with Mexico, she woke me up at 3 am, crying and cursing Mexico. Well, that's my mom... a football freak. She hopes to see India at the FIFA 2018, but she says her heart will always belong to Brazil.
Aaila! No! No! No! Kay Re! Goal!
It is Thursday evening and mummy (read mum-in-law), is frantically ransacking the entire house looking for something. She seems to be a little agitated so I intervene to ask if I could be of any help. Deeply engrossed in quest, she ignores me. Finally, after a few minutes that feel like hours, she finds what she is looking for. The Newspaper! She cuts something out, pastes it on the kitchen wall and stands there studying it. I sneak up behind her to discover the cause of her turmoil—it is the FIFA World Cup 2014 timetable!
This simple saree-clad homemaker, 65, started following the sport when she had to spend months together at her daughter’s home in the US. Back in the '90s, when no Indian television channels were available there, sports were her only entertainment. By watching the league matches played between the local clubs there, she learned about the rules, the players and the teams. Her fondness for the sport reached the level where she would finish her kitchen chores and wrap up everything at lightning speed just to go catch her favourite place on the sofa and enjoy the uninterrupted bliss of a football match. After coming back to India she would team up with her son (my husband) and they would watch all the matches together.
The FIFA Football World Cup 2014—her second favourite sport after cricket—has her completely hooked to the television these days. She is sacrificing all the daily soaps that air during the same primetime slots as the matches. Everything is on record mode now. Her daily routine includes watching the recorded matches or re-runs of the highlights through the day and then switching to the live mode at night. The first two matches are a must see, live! The decibels in the house go from a stable 6070 dB to 120129dB within seconds, with the entire building getting a live commentary of the match. And, if the match is being played by her favourite team Germany, or one of her favourite players Messi, Ozil, or Ronaldo, God spare us all… and the neighbours too!
Her enthusiasm for the sport is mesmerizing. She has even managed to get my 2.5-year-old brat of a son to sit in one place and watch the game. Shouts of “Aaila!!!”, “No No No”, “Goal!!!”, “Oh S****”, “Kay Re” are constantly heard from both of them, accompanied by not-so-polite inputs from my husband.
The next day she reads the newspapers, both Marathi and English (although she isn’t that adept in English) from end to end. And then, there's her ritual of striking off the name of the team that lost the previous day on the timetable cutout and calculating the points of all the teams. This is followed by an indepth analysis (with my husband) of the entire game and how each player should have played, and includes forecast of which teams would reach the finals. Oh! How I wish the team managers and coaches could listen to these two masters talk!
During the Germany match on Monday she was half-heartedly standing near the kitchen open-window (pic attached) trying to cook and watch the match at the same time. She ultimately couldn’t resist the temptation and stopped cooking to sit in the hall and watch the remainder of the match.
I respect her from the bottom of my heart for her diligence in learning and understanding a game that she has never played and that her family members have never really been interested in, as cricket as always been the family religion. I hope that someday her enthusiasm sparks a passion for the game in me, as is has in my son!