Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Of Heartbreak on Business Travels

Watching football can sometimes be like brushing your teeth – Not just a necessity but a matter of habit as well. You follow the same motions, need a toothbrush you are comfortable with and if you are picky enough, want the same toothpaste everyday. And if you don’t have these, while you do not give up brushing your teeth, you definitely are not satisfied (taking your morning dump on your favourite pot with the newspaper is another analogy and maybe a better one but...)

It’s the same with watching football for me – while I will watch a game when I can and where I can, nothing compares to watching it in Bangalore at home (or the other place which felt like home – the no more available NGV apartment where for generations the bachelors in our group stayed but have now all moved away). So much so that I find it easier watching European football in faraway India than sitting here in Europe (as keeps happening with me ever so often... what with mundane stuff like a job disturbing the spiritual pursuit of all things football).

For one, the timings of European games are better suited for an Indian audience, especially an audience which has an aversion to hitting the pubs on Saturday evenings. Secondly, TV channels and their programming staff (God bless ESPN Star) have made me a dedicated follower of some leagues (England and Spain) with occasional glimpses of others (Only 2 sports channels...hence the occasional Serie A when the cable guy decides its time for Ten Sports). And while it does limit one’s breadth of perspective, it is great to develop vertical expertise. And having followed the two leagues for years on an end now, it feels strange when a weekend passes and you don’t say hello to the same clubs, the same players and the same presenters (btw John Dykes and co have to be close to the best in the business....the ones in this region who speak in English are caught between having to do a job and having to meet people they might criticize the next day).

And while weekends come and weekends go and the existence is blissful there comes a sudden turn of events that shakes things up and unsettles you. Like travelling on work. I’ve found myself first in France and then in Spain and then in France these last few days and guess what, with a combination of the TV available in the hotels, my lack of awareness on what channel will broadcast what program at which time and just an inconvenient (read not the same as Indian) schedule, I’ve seen less of the teams that I love to follow than I would have bargained for.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of football all over and I do watch whatever I can find – lots of highlights from the Dutch league, a very poor broadcast of some Ligue 1 games, many many internationals (with German commentary by Ollie Kahn) and some games between teams I still don’t know of (ARE vs JUV..not Juvenetus... last night on a channel whose name I can’t recollect). And while they are fun and sometimes better than mid-table clashes from the Premier League, the heart still pines. I guess for all its charms, Paris will never be home like Bangalore...huh?

My travels have given me the chance to watch games in-stadia (Parc du Princes, Olimpico in Barcelona and Emirates till now...) but the fates contrive to ensure that most weekends when I am in these parts, the local teams play away. I know it is quite a privilege to get to see the world on company expense no less, and I should not complain so much, but let not my travels get in the way of my football life is what I ask for. Amen!

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