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Sunday, October 18, 2009

My dream rests in Hands of God

Phew, what a week that was! One of the most emotional ones of my life. There were more changes than I could handle, including moving cities and leaving behind too many friends. If that wasn't enough, dealing with worries about the qualification of Ivory Coast and Argentina for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa saw me at my emotional worst.

I've had to pack my bags and move thousands of kilometers north. Mumbai can be one of the hardest cities to leave. It was intimidating when I first came here six years back. But today, I feel more at home in its squalid lanes than anywhere else in the world.
In Mumbai, I grew to care about Indian football. Before that, the game was all about the Premier League, Jose Mourinho and Brazil.

It was at the Cooperage football ground that I first heard the thump of Baichung Bhutia's boots meeting the ball. The sound of the perfect kick can be as sweet as the ball meeting the middle of Sachin Tendulkar's bat.

It was in Mumbai that I realised Indian footballers don't just dream of a financially secure future but believe that great things are possible. They live in hope, not in desperation. And some of them, I honestly believe, are good enough to compete at the world level.

It wasn't just the goodbyes that were painful. Maradona really played havoc with my nerves and it was Didier Drogba who calmed them. Some months back, dear reader, I got lucky with the World Cup tickets for South Africa. I had applied for the T7 series, which gives the tickets of the team of your choice from the group stages onwards to the final. If your team loses in between, then you get the match ticket of the team that's beaten them.

I had applied for the T7 tickets of Ivory Coast, because of the love I have for Drogba and also because, in the first round, my application for Brazil and Argentina tickets was rejected. The validity of my tickets was subject to Ivory Coast's qualification for the tournament. And Drogba didn't let me down.

Ivory Coast qualified top of Group E in the African qualification after a 1-1 draw against Malawi. Drogba came off the bench to score the equaliser just two minutes after his introduction and helped secure my nerves and a second successive World Cup trip for the West Africans.

Maradona's appointment as Argentina coach was another reason I couldn't have missed this World Cup. However, their trip to South Africa almost got cancelled after losses to Brazil (1-3) and Paraguay (0-1).

But they've come through with wins over Peru (2-1) and Uruguay (1-0). Yet, Maradona's future as coach doesn't look secure. It's highly unlikely that the Argentina football association will trust the eccentric genius to lead the team in South Africa after the qualification fiasco. What can I say! My dream now rests in the Hands of God.

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