The Evening in Berlin

Buildup: 2006 FIFA World Cup Final !!!!! France Vs Italy, The Grand Finale at the Olympia Stadium, Berlin. According to FIFA, 1.5 Billion individuals globally watched the finals. If you look back to 2006, the world population at that time as per official figures were 6.6 Billion. So, mathematically, 1 in 6 person around the world watched the game. Crazy Crazy Numbers!!! We all know, what a global sport football is and the FIFA World Cup finals is the highest viewed event across the world.

Plot : My initial days of following football revolved around Germany, and since the 2006 World Cup was hosted by Germany, they were the clear favorites and why not. A team having Jens Lehmann at back (Arsenal Invincible), Philipp Lahm (Slowly becoming the best LB in the world), captained by Michael Ballack and led the line by Miroslav Klose ( FIFA Golden Boot winner). They were my favorites as well. A special version of the famous song ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ (Bamboo Version) by Shakira lifted the mood and atmosphere ever further. For the finals, I had my full support for France, the reason being they had a player named Zinedine Ziddane, who was also the Captain and he was one of the finest attacking midfielder of that generation.

Summary: The finals started as per the promise and the scoring was opened by Zidane himself in the 7th minute with the help of a precise but controversial penalty, conceded by Marco Materazzi. The Olympia erupted and rightfully so. It took 12 minutes for Italy to equalize, through Materazzi’s goal courtesy of a beautiful header assisted by the dead ball specialist Andrea Pirlo. Both teams had their fair share of chances and Italy hit the crossbar twice courtesy of a brilliant Luca Toni’s hit and a Gatusso’s scrocher. France were denied a possible second penalty when Florent Malouda went down in the box. France were a better side throughout the 90 minutes because of the higher number of shots on goal. They were denied time and again by Gigi Buffon’s heroics at the other end of the pitch and the scoreline read 1:1 at the end of 90 minutes. Three minutes of added time read the LED, and then there will be Additional extra Time. At the end of stoppage time, Gigi Buffon made a potentially game saving save when he tipped a Zidane bullet header over the cross bar courtesy of a Thierry Henry pass. 30 minutes Extra Time and then we will possibly have the winner. At the end of 105 minutes ( HT of AET) the scoreline still read 1:1. France made a couple of bold substitutions. Frank Ribery made way for David Trazeguet ( Golden Goal scorer against Italy in the Euro 2000 final) and Thierry Henry made way for Slyvian Wiltord. The time read 110′. 10 minutes to go for the final whistle.

Zidane Sending Off: Football is an intense game, a game of nerves, a game of character, of mentality. Few words were exchanged between Zidane and Materazzi after Marco was seen tugging at Zidane’s jersey before Zidane began to walk away from him. Moments later, he stopped, turned around and head butted Materazzi’s chest, knocking him to the ground. The crowd was numb, I was numb, the players in shock, everyone rushed towards Marco and surrounded him. Zidane knew, he made a mistake, a mistake that will cost his team the World Cup, a mistake that will hurt him forever. I am literally in tears as I type this. The images are flashing back. The memories are still fresh like yesterday’s. The drama which unfolded in the pitch was not spotted by the referee Horacio Elizondo, but was spotted by the 4th official Luis Medina Cantelejo. After consulting, Zidane was given a red card in the 110th minute. He became the 4th player to be red-carded in a World Cup final and the 1st to be sent off in extra time. France were down to 10 man, and had 10 minutes to find a winner, else there would be penalties. France did manage to survive and the game as expected went to penalties.

Penalty: Italy won the penalty shootout, eventually winning the 2006 World Cup, courtesy of goals from Andrea Pirlo, Marco Materazzi, Daniel De Rossi, Alexando Del Piero and Fabio Grosso. Fabian Barthez was not able to save any of it.

Reactions: Zidane later apologized but he added that he did not regret his offence. Over a year after the incident, Materazzi confirmed that his words to Zidane were: ” I prefer the whore that is your sister” to Zidane’s reply of “If you want my shirt, I will give it you afterwords”

It’s rightfully said, “Attack wins you matches and defense wins you tournaments“. But, Italy did not win the final because of the defense, they won it because of Zidane. They won it because they won the mind game.

Signing off !!!!!

 

 

 

The King of Rome

Francesco Totti bid an emotional farewell to Roma after a remarkable 25 season career with his hometown club, AS Roma. Yes, you read it correct 25 years, one club. In the days where it’s so difficult to find loyalty, he was full of it and has set examples in every field, not just in football to be specific.

In the era, where people run for money, switch trades and move into different teams without giving it a second thought, Totti was an exception. He started his career with the Roma’s youth team he made his debut in the senior team at a age of 16. Within 2 years, he had already established himself in the first team by playing as a second striker. At a slender age of 22 (1998), he became the youngest ever Seria A club captain. Such was his talent that, he could play as a left winger, right winger, Attacking midfielder, second striker and as a lone striker, that was virtually anywhere across the front line. Going forward 20 years, he played his last ever season for AS Roma and his stats read, 619 appearances and 250 goals holding several records to his name.

One of my favorite quote from the Batman, “You Either Die A Hero, Or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain” and Totti proved to be an exception to that statement. He lived, and instead of becoming the villain, he became the “King Of Rome”

 

 

We all are Arsene Wenger’s men

The Buildup:

Yes, Yes , Yes I am not sure about you, but I am still buzzing from yesterday’s win. If you have not heard it yet, Arsenal have won the FA Cup against Chelsea courtesy of Goals from the Super Alexis Sanchez and the dynamic Aaron Ramsey. The football we played in the first half was orgasmic and breathtaking that many of us could have taken the eyes out of the screen. I recall, after the start whistle, we had close to a 100 passes before 10 minutes and scored one goal (amidst the confusion) and came close to score one more as well. Simply the old time Arsenal flashed into our minds. The first half ended in similar fashion and it was lit thought with the same intensity. We could have score 3 or maybe 4, and they could have scored one or two as well before the HT. But the scoreline read 1:0 in favor of Arsenal. The moment of the first half for me was, Rob Holding schooling the dirty Diego Costa.

The Interval:

I was frustrated, had we converted those half chances and scored at-least one more, there would have a cushion and some breathing space in the 2nd half, but it was not the case. The lead was slender and we all know, how good Chelsea are in the counters especially with Pedro and hazard in their ranks who are pacy players and have a eye to goal.

The Second Half:

We were 45 minutes away from winning the 3rd FA cup in 4 years and 13th overall (The competition highest) and we had to give it all. As anticipated, Chelsea came all guns blazing and came close to score as well but our defense stood tool lead by our captain Per Mertasacker and blocked off all the potential attacks even before reaching to Ospina. There were ticks everywhere, you could hardly find any misplaced pass, wrong move or not finding spaces. In short, we were bossing all around the park and the boys were pretty up for the challenge that beckoned. There were few nervous moments where Chelsea came close to scoring but could not test Ospina much throughout the opening 20 minutes of the second half. Per, Nacho and the young and inexperienced Rob Holding were growing into the game. Had we played with the same intensity of beautiful football throughout the season, we would have been termed as worthy champions, but you know it was not the case either. In the 73rd minute, if I recall correctly, there was a gap between Rob an Per and the dirty yet prolific Costa materialized. The scoreboard of famous Wembly stadium read 1:1 and there were hardly 20 minutes to go including extra time. Mr. Wenger had to do something, and do something real quick and immediately after 2 minutes, Welback was substituted with fan favorite, Olivier Giroud. I didn’t take the move very well because Welback was having a very good game keeping Cahill and Luiz on their toes. It took Giroud two minutes to prove me wrong. He assisted Aaron Ramsey (Arsene’s Golden Boy) with his first pass of the game. The stadium erupted, the yellow ribbon were prominent. Just like back in 2014, the partnership of Rambo and Giroud gave us a lead with close to 10 minutes to go. We were 10 minutes away from winning a silver ware in a dreadful season where we missed out of the UEFA Champions League and transfer uncertainties of our two best players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Many of us became hopeful and got behind the team, because finishing the season on a high after a lackluster campaign is welcomed by all. The end was near, with hardly few minutes to go in the stoppage time, and then, we would be crowned champions, worthy champions. The final whistle blew, the Wembly erupted once again and this time it was endless and was going to echo everywhere. The night was sorted, history was created. Arsenal were FA Cup winners 2016-17, the most by any club in football history. The feelings of the fans would be something unparalleled tonight. To end the season on a high is always awesome and to do that against the EPL Champions was phenomenal.

The Ending:

I will be looking forward to the new season with new hope and the same excitement, and possibly a change. Arsene Wenger respectfully resigning from the post and taking up a more higher post in Arsenal hierarchy and passing on his legacy, which will be unmatched to a new manager. A change is required and looks like a change is evident. No matter what, we are Arsenal fans who are proud when we win and loyal when we lose.

Signing off with this, until next time.

Given And Denied

Yes, it is very difficult when we face a rejection. Be it from the one you love, or from a Job interview, or when your favorite football team loses the derby game. It hurts for a while depending upon the magnitude of the rejection and in some cases, it hurts forever. It feels like, it has left a huge scar in our lives. We feel chocked, dejected, insecure, vulnerable. But from the examples which I listed above, does any of the rejection comes close to ‘Death‘ ? We all die eventually, and for me, it is the most extreme and gruesome form of Rejection.

So live your lives to the fullest and let it go, it will fine at the very end and important to remember that Time heals everything, I have faced several rejections so far in my short life be it losing a relationship to losing a person who was very close to me. It did hurt a lot to be very honest, which is natural and its no shame to shed some tears, but I faced rejection and that has made me stronger, and it makes me even more stronger with each passing day.

I have seen people hurt themselves, and some go to the very extent of giving away their precious life just because they are rejected ? Come on you people, you have to be strong, life will test us everyday, every time but you have to make yourself ready. Every time life hits you, hit back. Lean on, but do not give up .If there are no failures, success won’t taste sweet. There are several examples to look upon if you are feeling low, listen to some good music, watch movies like Shawshunk, Million Dollar Baby etc and motivate yourself. Motivation can be found anywhere, yes anywhere, so keep looking for it and let it inspire you to do great things in  life.

With this, I am signing off, until next time.

 

The Dream Weekend

The Confirmation: It all started when I saw a post from Jomy that read, if anyone is interested to attend the 1st Arsenal Fan Screening in India. I was like what the f***, how cannot a Gunner be not interested for this magic? My memory is not kinda sharp, but  I recall, I was the 1st one to comment on his post. I even made sure that I bugged him via Fb messages until it was confirmed, which as a matter of fact, I was. I was so excited just by thinking how awesome it will be to finally meet one of the Invincible – Super, Super Rob, Super, Super Rob, Super Super Robert Pires. Yes, I was going to meet the Robert Pires, the man who played a sizeable role in the 2003-04 invincible season and also many Gunners across India who were going to turn up for this mega event at the historic Mehboob Studios, Bandra. The very thought of going back to my most favorite city was icing on the cake.

The Journey (Part 1): The night before the epic journey, I was back from my office at 1:00am in the morning, roughly 5 hours from my morning bus and I did not had much sleep either for the entire week because of my work which I made sure did not mess it up with my passion. The night passed by very fast and I was all set to conquer one of my dreams so I made sure, I reached the stand on time for the bus which was scheduled to depart at 7:40 but heard that it was late by an hour. I planned to travel with a fellow Gunner, Pravin who is pursuing his MBA from Great Lakes. The journey was smooth where we discussed tactics, Fpl, Lineups and stuffs for hours with small to large nap in between but, we were running late by 2 hours which was alarming because we had our Arsenal bus to catch at 2:3o. We had a good lunch in between, because of the uncertainty hovering over our dinner. We kept the other bunch posted about our status in the whatsapp group which was exclusively created for this event and they were agitated, frustrated and may be even abusive because of our punctuality, but had no option other than wait, because we are gunners at the end of the day and brothers of different mothers. Finally me and pravin reached our strategic destination with an aim to intercept the Puma bus at Tumkur Road. We had more than 4o km to cover within 30 min, with Bangalore traffic to beat and boy, it seemed impossible. We booked an Uber and the driver denied the duty and we had to settle for an Ola, with whom I do not have pleasant experiences in the past and to make things worse, we got an Indica. We had no option other than taking the Nice Road, which is one of the best moving roads in Bangalore. We were traveling at 120 Kmph and suddenly the driver (Kumar) was driving like NiKi Lauda and the Indica seemed like a Ferrari 312. We were flying and everybody in the group were bewildered and just when we thought that we will be on time to intercept the Puma bus, we ran out of fuel. It showed 1.8 Km (4 min) for the destination and we both were like, why God why ? Can’t everything be perfect like Mikel Arteta’s hair ?? Pravin suggested that if we run, we can reach by 10 min to which I valiantly opposed. But then, Kumar tweaked something in the engine and off she goes, we started again to cover the remaining distance and we could see the Navy Blue painted sexy Arsenal bus and it looked beautiful as we moved closer and closer to it. The Ferrari ride costed us a good 1000 plus bucks, but that was definitely worth it. We jumped the divider to get into the bus and we were finally going to Mumbai, together. Dreams do come true, we just have to be patient and overcome the temporary hurdles.

The Journey (Part 2): 49, 49 undefeated. 49, 49 I say. 49,49 undefeated, playing football the Arsenal way. This is how we got welcomed by the group of gunners inside the bus. Pravin and me were very ecstatic that we finally made it and so were others. Phewww… I was connected to many guys in Fb, but all were new faces to me. There was Piyush, Ankur, Mohsin, Ronojay, Abhishek, Akshay with whom I first connected. All went smooth from the customary discussions, chants, rumors, work, passing snacks and with every hour we all got closer and closer. The night came thick and fast and we still had 700 plus km to cover. We had our dinner at a Dhaba, and some group photo shoots. Thanks to Reliance Jio and JBL, we were kept engaged, from grooving to classic hits dating back to Backstreet boys to the recent chart busters and from different fan chants to the BFC game, we all were engaged. Music and Sports connects people, rightfully said. Me and Rajiv ( Pursuing Engineering and dreams of making it into India’s cricket team one day) watched Friends a, a sitcom who most people love especially my sister. The night was getting colder and foggy and everyone were falling asleep excepting me, akshay and Mohsin. Akshay and myself had a chance to film everyone and the footage was so damn hilarious. (Akshay, I now think its time to post the magic that you filmed). I finally managed to get some sleep before the big day and when I woke up, we were in the beautiful Pune-Mumbai expressway covered with tunnels and mountains. The views were breathtaking. We finally had reached the destination at 11:00 am in the beautiful Bawa International hotel in Ville Parle, which was arranged by Puma, entirely Free of cost.

The Buildup: Finally, we were in Mumbai relishing our dream to meet Robert. The arrangement were such that, each room will accommodate 3 persons but our room had 5 ( Ankur and Abhishek being my primary roommate but we were also accompanied by Akshay and Ronojay to make it 5 in a twin sharing room). We had to make strategies and proper time management to use the only washroom, and we had close to 1 hour 15 min to get ready for the event. Finally we were done, then some mandatory photo sessions with our Arsenal Jerseys, some group pics and we guys were the very first ones to reach the lobby. Perfect, isn’t it ?? There we were accompanied by two gunners (Vivek and Arshad). We all quickly headed for our lunch which was fabulous once again as well as free of cost and we were all set to hit the road finally for the event. All the eyes were on the Puma bus while we headed to the Mehboob studios in the Western Express. Finally we were there at 3:45 pm and I have to say, the entry was nothing less of a magnificent celebrity entry. We chanted loudly all the famous chants that came to our mind and were also joined by hundreds of other gunners across the country. We were clicked then accompanied by the Arsenal’s Mascot Gunnersaurus. The feeling was pure love, ecstasy, excitement as well as emotional. We were joined by Piyush and Rajiv and we had our group pics by holding the ‘Arsenal Bangalore’ and Robert Pires banner beside the bus. Nothing beats the love of watching Arsenal alongside an Invincible and fellow gunners.

The Event:  The event was grand, with gunners everywhere in Red and white and the chants were loud and clear, Arsenal made brilliant arrangements to be honest and everything was kind of a dream. We all got a chance to get clicked with digital image of Santi Cazorla and witness some free style football. In no time it was 4:30 pm which meant it was time for the team news and slowly and slowly we were all gearing for the kick-off. At 5, we were inside the studios and it was huge, with a giant screen on the extreme end that read, ‘Welcome to the Official Arsenal Fan Screening in Mumbai’. There were 1000s of gunners representing different official supporters club. There were videos of Arsenal Foundation, Goals scored and stuffs playing in the giant screen. And then, at 5:15pm just 15 min before the kick off came Robert, boy !!!! I cannot express the way I felt that time, but that was beautiful oozed with love and respect and we all started chanting on top of our voices, Super, Super Rob, Super, Super Rob, Super Super Robert Pires  and several other chants and the best part was when, Robert chanted, who do you think is SHIT, Tottenham we reverted, then again, who do you think are Tottenham, ‘SHIT‘ we responded. That was classy and hilarious. The game begun finally and there was some tense moments in between but we finally manage to take the lead close to Half time with a own goal coming from wimmer courtesy of Mesut Ozil’s cross and the studio went mad with people hugging, and baritones chants coming from all corners of the place and it was HT and we were leading with a goal to nil at the Emirates against our fiercest rivals. Robert came to the dash during the break and few lucky gunners got a chance to get his autograph and pictures and I had already achieved my aim of touching him ( I planned to hug him like I told everyone during our journey, but that was very difficult). The second half started slow and all of a sudden Kane leveled it for Spurs from the Penalty at 51’. The studio was Numb, Robert was dejected like all of us, and we started with our chants again, Oh to, Oh to be, Oh to be a, Gooner. Oh to, Oh to be, Oh to be a Gooner and again the atmosphere became lively again. The game ended 1:1 and that was definitely not a bad result to take. There was again some photo sessions and autograph sessions with Robert after the game and he was humble enough to sign almost everything and finally he made way. Our bunch had a fantastic dinner at Britos and some customary photo shoot and finally the time had come to depart. I was feeling broken to not be able to travel back with my brothers in the Puma bus since we (Ankur, Pravin and Harish) were catching the late flight back to Chennai but yeah it was one hell of an experience and a lifelong of memories to cherish. Made some great friends during the journey and I will make sure that, I will be there at Liber’s to witness the fan screening the next time when I am at Bangalore.

Signing off with this, Hope you all had a good read. Sorry, it almost 2k words, but I did not wanted to cut short. Thanks to Arsenal Bangalore Supporters club, Puma, Arsenal and everybody we made this happen. Till then, Keep gunning. Arsenal Till we Die.