Back in the Future
Yes, I mean the two of you.
I could toddle on at this point and ignore giving an explanation for my extended absence, but that would rob the masses of a genuine read.
It was in March that we met last, on the vernal cusp. Around then, just as I had gotten this little enterprise up and running (well, crawling really), I was the subject of urgent summons. In a sealed manila envelope, I received a single sheet of cream paper which carried the following:
The President of the Republic of India
A matter of grave importance was recently brought to my notice, which has impelled me to call upon your resources. I was given to understand from highly placed sources in North Block (or was it South?) that an event of magnificent proportions is to take place on the continent in the months of June and July. Unfortunately, an enthusiastic Press Note dated 12 March 1942 prevents any Government authority (including me, even if I dont have much) from referring to the country in which this event is to be held. A further Press Note dated 14 May 1973 has clarified that it may be referred to as That Which Shall Not Be Named.
Actually, I'm the President. I dont apologise.
Unless you have a lollipop.
Anyway, as matters stand, there are 32 participants in this global gala. I also want to play, but my dear friend Mr.Putin told me that only nations are allowed to boot a ball around. He then supplied me with a small training manual about the game and a DVD of his favourite performers (including Peter North). Oh yes, I nearly forgot - he also gave me a photograph of his wife Lyudmila with dog Koni. She is cute. Not Lyudmila. Koni.
It was as I was leafing through the manual that I came across the rankings of a body called FIFA. Which also sounds like a dog. You can understand my dismay as a true Indian to discover that India was ranked a lowly 118 in their list. 118!!! This is unacceptable. To quote Mickey Rooney, "I protest".
As the Number One citizen of the country....[Kalam, can I have a word with you - Manmohan]......er....As the Number Two citizen of the country....[Spiacente interromperli, Il Presidente - Anonymous].....kof....ahem....
Being the Number Three citizen of the country.....[Dekho na, vaat Presdent vaunt, Presdent get - Railway Ministry]......gulp.
Lowly President that I am, I feel it unfortunate that we are no longer a shadow of the team that played without shoes. As a result, it is your duty to come to the service of the nation when the nation needs you most. We are not a nation of quitters. We fight. I am asking you to lead that fight and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom.
Your credentials are impeccable, and your referees say you are the perfect man for the job. You have three months to rehaul the Indian football team and make them world beaters. Your time starts now.
Jai Mata di.
As you can imagine, I was shaken. I had no clue what the old man was going on about. Why was I being recruited to cleanse our football team? True, I'm quite a stud and all that, but still, Football?
I have kicked a ball I will admit, but it was usually between somebody's legs. Whether this qualified me to overhaul the national team, I was unsure. Still, not one to demur from a challenging task, I devoted the next four weeks to studying the sport.
I gathered from extensive research that our team comprised of ten men and one Mr.Bhutia. It was considered trendy by the unnamed souls to pass the ball to Mr.Bhutia and expect him to live up to his name. This simple strategy unfortunately did not seem to work, and it was here that things got tough.
I realized from viewing mind numbing hours of international games that our problems did not lie on the field. England, Brazil, That Which Shall Not Be Named, Argentina and Italy seemed to play just as we did. In some cases we were better.
1. They had 11 players with boots. We had 11 players with Bhutia.
2. They tripped and fell when they were touched. We did it without any help.
3. They spent hours tiresomely passing the ball before shooting at the goal. We just shot straight without all the nonsensical build up.
As you can understand, I was confused.
If it had not been for Pandu's e-mail link to the News of the World, I would have been defeated.
For there, I discovered David Beckham. Legend in England and its captain, his life was an open book that I pored over relentlessly. It was then that it struck me that his off-field life was the key.
Three days later, I had arranged singing lessons for Bhutia's wife, Madhuri. As for the great man himself, a parlour visit and a tub of gel had him seducing audiences from the box for weeks thereafter. ESPN's guest spot didn't hurt, and we had it in the bag.
My task completed, I am back now in my nest. Your love and affection has never left me, I know, and soon when wealth and fame come knocking at my door, I shall remember you all. In the meanwhile, if you wish to see evidence of my successful involvement with our national cause, click here.