SHILLONG, July 08: It is said that football is a game which connects. And there are numerous football fans who are following this game from their ‘hideouts’ to emerge only when a major tournament like the World Cup comes once in four years. The 2014 FIFA World Cup would remain incomplete if we don’t hear from two diehard fans from the city. In fact they belong to a family who loves to call themselves ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’. An octogenarian and a former employee of Arunachal Pradesh Secretariat, Ramakrishna Chakraborty, a resident of Quinton Lane, rues the deteriorating standards of the game of football. “After every four years with the World Cup, players and coaches are changing because of which the game’s standards are deteriorating,” said Ramakrishna, who knows the game well. Appreciating players like Robben Van Persie of Netherlands and Neymar of Brazil, he regrets that all the big teams have exited the tournament after the first round. He is astonished that Costa Rica has topped their group in the league games while recalling, “One who has not seen Bosnia and Herzegovina playing cannot believe them,” their game against Iran where they scored two goals.
Commenting on Italy he said that the Azzurris have no other choice than to win to go into the Round of 16 whereas Germany had literally cried against Ghana. “You see all smaller teams have advanced into the next Round of 16. This year it was very uncertain,” said Ramakrishna who predicts that Brazil and Netherlands will lock horns in the finals. Commenting further on the host country he said, “Scolari is a shrewd coach as he changes the game in due course. Given that Brazil had beaten Chile in the Round of 16, they cannot be stopped,” he forecasted. While opining that Brazil will have the home advantage, Holland on the other hand is dependent solely on Robben. “But all the players in the Brazilian team are playing well which is showing that they may well win the Cup,” he reasoned.
However, this World Cup have been a real dampener in terms of dribbling skills, fast and long runs, long range shots, curling shots, set piece movements and quality observed the football enthusiast. “These characteristics of the game are not seen this time. Now players don’t opt for free kicks and rather indulge in only short range playing whereas set piece movements and quality has gone down immensely,” said Ramakrishna who had a dreadful fall to his right a month back following which his right hand is in a cast. But this physical hurdle could not dampen his spirits as he and his brother are following the games, keeping waking through whole nights. Their love for games, adventure, astronomy, wildlife et al is inimitable. Commenting on the flipside of this World Cup, he said, “The football standard is not acceptable as fouls, brutality, booting, pulling, obstructing is done deliberately and willfully by players whereas others follow through. The referees are of third grade quality as they are biased towards penalties and yellow cards,” he said adding that the offside flag went up despite fouls whereas goals were scored even as flags stayed down even in clear offside situations. “Referee standards are really low not up to World Cup standards. What linesmen know is doubtful because no flags were shown despite player advancing by more than two and a half hands,” he added.
While pointing to Group D in the league matches, he said that both the European teams have disappeared after the round robin and thought for once that Chile may well defeat Brazil in Round 16 because it is a dangerous team. “Chile defeated Spain and did well with other teams. The Chilean team plays rhythmically and have terrific speed,” he said adding that Germany may have chance but it isn’t the team that was seen before whereas Portugal was solely dependent on Ronaldo and USA too is not the team that it used to be. Likewise, Ramakrishna feels that the prospects of Argentina are not too good since its overall performance is not comparable to its past and is also dependent on Messi. “If he is put off then where is Argentina? Messi is playing both as a striker and a distributor,” he pointed out.
On the debacle of the defending World Champions Spain, Ramakrishna, himself an accomplished footballer and cricketer said that they lost because of no goal attempts. “Whatever goals they scored were accidental, no clean goals as their players were not taught,” he reasoned while his brother Putul added that the Spanish elegant tiki-taka passing style was also found wanting this time. “Spain’s tiki-taka ball controlling technique is inimitable but none taught them goal attempts. Similarly, the feather touch by Brazil is not seen this time. Spain without any striker was seen doing tiki-taka even when they approached the goal,” said Putul. Ramakrishna however acknowledged Brazil and Costa Rica for good clean goals, their movements, long range shots by Neymar but warned that consistency is lacking in every team.
Commenting on players’ skills this World Cup, Ramakrishna, who has also remained an accomplished bridge player, said that if a player goes 25 yards or less then it is advisable to take the goal shot at the first chance but in this World Cup by the time players take the shot there is already a crowd. “Strength and technology is increasing but no football sense. No dribbling skills can be seen now,” he rued while acknowledging Robben as a fast player who can play with both legs and work his way through the defence and score but no other players are seen with such skills. “Messi cannot score with the right leg but Neymar can play with both legs and he is extremely intelligent. While playing in the forward position, if he sees the ball is in his left leg he won’t switch and waste time when the defence comes in, but takes the shot,” observed Ramakrishna. The African teams were good but they too were reluctant to take long range shots to goal. “As a player one should see the opportune moment and take the shot without any care for distance but they just simply pass the ball,” he said while commenting on teams in this competition. In this edition of the World Cup, many teams depend heavily on a single player.
He recalls that the games between Netherlands and Chile beside Ghana and Germany were particularly very good to watch because there were less fouls, refereeing was more or less good but not perfect. The most ferocious game of this tournament was between Uruguay and Italy where Suarez was handed a ban for up to nine matches after he bit an Italian player. The long range shot by Italian player Balotelli was great to watch but this time he could not play to his potential. Messi’s bullet shots too were missing. He said that the Uruguay and Chile game was expected to feature some bullet shots from midfield but not this time. Football played by forwards and strikers is total football which is not seen this time. Putul, on the other hand, rued that these players, when they play club football give their very best because of the money involved whereas they are seen wanting while playing for their respective nations.
Ramakrishna said that in the game between Argentina and Nigeria there were 11 corners but not a single one was converted into a goal besides numerous free kicks. “This is the worst competition right from standards of the game to refereeing,” opined Ramakrishna while recalling that in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup, a referee from Italy, Pierluigi Collina was great to watch with his imposing presence and other referees were also alert and had full control over the way the teams played.