FIFA World Cup 2018: From India, with love for Brazil
I very well remember the moment I fell in love with the 'Beautiful game'- the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. It is still and will continue to be the most special moment of life. Though there were 32 teams and several superstars, none captured my heart like the color Yellow did. The likes of Cafu, Kaka, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho not just made me love Brazil, but the game of Football.
After a dominant display of in the group stages (winning all the three games) and at Dortmund in the Round of 16 against Ghana, it was a heartbreak at Frankfurt when we lost 0-1 to France. Thierry Henry's goal not just broke millions of Brazilian hearts, but also the heart of this young Indian who wanted Yellow to rule the world. It was so hard to digest the defeat of my favorite team, but I realized that's what the 'Beautiful game' is all about- ecstasy and agony.
Four years later when the showpiece event was staged by Africa for the very first time, the Brazilian squad was sans Ronaldinho, Adriano, and Ronaldo. Though several stars who made me fall in love with Brazil were missing, my love for the Yellow jersey remained intact. Amidst the vuvuzelas at the Port Elizabeth, it was another heartbreak at the FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals.
The Dutchman, Wesley Sneijder's brace overshadowed Robinho's tenth-minute goal. Oranje's hero was Yellow's villain at the Nelson Mandela stadium on that fateful July evening. Though I was totally gutted after successive quarterfinal disappointments, I was confident that the chants of 'Go, Brazil!' will be louder than ever four years later. I just couldn't wait for the June of 2014, to witness a Sea of Yellow in the capital Brasilia, the favelas and in the Copacabana. In August 2010, I was thrilled with the arrival of the 18-year-old boy that Brazil needed the most- King Neymar.
Wearing the number 11 jersey, the Santos star who was omitted by Dunga for the 2010 World Cup scored a goal on his debut in front of a strong 77,223 fans at the Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford against the USA. As Brazil won the game comfortably by a 2-0 margin, I was so happy to witness the birth of a Brazilian star by name- Neymar Jr. Three years later, it was overwhelming to see a 21-year-old Neymar wearing the famous number 10 jersey and delivering the title in style at home in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. In the following year, the carnival of the 2014 FIFA World cup began at Sao Paulo, with hosts Brazil defeating Croatia 3-1, courtesy Neymar's brace.
It was a sight I will never forget in my lifetime - thousands of passionate Brazilians signing their National Anthem amidst a sea of yellow. From the stadium to the bars around the town it was a sea of yellow. The Copacabana wore a festive look, with the giant screens put up. Everything was fine for Brazil, until that fateful evening at Belo Horizonte. A 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual winners, Germany. I felt as if the whole World came down. Sans Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, we did not put up a performance needed for a high-profile game.
It was hard to see David Luiz walking down the tunnel with tears. It was so painful and I was teary-eyed for a next few days, just like the millions of Brazilian fans across the globe. It is 2018 now and we have one of the strongest squads in this World Cup. Players like Casemiro, Coutinho, Firmino and Gabriel Jesus are just what we needed four years back. They look all set to set the globe on fire this time to help Brazil lift their sixth World cup title. And with a more matured Neymar, let us banish the 'Ghosts of Belo Horizonte' this time. If not at Rio, let's do it here in Russia. Go, Brazil!