FIFA World Cup 2018: Vamos La Furia Roja - My heart will always beat for Spain
So Spain's campaign is set to begin. As a result, I just wanted to write something down before it did because I am a narcissistic prick who believes that everyone would be interested in reading what I have to say (this is why hate being called an engineer and love being labelled as a writer).
Anyways, it was 2002. I was just 9-going-to-be-10. Senegal and France were going to play the first game. I asked my father which team I should support, he informed me that France had won the previous World Cup in 1998 but Brazil have the most trophies with five and that Argentina have the most fans in Bangladesh - my motherland - because of Maradona.
Now, I was naive, so I told him that I would support France because they had won the previous World Cup. By full-time, I didn't want to associate myself with the France NT anymore because they lost to Senegal that day. I can't remember the scoreline - a quick Google check says it was 1-0 - but I distinctively remember the scorer taking out his jersey and keeping it on the ground while all the Senegal players circumambulated it in a ritualistic way.
To this day, I still that it is the best possible way to celebrate a goal as a team.
Moving on, France no longer interested me. I don't even remember watching their remaining matches. But it didn't matter because the most painful memory of that World Cup will stay with me until I die.
Fernando Hierro crying like a baby after Joaquin missed the penalty against South Korea.
Even before the Korean taker shot his penalty, Hierro was shattered. He knew it was over. I knew it was over.
A lot of memories have faded, but that moment still haunts me at times. Funny, I never returned to watch the replay of that shootout even now. The thought of watching it alone rips my heart apart, which is perhaps why I never dared to relive that moment via YouTube.
My attraction to Spain incepted from the colour of their jersey, it just caught my eye (don't blame me, I was just 9). My love for Spain, however, culminated when I watched Raul play in the red of Spain. I remembered him from the Champions League final a few months ago.
His smile just calmed me down and made me feel like everything is right in the world and that Spain are in safe hands with him on the field.
But that day - that fateful day against South Korea - he wasn't there. My 9-year-old heart knew no peace after realising that he was not going to play. Looking back at it now, Spain may have won the match if he was on the pitch.
2006 came and went, Zidane masterclass against Spain made me hate football. I remember lighting a candle in the prayer room when Spain were awarded a penalty. I didn't wait for it to be taken, I just lighted up the candle and came back to the TV room to see that David Villa had scored to take the Furia Roja one-nil up.
But to no avail.
When Spain bowed out of the World Cup in 2006, I had accepted it as fact that the football nation that I loved would never win a World Cup in my lifetime.
They then won the Euro 2008 and I was happy, but it was not the World Cup. My fear was still deeply rooted within my psyche.
By 2010, the Spanish national team were the best in the world. They were the absolute favourites to win the World Cup because of the presence of the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, Casillas - it was the golden generation and they were supposed to beat everyone.
But they didn't.
They lost to Switzerland and I once again succumbed to my fear.
What do you do when you fear unconditionally? I don't know about you, but I prayed. I prayed relentlessly, vehemently.
I made four equal pieces from A4 papers and wrote the Hanuman Chalisa on it and stapled it as a mini-Chalisa and read it incessantly.
Before every Spain game - and during the half-time and post-full-time - I read the Hanuman Chalisa repeatedly.
It was 2018 and I was 17-turning-18 - and yet, when it came to Spain, I was just that naive 9-year-old kid.
In the end, Spain won the World Cup. For a long time, I thought that it was maybe Lord Hanuman who made them win - a part of me perhaps still thinks that, and I am glad that it does because it connects me to the 9-year-old me and drenches me in nostalgia.
When Casillas lifted the trophy, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. But I remember that the anguish in my heart was no longer there, it had ceased to exist.
My fear was gone, it was proven pointless. What I thought was never possible happened right in front of my eyes. Even if Spain don't go on to win the World Cup anymore during my lifetime, I will die a happy Spain fan because I had witnessed what I dreamt of from the moment I watched Raul play in the beautiful red.
What started with a love for Raul became an obsession named Spain - La Furia Roja. And I am honoured that my heart beats for them and will continue to do so till I breathe - no matter what happens in this World Cup.
They won the Euro 2008 without Raul, but by then my love for the Spaniard had transcended beyond him alone – I am now a Spain fan because of Raul: the man who made me love football and Spain.