It is rare that Kolkata gets to host two major sporting events of such importance in the same week: the third Test match between India and England and an exhibition football match involving nine Brazilian and Colombian World Cuppers.

The Test that promised to bring India back to winning ways ended in a huge embarrassment for the home side, as the English thoroughly dominated it to win by seven wickets an hour into the fifth and final day.

So much focus was on the Eden Garden’s pitch. It ultimately proved to be a beauty, and an ideal Test wicket assisting bowlers and batsmen in equal measure.

Eden curator Prabir Mukherjee maintains that players should be well-equipped to play at the highest level, instead of blaming external factors like pitch. “Whatever maybe the condition of the pitch, it is same for both sides! Then why blame the wicket?” he questions.

Ravichandran Ashwin’s unbeaten 91 in India’s second innings ought to put many specialists batsmen in the Indian team in an awkward position for letting the team badly.

If the embarrassment born out of the Test match defeat is not sufficient, the city was almost brought to knees when the nine Brazilians and the Colombian World Cuppers, who arrived here to participate in an exhibition game, failed to appear on time, triggering rumours of threat of pulling out owing to alleged non-payment of promised fee to the visiting players.

After almost 75 minutes, the Brazilians — Dunga, Bebeto, Aldair, Edmilson, Zetti, Zinho, Juninho Paulista, Viola and Mauro Silva, along with four India-based compatriots, Beto, Barreto, Marcos Pereira and Hudson Lima — made the evening against IFA Masters, which comprised India’s super soccer stars of 80s, 90s and even in 2000s. The legends of 1994 and 2002 World Cup team members have lost the pace but not the touch, ball control, precision passing and pattern weaving style of play. The goals Bebeto and Dunga scored in the 3-1 victory were absolute beauties.

The loudest cheers were reserved for Rene Higuita, the Colombian goalkeeper, who came on under the IFA Masters’ goal post almost midway through the second half. The “scorpion kick” made famous by this eccentric, yet brilliant goal-tender, was the one everybody was looking forward to.

The Colombian obliged not once but twice, the first execution being the perfect of the two.

With the city’s name and prestige involved in such ventures, it is time for the State Government to allow only those with right credentials to organise such matches. Kolkatans have been blessed to see Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and his Argentina team mates, and now Brazilian legends and Higuita. Proper guidelines from the Indian Football Association and stricter procedures from the Government will safe guard both the interest of the paying public, the name of the State and the city.

(This article was published on December 9, 2012)
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