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His was one of the most anticipated arrivals at the Jawaharlal Nehru Fatorda stadium. His name was Abhinav and he came wielding a big snare pole and a grinny smile. Rushed through the security with cops instructed to usher him in as soon as he was spotted, the dog catcher was welcomed with a sigh of relief and a warm pat on his back.
The 12,329 that turned up could be screened in good time, first the stadium’s perimeter needed sanitising from the biscuit all-browns that have made the premises their home, and the pitch their occasional playground. Not that there had been an invasion when the teams had their walk-abouts, but the mere fear was enough for an SOS call to be put through to the Margao Municipality to send across their best doggie-tamer. Navi Mumbai had had an incident the previous day, and Goa wanted to avoid an encore.
It’ll be wrong to assume this happens only in India. There’s the Anfield cat, the Highbury squirrel and a chicken that interrupted a European’s Cup Winners Cup game apart from myriad mongrels. But Indian organisers — FIFA downwards, the stadium organisers and the security team were determined to not have a dog show up when the Germans played Costa Rica.
So Abhinav fetched up, with a control pole propped on his shoulder like a mace, received by the blue official shirts. He would then disappear into the burrows of the Fatorda and no dog would be seen thereafter. “They are there some times. We just didn’t want them on the pitch today,” said a stadium security man. Abhinav ‘Rufus’ had done his job for the day, guarding the hallowed turf of the fortnight where the four-footed may not spend their Goan siestas for a few days.