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Class in session
As soon as the Brazilian players reached the Maharajas College Stadium, for the two-hour practice session, coach Carlos Amadeu ordered them to converge into a huddle at the half-line. For the next 45 minutes they didn’t budge from the respective spots, as the coach went on lecturing. No one else talked, no one else wavered. Even the buzz of the metro didn’t affect them. It was strange because such talks generally happen in the board room. It must have been difficult too, as mosquitoes (Kochi is notorious for it after twilight) formed a halo around most of them. The coach was advising against complacency. “He was telling us to keep ourselves grounded and stay focused on this match, rather than thinking too far ahead. These kind of session happen before important matches,” informed midfielder Alan. Maybe, the ground belongs to the oldest college in the city that the coach was in a preachy mood.
Riling ’em up
It was in a hotel conference room in Kolkata that the real hurt simmered through in the New Caledonia camp. The tiny overseas French territory seemed to be playing for fun in this World Cup. But the coaches were hurt, a day before Japan’s game. David Baltase, assistant coach, would say, “We take seven goals against France, and the next day you go to the hairdresser to color, and then we take five against Honduras. Three players from Honduras suffered from cramps, two went out on a stretcher. Guys, oh, what are you doing? the smallest nation in the world, and we walk? ” A television network has been shadowing the team for seven months for a documentary, and it’s they who share the hotel story – there has been great interest back home as it’s football that has given this country an identity ahead of that referendum: anthem plays, flag waves at international event.
A picture with ‘AK’ ?
While Bollywood movies have made a massive impact in West Africa over the years, Nigerian cinema still reigns in most countries including in Niger. Hausa movies are said to be blockbusters across the border. But there are enough players in the Niger team who have been bitten by the Bollywood bug. To the extent that they’re looking forward eagerly to their trip to Mumbai for the round of 16 match against Ghana. They also have a specific request: a photograph with their favourite star, Akshay Kumar. Their favourite song: “chinta ta ta chita chita” from Rowdy Rathore.
Mexico travel heavy
The Mexican team created a record of sorts even before they made their first trip to Fatorda. They landed in Goa on Sunday and it’s learnt with 125 pieces of baggage, the most for any team so far traveling here. Brazil, who have three official baggage handlers, are learnt to have landed in Goa with 113 bags and it took a lot of logistical manoeuvring to ensure that they all fit into the luggage truck. And it wasn’t surprising to hear the volunteers fretting about having to fit in an additional 12 bags.