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The Jabulani Jamborees

There is a battle of sweat,grit and violent jersey-tugging on between the defensive Mexico and the resurgent Uruguay at the Rustenburg stadium.

There is a battle of sweat,grit and violent jersey-tugging on between the defensive Mexico and the resurgent Uruguay at the Rustenburg stadium. Meanwhile,at Delhi’s Connaught Place,a bunch of football-crazy Mexicans is lamenting Andres Guardado’s shot hitting the crossbar,the Ambassador Jaime Nualart is cheering a spinning Jabulani,others in green-and-red jerseys and flags draped over their shoulders are thumping for Francisco Rodriguez and groaning at the Luis Suarez header. The restaurant Sancho’s is a mini Mexican cheer zone these days where they taste FIFA platters,endless beer buckets and,on Tuesday night,some heartbreak as Uruguay beat Mexico 1-0. But they will be back — when Mexico plays Argentina in Round 2.

The FIFA fever has the Capital’s expatriate community out in droves for a collective celebration of the 90-minute madness. “Football creates the maximum drama,” chuckles Victor Murguia Mancilla,the Mexican executive chef at Sancho’s. The inaugural match between Mexico and the host South Africa on June 11 saw a pack of 130 Spanish-speaking people (from Ecuador,Colombia,Venezuela but mostly from Mexico) throng the restaurant. “Around 60 per cent of the crowd was Mexican,” says Mancilla. On Tuesday,a group of 30 Mexican diplomats was in attendance for the match. “It is fiesta time in Mexico right now but it has been a peculiar experience in India because although everyone is a cricket fan here there are many Indians watching football,” says Nualart. And just a few tables away,a couple of Venezuelan diplomats enjoying their drinks hoped that Mexico would win. “In today’s match we want Mexico to win,” says the Venezuelan Jorge Ortez.

Whenever Brazil plays,a group of over 40 Brazilians congregate to cheer their boys. They were at the restaurant Ai for the first match against North Korea. “North Korea is not a strong team and we did not expect Brazil to fair so poorly against Korea,” says Luis Barbieri,a Brazilian businessman. “Watching football is a religious activity for us. They are some of us who prefer watching silently while others keep commenting on different aspects of the game — from a player’s shot to a referee’s call,” he says. Come this Friday,and the group will be at Q’BA resto-bar at Chanakyapuri to watch the heavyweight clash of Brazil and Portugal,Kaka vs Cristiano.

Meanwhile,the French have lost the will to say FIFA. Alexandre Clerin,a redhead French national who runs D4delhi,an expat service company,was part of the 60-strong group that watched the French misfortune unfold on Tuesday. “It was quite sad,” says Clerin,about Les Bleus being knocked out of the tournament. Their bastion has been Baci,the trendy resto-bar in Sunder Nagar. Peter D’ascoli,a New Yorker settled in Delhi,has found a reason to laugh,“So far,I was part of the French contingent cheering Thierry Henry’s men but after the ouster I am going to root for USA. We have been playing fairly well.”

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Nuno De Sousa,the Portuguese assistant manager at The Aman,does not like to watch his World Cup matches alone. “Since the Portuguese community in Delhi is very small,I wanted everybody to be under one roof and cheering our team. And there is nothing bigger than the World Cup,” says Sousa,who messaged the Portuguese ambassador and a few other compatriots to catch every Portugal match at The Tapas Lounge. So on June 15,around 18 Portuguese,including some from the diplomatic community,trooped in to catch live the goalless draw with Cote d’Ivorie on big plasma screens. Dressed in team jerseys,under a Portuguese flag fluttering from the ceiling,the group shouted “golo” (Portuguese for goal) each time their team scored a goal (there were seven) against North Korea. “It is about having fun together. Since we are away from home,we want to enjoy the matches with our few friends here,” says Sousa. The group has already got a confirmation of 25 guests for the match against Brazil on Friday. “It would be amazing if we defeat Brazil and trounce Spain in the finals,” laughs Sousa. It is the Jabulani madness.

First published on: 24-06-2010 at 01:52:15 am
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