BY Aashay Khandekar
Cricketing neighbours—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka—getting knocked out of the World Cup race this year may have come as a disappointment for many a fan in the Indian subcontinent. It’s now certain that the cricket World Cup 2015 will not come to the northern hemisphere. However, the battle between the two neighbours in the southern hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand, will be keenly watched. More so by sport enthusiasts like SR Bhat and Puneet Bhat. India and cricket matter to them but sports in general matters more. They are proud collectors of official lapel pins of major sporting events.
They would be keenly watching the Australia-New Zealand final. Be it world cup cricket or football, the Bhat family had been celebrating since 1996. They have a collection of official lapel pins of world cups, football, cricket and other sports. The family’s collection of lapel pins of major sporting events stands at 900. Father and son have got their names registered in the Limca Book of World Records.
Continuing their 20-year tradition of collecting sport memorabilia, the duo have got the official World Cup 2015 trophy pin, Mascot Pin, 20 Cent Commemorative coin issued by Australia, Stamp sets of all 14 participating nations and two First Day covers of all teams in the World Cup 2015. They have the full set of 17 lapel pins of the previous world cup.
“I would have loved to cheer for India, but as India is out, I would support New Zealand,” says Bhat senior.
The passion for collection of pins began for the Bhat family in 1994, when SR Bhat travelled to the United States. “We usually bring back some souvenir when we return from abroad. My father was a bit wary of the fragile souvenirs like lamps and statues that may not withstand the rigours of rough handling at the customs. So he brought 20 lapel pins from various states in the US. He brought a casino machine lapel from Las Vegas and a Walt Disney lapel from California. In 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the first time he went to see an international sports event, he brought home lapels of all participating countries and the official ones designed by the International Olympic body,” says his son Puneet, who is a Senior Manager in a private firm.
Two years later, SR Bhat travelled to FIFA world cup 1998 in France and added a set of pins of all participating teams. Collection of ICC World Cup lapel pins began only in 2011. “Before 2011 world cup, ICC never issued official lapel pins. That year, they decided to create the pins, and didn’t distribute them equally. A thousand pins for each participating team were dispatched from England to the respective countries. Now, they were right because why will an Indian fan purchase a lapel pin of Bangladesh? But it caused a big problem for us. We then wrote to the authorities and asked them to send a set of 17 pins. They were puzzled,” says Bhat. While collecting the pins, Bhats faced many a hurdle. “If you order 17 pins and the customs guy opens it up on the airport and takes just one pin of his favourite team out, we lose our whole set. We received some setbacks like that. There have been times when no shop or agency was ready to do the shipping for us, because it involved no gain. They were interested in bulk merchandise,” Bhat says.
The Bhats have written to official sports bodies, mostly based in Geneva for lapel pins and got them too. “There are bodies like the Basketball Federation, Badminton Federation, Hockey Federation. These lapels are worn by governing body members of these organisations. They are not for sale. However, they obliged us and sent us official pins.” In football, starting with the World Cup in France (1998), Korea/Japan (2002), Germany (2006), South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014), they have all the pins in their collection.