From the discomfort Zone: Colouring football

From the discomfort Zone: Colouring football

We knew football referees as serious, black-outfitted controllers, but World Cup 2014 referees are like colourfully dressed kindergarten students.

A German soccer team fan holds a mock World Cup trophy as he arrives for the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Ghanao on Saturday. (Source: AP)
A German soccer team fan holds a mock World Cup trophy as he arrives for the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Ghanao on Saturday. (Source: AP)

Brazil, Pele and football comprised the thrilling peaks of my childhood in football crazy Bengal. Gods were evoked in religious ceremonies for Pele to score World Cup goals. Pele played in four World Cup tournaments, thrice brought home the Cup for Brazil and became the greatest footballer of all time. Crowding around a news paper we’d noisily egg Pele and Brazil on. Even today, Bengalis behave like the Brazilian team belongs to us.

Catapulting myself to France in 1973, my excitement overflowed because for the first time in my life I would be watching the World Cup on TV in 1974. In Paris, outside my basement room in Cité Universitaire’s Greek House hostel was a black & white TV set in the common room. Watching TV was new and luxurious for me, the World Cup was a bonanza. I didn’t know French yet, would I understand? My intimidation dissolved when as I found myself backslapping Greek students, imitating their swear words Ai gamisou! Malakas! Disappointment: Pele was not playing. Discovery: Franz Beckenbauer carried away the 1974 trophy for Germany.

Colourful football: Digital technology has converted football entertainment from lack and white TV images to a plethora of colour. USA first introduced colour TVs in 1950, France and Germany in 1967. In France, the first channel TF1 remained B&W till 1975, so most people watched B&W TV until 1983. World Cup on B&W TV had no real charm like today’s colour. B&W prevented us from recognising the players’ exact jersey colours or different colour flags and ethnic paraphernalia that spectators brought. However, the B&W generation will always “own” Pele. Now high-definition colour TV allows us to watch the match like Pashas, from the comfort of the bed. We scrutinise every detail as football players work hard physically in 90 tension-filled, minutes of full-throttle activity.

We knew football referees as serious, black-outfitted controllers, but World Cup 2014 referees are like colourfully dressed kindergarten students. They carry headphone gadgets, blow whistles, twirl flags, whip up red and yellow cards that don’t look like punishment cards. FIFA may need to change the colour of punishment cards because amongst other colours, their seriousness is diminished. The referee sprays an aerosolised foamy substance that provides temporary visual aid on the green grass. He looks to be decorating for Christmas, but actually he’s demarcating for play after a foul, ensuring 9.1 meters mandatory separation during a free kick is kept. From a distance today’s virtual football generation can see the white foam so no player can cheat.


Actually the World Cup has become a creative canvas. Football boots were always black, today they are colourful. Players’ boot kicks look like powerful brush strokes on canvas. Even the ball has become multi-coloured, imitating society’s multi-coloured people and cultures. Player hairstyles, carved with design and colour, their body accessories are trend spots that millions are following. The stretcher carrying wounded players away from the field is orange.

The amazing entry of serious colour in football is making me flash back to my entry to the corporate management stage. I’d initially dress soberly in dark suits, a white shirt. One day a woman CEO in Paris remarked that my colourful business proposition does not match my corporate dress. Where was my creative distinction, how were they to instantly know I bring disruptive, leap-frogging solutions? Her words struck me hard. From the artist’s canvas I’d gone into the management arena to bring creativity for my clients’ growth. So the corporate look was actually quite fake for me.

I walked into a crazy garment store called Alainaxel in Paris Rive Gauche Boulevard St Germain-des-Près. My black suit startled the salesman but the shop of colourful men’s merchandise was thrilling for me. From 1980 I totally changed my dress style to off-patterned ties, colourful socks, shoes, even underwear. I’d frequent specialty stores in UK and Europe.

Colourful jackets were impossible to find so fit-to-order, Indian jacquard silk jackets completed my look. Now I was truthful to colour in my dress, mind and work. The corporate corridors at first received me in shock. Many distinguished creative persons were homosexual in Western society so those who didn’t know me even labelled me a fag!

Colour is embedded in the digital age, but not India’s tech industry brands that look like pharmaceutical branding. When I created Wipro’s vibrant rainbow flower, employees criticised saying it reminded them of the gay flag in San Francisco’s Castro Street. Chairman Azim Premji heard everyone, then said with a smile at an official function, “You may not like it, but you will never forget it.” Wipro is among the first IT companies to have a bold colourful identity aligned to the digi-tech industry.

Digital technology has brought huge, engrossing proximity to football spectators, while reducing effort and increasing comfort for judgment in the playground.  For players, physical struggle has increased. Digi-tech’s become a miserable digital trap to catch their slightest defect which is replayed, analysed and judged by millions worldwide, before facing FIFA decision consequences. Players could not even enjoy the Holland-Spain match where transvestites were revealing big silicon breasts from the stadium in Brazil.

Incredibly colourful World Cup football proves that colour has universal attraction. Actually B&W images are quite unnatural, everything’s colorful in the planet. This colour revolution, from stadium to field, makes it clear that tomorrow’s tilt is towards colour that gives us energy, peppers our imagination and fantasy. Digi-tech with colour is changing human behaviour, taking it to a socially connected platform that didn’t exist earlier. Colour has diametrically changed football from being military style to cheeky style.

My colour spirit and colourful clothes have remained consistent since 1980. Now vibrantly hued World Cup football players are entertaining us artistically and energetically. Society is ridding itself of boring monotony, there’s colour now in activities like sports, education, business, among others. Vive la couleur de la vie! (long live colour of life!)
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative

business strategy  consultant to top  management.

Reach him at