Salon frequenters: The team hotel has a sassy salon. The crew-cut Nigeriens just loitered around the salon. The North Koreans are strictly proscribed to enter salons or even move out of their rooms. They were mostly in the swimming pool. Brazilians and Spaniards though frequent often. The day before the opening match against Brazil, most of Spain’s players visited the salon. Language, of course, was a barrier, but the players googled images of the hairdos they wanted. The finickiest of them, apparently, was Spain’s goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez, who wouldn’t sit still for a second!. A couple of Brazilians had to be told to remove their headphones.
Kahn didn’t: The approach to the DY Patil Stadium has a new banner that covers a foot-over bridge. The giant poster that runs the width of the highway has the image of a diving Oliver Kahn – the same the Germans had set up on their roads when they hosted the 2006 World Cup. FYI: Kahn never played the Under-17 World Cup.
Shock therapy: The Paraguayans had devised a plan to allow players a chance to adjust to the eight-and-a-half hour time difference between India and home, before travelling for the World Cup. Reporting on the training pitches at 2:00 a.m. was one thing, but it was crucial for the acclimatization strategy to have the Paraguayan players remain awake till 4:00 p.m. But the support staff had a unique plan to ensure that the players didn’t doze off – screening movies. So the team would sit together in a hall, after their 4:00 am ‘lunch’, and watch horror movies. “They wanted us to get scared by watching the movies. If we were scared, we could not sleep,” says Antonio Galeano. Once in a while the team would also use the time to take lessons in Hindi — covering the ‘namastes’ to the ‘dhanyavaads. After the night’s horror flick they would ask each other: “tum theek ho?”
Compressed anthems: The FIFA’s 90-second National Anthem rule created an emotional moment before the start of the Chile versus England match at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. The FIFA limits National Anthems to 90 seconds to get the matches rolling quickly. But Chile’s anthem, Himno Nacional de Chile, is about 120 seconds longs. So even after the FIFA cut off the music after 90 seconds, the Chile colts sang along in chorus. The Brazilian fans — Brazil’s National Anthem is about four minutes long — started it during the 2014 World Cup. It was then picked by Chile and Colombia. Chile did it at Confederations Cup also this year.
Fan takes a dig on FB: The Local Organizing Committee has come under a lot of flak for its mismanagement on the opening day. The security has been so tight that fans have not been allowed to carry anything except their mobile phones inside the stadium. Even coins have been confiscated. But there always some scope for humour. Ahead of Kolkata’s opening night, a spectator – Prasenjit Chakraborty – sarcastically asked them on their official Facebook page if he will be allowed to carry his ‘heart and kidney’ inside the stadium along with an umbrella and water mixed with salt and sugar. The organizers replied: “Heart and Kidney allowed. No umbrellas unfortunately. We would recommend just taking your salt/sugar water before entering the stadium perimeter Prasenjit. Enjoy the game….we’re hoping weather clears.” What’s football without some banter!
Mystery of moving tent: From the aisles littered with garbage, lack of drinking water to non-functional baggage scanners, plenty of issues had piled up for the organizers after the first match day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. However, one issue stood out in particular. For the convenience of the teams, a tent was pitched at one of the training grounds. It was there till Friday but the following day, it was placed under a giant tree near one of the entry gates. How the giant tent moved from one place to another overnight remained a mystery to many, especially the US team, for whom the volunteers arranged another makeshift one. It later emerged that the security personnel had done that to protect themselves from the harsh sun on Friday, when they were deployed as a part of the elaborate security for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.