With the group commitments of the World Cup over and the knockout stage starting Saturday, the football fever has really affected the sportspersons in Odisha. Some of them revealed about their favourite teams, players, passions and expectations in an interaction with Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra. Here is what they have to say…
Govind Poddar (Cricketer): I have not viewed all matches. But whenever I have got time I have taken keen interest and watched some of the games with rapt attention. My favourite teams are Brazil and Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo has so far been a revelation for me. He is my favourite player and I am very happy for his performance. England are also playing very well and they have the potential to go all the way and emerge champions. Another of my favourite player is Lionel Messi. But he and his team Argentina are struggling at the moment. But Messi alone should not be blamed. He is not getting the proper support from his teammates. I am very satisfied with the way Japan have performed. I just hope they will continue playing well and at least reach the quarters.
Payal Baral (Karateka): I was attending a training programme at Tehran during the league stages of the World Cup. I was pretty astonished to see the football craze there. Now I realise why Iran, in spite of crashing out of the tournament in the group stages, is being praised so lavishly. It is this craze that motivates the players to do well. Indian players, sports administrators and sports lovers should take lessons from the Iranian football fans. I would love India to evolve as a passionate football nation like them as it is the biggest game in the world.
Saina Salonika (Chess): I have not been able to watch all the matches because of my chess commitments and studies. But whenever I had time I watched some of the games on TV. I also have regular discussions on the World Cup with my friends in school. My favourite players are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But in this tournament I have been impressed by the performance of Hary Kane of England, because of his efforts they have emerged as dark horses. But my all time favourite is Ronaldo. I love him because of his dynamism on the field and his charity work off it. Among the teams Brazil are my favourites and I would love to see them win the title. I will watch all the games from the knockout stages.
Sunil Pradhan (Para badminton): I have watched all the matches of my favourite team, Brazil. I feel they are a very strong unit and top contenders for the title. Neymar and Philippe Coutinho are in great form. If they will continue in the same vein then it may be a cakewalk for Brazil. However I feel very sad for Germany as the defending champions have crashed out in the group stage itself. Football, at times, can be very cruel. The fans have to understand it.
Rutuparna Choudhury (Tennis): It’s a great delight to watch Asian teams like Japan, South Korea and Iran performing so well, a good trend for the globalisation of the game and India should take a leaf out of it. However I am upset as my favourite team and four times champions Germany have bowed out of the tournament early. It has certainly taken some sheen out of the World Cup. It has also been frustrating for Messi fans like me to see him struggling in the league stages. But I am sure that a great player like him will bounce back during the knock-out stages.