After incessant threats from Media Cell, I have finally gotten down to writing something for the K Blog. I guess everyone knows that French cuisine is out of the world (some personal disagreement) and that French women are beautiful (no disagreements at all!!) but probably unknown is the fact that France boasts of the greatest sport lovers in the world. They hosted what is easily the best rugby world cup ever with matches like even Tonga vs. America filled with beer drinking French supporters dressed in costumes ranging from Asterix & Obelix to George Bush. Here is a rundown on my encounters with sports in Europe.
Venue: Parc De Princes
Match: PSG vs Bordeaux
It was my first soccer match and I landed up couple of hours early with a lot of expectation, and I wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the blessed souls in London which has ten clubs in the EPL, PSG is the only club in Paris and not surprisingly it is very well supported. The crowds had gathered early and were waiting patiently for the gates to be opened. I was wandering around after splurging 15 Euros on a PSG scarf, when I heard loud hooting and booing. I realized it was the away team supporters arriving completely cordoned with police protection. As a practice the away crowd assembles far away from the stadium and is escorted into a specific area in the stadium allocated to them. Though the PSG team boasted of stars like Rothen and Pauleta and had great crowd support but the away team walked away easy winners by a 2 goal margin. What was fascinating was how a neutral like me shouted my heart out rooting for PSG as if I was a lifelong fan. I guess that’s what soccer can do to you.
Venue: San Siro
Match: InterMilan vs Genoa
As any soccer fan would tell you, San Siro is one of the greatest sporting arenas in the world. Home to two famous clubs and a rich tradition of more than a century, it was a must see during our stop over at Milan. My enthusiasm rubbed off on our dear topper Venkat and Nakul (both of whom couldn’t spell soccer before ;) ) and the trio marched into the San Siro to watch Figo, Crespo and company. After watching the Paris crowd root for a losing cause, we were hoping for a home team win. And win they did! With style! - Knocking four past a brave Genova side. Figo was good but Estabian Cambiossa was brilliant. I had my doubts about central midfielders being hyped too much, but it was a scintillating performance from the Argentine veteran. By the end of the match Venky professed eternal support to Inter Milan and came out only after he had rendered the Nerrazuri song all by himself.
Venue: Bercy Indoor Stadium
Match: Paris Masters Semis and Finals
After buying tickets for the semis and finals of the Paris Masters, I was confident that I would be able to catch Federer and Nadal in action. But alas, another Argentine who goes by the name of David Nalbandian decided to play the tennis of his life at the most inappropriate time. He got past Federer in straight sets in the fourth round and left me cursing. With a heavy heart I landed up at the indoor stadium to catch up on the Nadal v Baghdatis match. After looking around unsuccessfully for Baghdatis’s girlfriend, I settled for the next best option - watching the match. Nadal did what he does best- make others make mistakes and pulled off another comeback victory. The other semifinal was a damp squib in terms of competitiveness as Nalbandian blasted past Gasquet in straight sets leaving the French crowd high and dry.
And in the finals Nalbandian took his game to a sublime level. The crowd was left gasping as he imperiously dumped Nadal for a 6-4, 6-0 victory. Federer has to wait another day; I am a Nalbandian fan for now! There’s something with these Argentines-they seem to be everywhere!!!
I finished off my sporting trip with a visit to the Nou camp (stadium of Barcelona) and Santiago Bernabau in Madrid. I also visited the Roland Garros. There is still so much to write about these arenas that will follow in another post. So all sports maniacs in PGP 11 - if you are looking for reasons to come on a student exchange program - look no further………