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FIFA World Cup Special: Mumbai girls have a whirl

You know you are in the midst of a FIFA World Cup, when you see people in polyester jerseys in the middle of Mumbai's merciless mercury, when football songs are played on Hindi radio stations and when there's a family feud because everyone supports different teams.

Saira (L) and Simran (R). Pic/Satyajit Desai
Saira (L) and Simran Shankardass (R). Pic/Satyajit Desai

Football has a different meaning for everyone in our family. For dad, it's the chance to bond with us over the sport that he grew up playing. For mum, it's early morning practice and groans over mud-caked gear. For us, it is our beloved sport that we've been playing for as long as we can remember.

We are especially excited about this year's tournament because over the years we have come to understand the game a lot better. We were first introduced to 'soccer' at 6, when we lived in the United States. Then we moved back to India, and were thrilled to find that 'football' was a sport offered to girls in Indian schools too.

(This was not the case a few years ago.) We are now in the 8th grade and have played on our school team at the interschool and district levels. It has been great, we've learned so much and made some great friends. We were lucky enough to go to a couple of Major League Soccer games in the USA.

It was exhilarating. Every play, every pass, every player was exciting. Today, as we watch television, we can only imagine how incredible it would be, to actually be in the stadium at a FIFA match, surrounded by cheering, football crazy fans. This time, we are of course, content with watching the game with our football crazy friends on a huge flat-screen TV. On the positive side? At least it is easier easy to get popcorn refills!

At home, we are all rooting for different teams, dad for Argentina, mum for whichever team David Beckham plays for (we might have forgotten to mention that he retired), and we both like Brazil. A lot of people think that this is Brazil's year, after all, they're on home turf, and Brazil isn't called O Pais do Futeball (The Country of Football) for nothing.

As Good as Goal

Rising voices, falling hopes, racing hearts, unparalleled anticipation and unwavering passion. Undoubtedly, the most momentous tourney in four years for football fans all over the world, the FIFA World Cup is upon us.

Anaya Jhaveri
Anaya Jhaveri

I remember attending my first football practice at the age of 9 at 6 am on the Karnataka Grounds at Cross Maidan for my school's football team. Thereafter, falling in love with the game, I attended practice everyday, six days a week, before school hours. When my coach asked me what position I would like to play, I rather naively said goalkeeper, though I did not know much about goalkeeping.

But this position stuck and now, I couldn't be happier. I have been playing as goalkeeper ever since. I began by representing my school at regular MSSA tournaments, DSO tournaments and the State's zonals. The thrill of winning almost every tournament we played was unparalleled.

I represented India at the Dana Cup in Denmark and the Gothia Cup in Sweden in 2011. I was also chosen as one of the five girls for the Queen Park Rangers (QPR) Football Club, London training camp held in India. Currently, I am training the 10 to 12 year-olds in football. Identifying one aspect of football that I love is close to impossible.

Simply playing the game is an exhilarating experience. The determination and pressure demanded by the game and the will to give my absolute heart and soul while playing, is an unmatched emotion. Watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup is inspirational and a learning experience.

Not merely because Brazil seems to be magical or that Argentina is tantalising fans with their formidable talent, but, simply because of the love and passion that is evident in every beating heart, heard above the roar at Brazil's stadiums and the volume of televisions in living rooms across the world.

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