First day first show in Qatar
When you send colleagues to cover an international event like the FIFA world cup, you want them to deliver to unreal expectations. So what if the distances are prohibitive, so what if public transport isn’t readily available, so what if things aren’t always in control, as editor, my job as it demand the stories. Without them how will the coverage work!
Going by this well established practice I asked Abhijit Deshmukh, one of our colleagues in Qatar, why is he not in the stadium 2 hours ahead of the start? We needed fan reactions from outside and Abhijit was the man to send it. And with Abhijit you always get more rather than less. If you need 2 stories, you get 20. And here he was on the opening day of the FIFA world cup not sending a single story. Something was amiss.
When I finally pinned him down, he said in a hushed tone. “I am still in the bus. The driver has lost the way. We can see the stadium but we can’t get to it.”
I asked him what he could see around him and he replied, “desert”. That’s all he was seeing. When I posted this in our work group, the banter started. Just like in Sonar Kella where Feluda, Topshe and Lalmohanbabu were stuck because of a tyre puncture with sand all around them, here was Abhijit Deshmukh missing out on some interesting opening day FIFA action.
One of our colleagues, Rohan Chowdhury, posted a camel meme from Sonar Kella. The message was clear. Abhijit should now try and get on a camel to get to the Al Bayt stadium. Each one of us were taking pot shots at Abhijit, not that he could do much about it. In those few minutes Doha had become Rajasthan and Abhijit our Lalmohanbabu in Qatar.
Work, in sum, was fun. Yes we were waiting for the stories but enjoying the build up as well. It was the FIFA world cup after all and for the next month, all the controversies notwithstanding, we will all watch the action unfold. While we read of the BBC stopping coverage of the opening ceremony and the rainbow armbands to be worn by the Dutch today in the match against Senegal, we are also excited about watching Messi and Ronaldo and Kane and Neymar. That’s what sport is. It is a microcosm of life. It is a platform to showcase issues of global importance and also one where the world turns a melting pot and enjoys some sublime action. So what if local fans had left the stadium post half time? We in India, miles away from qualifying for the world cup, were there in spirit. Will be for the next month. And while we will all raise our voice against the treatment meted out to construction workers, some of them from our own land, we will also put up Brazil and Argentina flags in our by lanes and turn Messi and Neymar supporters. One is not independent of the other. Rather, sport makes room for both. And that’s why it is what it is.
And yes Abhijit did reach the stadium eventually. We did get our stories. And no, he did not need a camel ride.