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World Cup Sid reports from South Africa

Last updated on: June 25, 2010 12:12 IST

Image: Siddhantha Pinto with local Indians in Durban
Photographs: Siddhanta Pinto Siddhanta Pinto in South Africa

World Cup Sid --'s man in South Africa, Siddhanta Pinto -- shares his experiences and the many moods of the Rainbow Nation at the football World Cup.

Inhale. Exhale. I shut my eyes, but my head is still in a whirl. This is literally the first quiet peaceful moment I've had in days. There is an overwhelming amount of emotion, information, a multitude of experiences, lots of logistical challenges and duties to fulfil that I need to deal with.

I'm sitting with my feet up in a quaint little home of the Ramphals -- in an Indian neighbourhood called Malabar in Port Elizabeth. These Indians make me feel at home.

They look Indian, they cook Indian, they are warm like Indians, they watch Indian television serials, and their homes look Indian. Yet, they've never been to India, and if you heard them talk, you'd never be able to tell.

A 25-minute drive away from downtown, Malabar is far, in a sense, from the action and activity of a town which is anyway renowned for its slow pace. And yet for some strange reason I am happy and relieved. After a hard long day finding my way around, I need this time to collect my thoughts and plan the 'hectic' days ahead, as the locals often say.

Video: World Cup Sid arrives in Soccer Country

Photographs: Siddhanta Pinto

I am no longer a football fan virgin

Image: The Indian homes in Durban with their distinct paint colours to demarcate ownership even though they share the same wall, and hindu prayer flags. A puja is held every year after which these flags are hoisted and flutter away to spread good karma and prayers, much like my friends in the himalayas

My eyes are constantly drawn up from my laptop screen at the intense game between Japan and Denmark. Japan lead 2-0. And I am immediately struck by an irony. If I were sitting at home in Mumbai, I'd be uptodate with the latest scores, standings, statistics from the World Cup.

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I have been over the years, during the World Cups, sitting in front of a variety of television sets with one aim -- to not miss a second of the action. Now here I am, in dreamland, in the middle of the biggest sporting event we earthlings have, and I don't have a clue about what is going on. Once you are in the middle of it, somehow details do not matter. What matters is that you take anything and everything that comes your way and experience it, and boy, there is enough of that. There is a very strong sense that something special is going on in my life. My eyes are wider than normal, and so is my smile.

There is a second very strong emotion that crops up as I watch the television -- about how watching the world cup on television and watching it as one of the football Gods' chosen few WITHIN the stadium are like watching Monica Belucci on screen in Malena, and actually being with that goddess.

All right, so you get the idea. They are two entirely different worlds. I am no longer a football fan virgin, and now I'm hooked. I am also angry with television production houses and sports channels, there has GOT to be a better way of capturing the emotion and atmosphere and the sense of space. I have a few ideas of my own, and am willing to sell them. It will revolutionise football watching, or for that matter all sports watching on TV. US $10 million is my price. (Will that cover the cost of stadium tickets I plan to buy for the rest of my life?)

Yes, THIS was it!

Image: Limited vocabulary leads to free hugs

My entire world cup experience is about people. I didn't think I'd say that. People that I've met, people I've seen, and even people that I miss. It is true that I have the world with me, that I truly feel one with the thousands of travelling fans, with the kind and very special people who have hosted me, but on that highly charged, and slightly chilly, June 22nd night I felt lonely.

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With every step towards the Moses Mabhida stadium the emotions intensified: first from the resplendent fan parks on the beach front of Durban -- I walked from one end called Tropicana beach to the other called Suncoast -- to the moment I got a glimpse of the stadium behind the suncoast casino, to the moment all cars were stopped and we had to make it on foot to the stadium from then on, to the entrance where my ticket was torn and I underwent the security check, to the many steps that took you higher and the walk to the correct entrance; there was something definitely going on within me.

My eyes were welling up, my jaw was twitching, and I was walking all weird with a lack of coordination. And then I climbed the final few steps and whooooshhh. I don't know what it was, believe me there was nothing going on -- just a lot of vuvuzelas blaring, and people getting to their seats, bunches of fans gearing up to perform -- but something happened when I saw that beautifully lit, perfectly manicured green patch.

All I could manage was to shut my eyes and cry. Like a baby. Like without a care in the world.

This, yes Sid, THIS was it!

Cooperage looks bigger than Moses Mabhida stadium

Image: Wide shot of the stadium in Durban. In person the ground looked surprisingly small. My Cooperage back home would be slightly bigger than this one

I'd open my eyes through the tears for milliseconds at a time and grab a mighty eyeful, like those massive gulps of naryal paani after a 90-minute game of football, and shut them again -- it was too much to take all at once.

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The neat sidelines, the immaculate playing surface, the goals which sparkled through this already brightly lit spectacle.

And from all the billions of people around the world, looking at that same green patch, from everyone who's moved me and affected my life, I wanted to have just one person by my side. My father. I wouldn't have said a word to him, but I wanted him there.

My mind raced through my footballing life, and at the very beginning I remember him waking me up every morning of my summer vacations at 6 am, trying to convince me to eat raw channa and jaggery, and taking me on his scooter to the Cooperage ground in Mumbai for training.

That's what my summer holidays were about -- every morning -- for six to seven years. He'd be watching by the sidelines on some days, I once remember him taking a tumble trying to kick the ball back to us kids when his foot got stuck in the goal net, and then we'd ride back home -- him telling me how I should kick with BOTH my feet. That was most important to him.

People are making this experience a special one

Image: Siddhanta Pinto with South Korean fans

Today I kick with both feet pretty damn well and so to be there alone in Moses Mabhida that night, while he was eating his channa, watching with his feet kicked up in Mumbai, felt wrong.

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Swiftly enough though, it gave way to EVERYTHING else in my life that was feeling so right. The crowd was exceptional, the match was entertaining with every movement, and I took tonnes of pictures and videos that I will share with you soon.

Through the pictures, you will understand the sequence of events of my trip, and meet the people that are making this experience such a special one. And to think this is just Day 3 of my 19-day adventure. Wow!

And with France, Italy, Serbia, Cameroon missing out, and Chile, Paraguay, Japan and Korea making it, I have a distinct sense of being present to witness this beautiful game being revolutionised.

And I mean being made more beautiful in a sense. The gene pool is growing, and therefore the offspring can only be healthier and prettier looking.