I remember quite a few things about the 2002 World Cup, the first to be held on Asian soil. And fittingly Japan was one of the nations that co-hosted the tournament along with South Korea. Shock of the tournament was defending champions France losing in the opening match to Senegal. Yes….to Senegal! Even more shocking they were eliminated at the group stage itself as they drew their next game against Uruguay and then lost to Denmark with the dubious dishonour of being chucked out of the world cup without even scoring a single goal!
Argentina too failed to move past the group stage while Irish legend Roy Keane was sent home well before the tournament started after he had a public quarrel with manager Mick McCarthy. Germany thrashed Saudi Arabia 8-0 while Spain & Brazil impressed early on by winning all their 3 games in the group stages. The two co-hosts would qualify to the next stage bringing pride & joy to their respective fans. Senegal would be a big surprise of the tournament beating Sweden in the round of 16 to make it to the quarter-finals. Turkey was another, beating Japan in the round of 16 and then ending fellow surprise package Senagal’s run in the quaters. South Korea were the biggest surprise beating Italy 2-1 in sudden death extra time! They would go on to beat Spain but their impressive Cinderella run came to a halt when they were beaten 0-1 by Germany in the semi-finals. The Koreans finished 4th as the lost the 3rd place match to Turkey.
The final saw Brazil win 2-0 over Germany – a match I watched in Trivandrum with a cousin who had traveled with me while we were staying at another cousin’s house along with some of the latter’s friends. We had whiskey, porottas and lamb curry with goat brains and fried eggs! But what I most remember of this particular World cup was the going to Calicut early in the morning with another cousin and our uncle to attend yet another uncle’s housewarming. On the way we pass through Malappuram as well and the entire district had football & world cup decorations, hoardings & posters all over the streets as well as effigies of famous players! Flags of Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Spain were all over the place as well. The same thing could be seen in the city of Calicut as well. After lunch at my uncle’s house a huge gathering of older folks – men & women in their 60s & 70s watched the Brazil vs England quarterfinal match and they were very knowledgeable about the game & players as well. That was a huge & pleasant surprise for me and my cousin as we don’t get to see that in the rest of the state.
Also that same world cup, I was watching a lot of games at my uncle’s house – just 2 houses next to where I lived back then – and my grandmother would join us in the afternoon and evenings to sit with us as we watched some of the matches. She was on medication (as well as being unwell she had also just lost a son less than a year ago) and liked sitting with us. It was fun and we would joke with her just to keep her in high spirits. That is a cherished memory that I am unlikely to ever forget.