Mihajlovic and the purpose of life

Imagine you’ve been diagnosed with a deadly disease. What would you do? How would you like to spend your time? Frankly, I don’t know. I have never given this a thought. But I do know that I would not want to spend it working a full-time job. The job that I have.

Sinisa Mihajlovic, an ex-Serbian footballer and a Serie A legend died yesterday (16th December 2022) following complications of leukaemia. Almost 3.5 years back he first announced that he had this disease. At that time, he was the manager of Bologna FC. He continued to manage them even after being ill for almost 3 years. This is something that I have failed to wrap my head around. This act no doubt portrays his character and professionalism. Still, I fail to comprehend why anyone who probably has nothing to achieve particularly from a job in a familiar domain, will continue to do it even in a situation like this. More than the physical pain, I have so many questions about the psychological part.

One reason why someone would continue to do what they have been doing even in this situation is simple. You know you will come around very soon. You know you’re far stronger than the disease that is engulfing you. You will eventually beat it and come out with flying colours. The other reason is more abstract.

After a certain point, one should find the purpose of their life. This purpose, of course, will change over time. Your purpose at 25 might not be the same as when you’re 40 or when you were 18. Many people in the industry take breaks from what they are currently doing to find this purpose. A break for a month, 3 months or even a year. And then there are many who don’t tie the purpose of their lives with the job they’re doing. They have other priorities. The sense of fulfilment comes from there.

If someone truly finds a purpose, taking the steps in life becomes really easy. I really don’t know what governed Sinisa. But, I do know, the football world lost a top-class professional. Ciao, Sinisa.

Leaving with some of his best goals in Serie A.

The Man. The Myth. The Mané.

Whenever I come across the name Sadio Mane, his pensive smile comes to my mind. Followed by his first goal in LFC colours. Mane anticipated a ball from the midfield, got past two Arsenal defenders before galvanizing the whole Emirates stadium. That goal had everything: pace, power, and precision. But for me, the goal and the official arrival of Mane signaled something else. It was the beginning of something. It was the beginning of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Mane’s beauty vs Arsenal, 2016.

Over the course of time, Sadio would become a fan favourite and eventually an Anfield legend. Mo Salah’s arrival in the following season would mean a redistribution of goals but Mane never failed to perform.

Sadio Mane’s numbers for The Reds are staggering, to say the least. Liverpool have never lost when Sadio has scored in Anfield. That is 56 games. He has found the back of the net in PL (for both LFC and Southampton) 111 times. That is 9 less than Steven Gerrard and 7 more than Didier Drogba. He even won the golden boot in 18-19 when LFC came 1 point short of the title (just like this 21-22 season).

Even after all this stat, Sadio meant something different. He was the start of something beautiful. He was the beginning of the Klopp era. Even the Arsenal match that I have posted above, that was the “Heavymetal” Klopp football. Liverpool would go up 4-1 with that Mane’s goal but bottle the lead to end the game 4-3.

Liverpool had Salah with him, one of the greatest goalscorers of this generation. But even when Salah failed to provide the relief, the Red faithful would seek a helping hand from the Senegalese international. The UCL final of 2018. The last-minute goal vs Aston Villa in 2019. Or even the late winner vs Everton in 2016 (without Salah). The list is just endless when Mane rose to the occasion.

His departure is not merely the departure of a world-class footballer but it is also a new beginning, just like his arrival was. It is the beginning of the end. The end of the core that Klopp had built in his initial years. The bunch that was instrumental in winning the CL and PL (and every other trophy). Origi and Gini have already left. Next year Firmino is leaving for sure. Salah’s situation is also dicey. It will be interesting to see how Klopp rebuilds his side as he will be here for 4 more years. One thing is for sure though, he won’t have another Sadio Mane.

Like Father, Like Son

I have been told by many relatives that I have a striking resemblance to my father. But lately, I have noticed that I have picked up a habit that my father had picked up in his mid-30s. This has been happening totally voluntarily.

My Father is a die-hard East Bengal (EB) fan. He used to go to all the home games in the Salt Lake Stadium. There have been seasons where he hadn’t missed a single home game of EB in the Yuva Bharati Stadium. But suddenly, around 2003-2004, he stopped going to the stadium. It stopped completely. And he never went back until the 2018 Kolkata League Derby when his favorite Subhas Bhowmick was back at the club (ironically, that was the last time Subhas Bhowmick would coach the Red and the Golds). He even started following Chelsea massively when Jose Mourinho was at the club, and he followed them up until the Don Carlo era. Still, I have noticed that over the years his interest has declined. The work pressure increased and the passion for football decreased simultaneously.

Now this disinterest in the game is something that I have been feeling for a year or two. Specially when it comes to European Football. Previously, I would stay awake up until 4 AM. I would watch the game, read the press comments after that, and fight with others about the match result on WhatsApp. Nowadays, I skip late-night matches like anything. I am more than happy to watch the extended highlights the next morning while having my morning coffee. And this has further increased since I moved to Bangalore. The thought of being grumpy while working due to less sleep puts me to sleep very easily. Since moving to Bangalore, I have watched very few matches live late-night: Liverpool-Inter, Italy-Macedonia, Milan Derby, Inter-Juve final, etc. I have even skipped the FA Cup final because I had TCS10k the next morning.

I simply watch a match and move on with my life. I used to think Football is life. Nowadays, there are many things that have far more importance than Football. The only constant in football has been East Bengal FC. Even if I am missing a match due to some work, I still keep looking at the notification bar for updates. This again has a similarity with the way my father would receive the match updates.

Even though he had stopped going to stadiums, he would still watch and follow EB’s matches closely. When he would be at the work, I would call him at regular intervals to give him the updates of a match, I would work like an archaic Fotmob or OneFootball app on which I rely for updates. The work and circumstances might have (and had) subdued the passion, but it hasn’t (and hadn’t) destroyed it completely. The reason for that, I feel is simple. This is the club I started supporting because of my father (and my grandfather and my uncle). I didn’t pick East Bengal. East Bengal picked me. And the affection for the color, crest, and club will probably be there for a long time. Just like it is still there with my father in a minimal fashion. Like father, like Son.

Remembering the voice of Indian Football

Whenever I hear the name Novy Kapadia, two words always come to my mind: knowledge and excitement. That’s what he brought to the table, day after day, decade after decade. Anyone from our generation or the generation(s) before that, who grew up watching Indian Football, would associate his voice with it. Over the years, Indian football lacked many things. Be it world-class infra, academies, or at times even the spectators. But it always had its voice. It had the Novy Kapadia. He could bring joy and excitement to even the dullest of matches.

Another distinctive feature of his commentary was how well versed he used to be with everything, even the nicknames of the players. We would often hear him addressing Subrata Bhattacharya as ‘Bablu Bhattacharya’ or Samaresh Chowdhury as ‘Pintu Chowdhury’. He could go on about the historical events surrounding a club or a tournament without even looking at the books or the notes.

I got the news of his passing while I was in the middle of my evening walk yesterday. And suddenly something struck me. Everyone who has come across him has always said how humble and a great person he was. But during the last few months, he was very lonely, sick, and bedridden. He even expressed his regrets of not getting married and starting a family while he had the chance. The man, who has entertained millions for the last 30+ years through his enthralling voice, didn’t have an ear to talk to during his last few days. Agonizing.

Rest easy there, Novy. You are immortal.

The captain of Captains

Here comes the man, the Captain of Captains
He’s from Argentina, Javier Zanetti is his name
The glorious days of Treble or the goal vs Roma
He was the El Capitano, Inter’s Supernova
Blocking Lionel Messi or running down the wings
Whenever he enters, the whole Curva Nord sings
Vice President of Inter, always had the noble intuitions
His Pupi Foundation has served many millions
860 appearances, 16 trophies in total
The number 4 of Inter will always stay immortal