It was in the initial stages of the Fifa world cup tournament and we were enjoying it at one of the many beautifully decked up restaurants around panjim city. This particular place, like many others had a huge screen, and also lots of tiny flags of all the countries that had reached the 32 team stage. So there we sat in the midst of 32 different flags fluttering overhead, when wee decided to play the guessing game. Guess the country by the countries flag. Seems pretty simple , isn’t it. Well my general knowledge was going to take a serious ego bruising when I realised that I could manage just a hand full. Now there’s Switzerland, and that’s easy because they draw it on a few dairy cheese, a few chocolates, and duh! Swiss army knives! USA was a dead give away considering all the magazines have American models wearing their flag on their bags, shirts, bikinis, and tattoos. As we started to struggle after maybe 5 really easy ones, it was time to turn to google.
Wow, brazil has a cricket ball in their flag?! The blue sphere, with a white band looks suspiciously like the seamed cricket ball. Any self respecting cricket loving Indian would have mistaken the blue circle for a cricket ball, which turned out to be the depiction of the night sky above rio de jeniero with 27 stars in it! And the seam of the ‘cricket ball turned out to be containing the state motto “ordem e progresso” which is inspired by auguste comte’s motto “ love as a principle, and order as the basis, progress as the goal”. The flag in the restaurant was too small to incorporate all these details, and I still think it very much looks like a cricket ball, blasphemous as it may sound.
The next step was to identify and if possible memorise some of the key flags. With such a mindboggling set of colours and shapes we applied our scientific and analytical background to somehow decipher the mystery that is the flags of the playing countries. Here is how we did it.
1. Italy is green white and red vertical stripes, Italian flag with some emblem in the middle is mexico, and a horizontal Italian flag with some emblem in the middle is Iran.
2. Germany is black,red and yellow in horizontal lines, while the same colours in vertical lines is Belgium.
3. Netherlands is red white and blue horizontal lines, and a Netherlands flag with an emblem in the middle is Croatia. Russian flag has the same horizontal colours but in a different order, and the same colours as vertical lines, is france.
4. Columbia and equador have the same flag , except equador has an emblem.
There were many many more interesting permutations and combinations that we discovered like flags with stars, and flags with the colours white and blue…
We slowly realised that most countries are either vertical or horizontal depictions of one another,and some had emblems to distinguish themselves, if you thought each one was unique then think again. This years theme is #saynotoracism and really how can you be racist when you realise that Ivory coast and India have very similar flags. Ivory coast has vertical stripes of orange ,white and green without an emblem. So there; even if we aren’t in the final 32, we are represented in flag colours by republic of cote d’ivore a small country in west Africa.rather than divide us our flags unite us, the colours of our skin our used to discriminate and yet the colours of our flags have so many of the samecolours.
Years ago I used to believe that all our problems stemmed from our flag colours. Look at the more developed countries, such as United states of America, and the United kingdom, even Russia and Australia for that matter. They all have the magic colour combination of red, white and blue in their flag! That cannot be a mere coincidence, and I was of the firm belief that poverty, population, pollution and corruption were not the core problems of India but it was the flags on our colour. Ofcourse I was in school then, but the logic though simplistic was irrefutable in my mind. One wave of the magic wand with our newly coloured flag and we would be cured of all our maladies. Ofcourse now we know better. I also went through a phase of wishing for stars on the flag, but then stars do not guarantee peace and prosperity, Israel will teach you that.
Interestingly though the teams in the finals, do not have the magic combination of colours. Fast reflexes, strong legs and team work is what makes a football team great, it doesn’t matter if your country is a dot on the map, if half your country is below poverty level, or if it’s the first time that you are playing on an international level, it is skill and skill alone that has earned all the 32 teams a place in the sun.
I read some where that columbia as a country united because of their play in this world cup, and how the fractionated people of Columbia cheered in different languages as the country played on. I can only imagine a time when India does make it to the top 32 and we shall have cheers in almost 32 different regional languages.
No matter which team wins the FIFA world cup, Sports and football will definitely been the biggest winner. The lyrics of the world cup official song by Pit Bull and Jennifer Lopez sums it up…
And wave them side to side
Show the world where you're from
Show the world we are one