Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bengali in Beijing - In the company of legends

Have been a sports journalist for a decade now, but today was the day it all added up to something seriously significant. Years of doing stories, making pages, doing shows, the's all feeling worthwhile now. The day interactions and encounters with cricketers big and small were forgotten (possibly for good), and time was spent watching, interviewing and interacting with real stars. Real heroes. Real athletes. Athletes I have spoken about in superlatives more often than not.

It started with a hastily-planned trip to the men's football final - Argentina vs Nigeria.

Yeah, I was there - let's establish that more than ever before, because this blog might just make a lot of people very jealous.

The fire was burning in the cauldron - it will have to for a couple more days before it can be extinguished without fear of the wrath of Zeus and the rest hitting the world.

The man himself! Lionel Messi walks out of the tunnel. Is he looking at me perchance? Let me believe he is for the moment. Four electric bursts. A couple of assists. Good enough.

Juan Roman Riquelme. Interesting, isn't it, that Messi qualifies as an Under-23 player. So Argentina could afford to field the likes of Riquelme and Javier Mascherano. Riquelme is so bloody laidback. But the ball just doesn't leave his boots. Defenders and defensive midfielders can hassle him till kingdom come, but Riquelme will hold on to the ball.

In the stands, Bora Milutinovic. Here because he is a former China coach.

The best footballer in the world at the moment walks back to the changing room at the end of the match...after the whole team celebrated like crazy on the ground.

The man in the yellow shirt with the long hair waving to the crowds is Ronaldinho, in case you didn't recognise him. Brazil won bronze. The bugger just didn't turn my way. But the roar when he walked out was clear indication that he is still China's favourite 'European' footballer. Far ahead of Messi.

Now then, if you thought the day was over at the end of the football match (which Argentina won 1-0 by the way), you're way off, guys! Yep, had an interview with Yelena Isinbayeva lined up. Easily the greatest track and field athlete of her generation from either sex - stunning to boot. And Russian.

Just before the interview - she is an inch taller than me - three with the heels she was in.

Okay, Messi, Riquelme, Ronaldinho, Mascherano, Isinbayeva...and then Tyson Gay. Met him at the Omega show as well. The man who would be king - the man who's going back home without a single medal. They are all with Usain Bolt. Idiot didn't even qualify for the 100m final!

And then at Vijender's medal ceremony...he doesn't quite qualify as a legend - not by a long shot, but what the heck!

What a day! What an absolutely mindnumbing day. I'm a sports freak first and then a sports journalist. Today was all about that sports freak. And it was awesome while it lasted.