Why is ‘El Clasico’ big in India

Madrid: As Madrid builds itself up to a frenzy with the Santiago Bernebeu as the focus, out come the 175 rupee jerseys of red and blue or pure white in a subcontinent far, far away from the Spanish insanity. India gears up to one of its two most important European games (implying games played in Europe, not any intracontinental competitions) of their season. El Clasico. The Classic. Why does this game often have more stature than, say, the Champions League final?

There are, very simply put, two reasons. They are, in no particular order (so as to remain neutral), Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Unquestionably, the two best players in the world. The Neymars and the Hazards and the Goetzes are raw talents, but none are really close to their levels. Always the two finalists in the Ballon d`Or nominations (lets be honest, the third nominee never really has a chance). They are almost the sole reasons for sparking the Clasico fever in India.

Agreed there are fans of other perspectives in the game. There are fans of Mourinho and fans of Guardiola. There are fans of the `hot` David Villa and fans of the `handsome` Casillas. There are fans of the tiki-taka and attacking defenders and the fans of the sweeping, lightning breaks and compact defence. There are fans of the enormous and glittering histories of either side. Amazingly, there are even fans of the different kits!

There are all sorts of crazy justifications for supporting one side over the other in this game which usually decides which team will finish above the other in what many bill as Europe`s only two-team league.

But as we come right down to it, its is those two men up front, single handedly capable of changing the game. But why do they have this romantic image of infallibility, especially in this country? For those fans who are a little more knowledgeable, it might be because of their differently similar back stories.

A boy from a not so well-to-do Argentine family, born in Che Guevara`s birthplace, began by playing in a club coached by his father. His growth hormone deficiency threatened to stop his progress but with the poor Argentine economy, no club could afford his £500 injections. But a certain Spanish club which had been keeping tabs on the boy, who had natural talent like nobody they`d ever seen before, generously offered to pay his medical bills if he and his family moved to Spain. Their technical director flew out to meet him and discuss terms with him. His hastily arranged contract was written out and signed on a paper napkin because there was no other paper available and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the other side of the divide is the son of a cook and a gardener who started playing at a club where his father has a side job as a kit man. But here the story branches a bit, accepted into the wildly famous academy of one of the biggest clubs in Portugal, he worked tirelessly trying to perfect his game even at a tender age. But his racing heart condition might have forced him to give up on his career, if the club had not stepped in and sanctioned surgery. Bought by the second most successful club in England (at the time), he showcased his talent in possibly the grandest league of all. Talent enough to become a player worth £80 million and the Spanish league has never been quite the same! The romance, perhaps is in their rise.

But that only the fanatics with access to the information will know. For every other fanatic, its all about the style. The silky first touch. The step overs. The flick-ons oozing class. The goals. The assists. The free-kicks. The trophies. The mind-blowing statistics. The rippling muscles. The pretty faces. The Lionel Messi of the Blaugrana. Or the Cristiano Ronaldo of the Galacticos. In the end, its all about the bragging rights. Who is going to come out on top in yet another clash of the titans? Not long left to find out.


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