Eight years ago, if you can remember that far back, there was another World Cup in football (soccer to y’all North Americans). Another World Coup for advertising gimmicks and general all-out consumerism. I was cheering for Brazil – which self-respecting Indian was not? However, I was living in England at the time, and a friend – who happened to be Irish and studying French literature (a combination that was nearly as fascinating as his accent) – asked me to reconsider. It would transform politics in France, he said, to have a winning team whose core players were immigrant, Muslim and non-white. I cheered for France in those finals, and I did so this time too (once Brazil had been knocked out, of course). Though politics in France seems to have suffered far beyond French football in the last few years.
Zizou does weave magic. No doubt about it. He also head-butts with ferocity. No doubt about it; no excuse for it either. There might be explanations beyond the lack of excuses, though: the doubts are in the whys and the wherefores. Was it sledging – a continued stream of racist abuse? Till he breaks the silence, we won’t know for sure. But I hope he does tell us what happened. Icons can be human, but they have to speak up for their own human-ness and for the human-ness of others. It might make sports – and the rest of the world around it – a little more humane. And a little less racist.