Person of the Week: Own Goal

Sports

Person of the Week: Own Goal

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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very four years, the world’s finest footballers convene in a struggle for supremacy. The World Cup is all about who’s best – the best at making passes, blocking goals, and most importantly, scoring them. Argentina fans will say that it’s Messi, Portugal supporters will tout Ronaldo, and some oversmart idiot will say it’s Arjen Robben, even though Netherlands aren’t even playing this edition.

What nobody expected was that the group stages would throw up a dark horse, loyal to neither team nor nation, who would emerge as the leading goalscorer. Eclipsing the feats of living legends is impressive as hell, and warrants the honour of being named Person of the Week.

With five goals (and no teammates) we must anoint Own Goal as the week’s most entertaining personality. OG, as he likes to be known, has had the longest career of any player in this tournament, making his World Cup debut in the first-ever edition in 1930. When he scored six times in the ’98 edition, most thought that he had peaked. But now – two whole decades later – OG is back, and is only one goal short of equalling his best-ever tally in only the first week of the tournament.

Upsets like Croatia beating Argentina and Mexico defeating Germany are proof that the footballing world is going through a bizarro phase. It’s one of the most unpredictable World Cups in recent memory, and if you’re a fan of OG like me, also one of the most exciting. OG is the hero for every casual football fan who doesn’t know the difference between a sweeper and a full-back. We’re tuning in once every four years, only so that we’re not left out of the loop, expecting us to be up to date on latest transfer rumours or new prospects is just unfair.

It’s been 88 long years, and 20 World Cup campaigns of toiling in obscurity before OG could have his moment in the sun.

Cheering for OG doesn’t require an arcane understanding of the games myriad rules, or a nuanced understanding of sporting strategy. Cheering for OG is simply cheering for the ball finding the back of the net, irrespective of team loyalties. Every goal OG scores is a classic, triggering a rush of emotions that evoke a sense of tragedy, comedy, and drama at once. There is a satisfying schadenfreude to every new addition to his tally, proving to us that even professional sportsmen at the highest level are susceptible to the same stupid blunders as us. Meanwhile, OG continues his winning ways. To paraphrase Bollywood, “Goal concede kar ke score karne walo ko Baazigar kehte hain.”

There’s no attacking player at the World Cup right now who can hold a candle to OG’s prowess. Ronaldo, you say? OG has no teammates, so he can’t be accused of selfish play like the Portuguese captain. Perhaps you prefer Neymar, Kane, Messi, or any other grown man with a fondness for short shorts and ridiculous haircuts. Well, they might be big fish in small ponds who became prolific goalscorers in league football, but at World Cup level, none can match OG’s numbers.

It’s been 88 long years, and 20 World Cup campaigns of toiling in obscurity before OG could have his moment in the sun. OG’s success on football’s grandest stage is a heart-warming reminder that no matter how far you go in life, one mistake could bring it all crashing down. So put on your Brazil jersey and start cheering for Germany, because at this party, nobody knows which way the ball will go.

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