I was never a brilliant student in school. My education masterplans always consisted of last-minute studying the night before final exams and a sudden interest in all matters religious, in the vain hope that the universe would devise a way to make me score just enough. But as I was to discover, football made me abandon even these hastily devised methods.
2005 — the second year of college, the night before a history exam. But more importantly, the night of the second leg of the Liverpool-Juventus Champions League quarter-final. Carrying a 2-1 win at Anfield from the previous week to Italy, I was on tenterhooks, wearing that spaced-out look all day, the kind I get whenever attempts are made to discuss non-football type things with me when there are such pressing matters at hand. So under the insistence to my mother that I would have to study all night in my self-designated study room (which coincidentally had the television), I settled down to watch the
match, with my book opened in front of me to make the scene look authentic in case of a sudden parental check. Everyone at home slept off and I settled down to my intense study — of the television
screen. Every free-kick, every corner, every minute of every second causing me to question why I put myself through this torture every time and WHY it never seemed to get easier. Anyway, such thoughts were fleeting as I was brought back to the moment by one of many close calls. But then, in that state of mind, even a Liverpool throw-in scrappily intercepted by a Bianconeri all the way on the other side
was, in my mind, the beginning of a certain goal for the opposition and the end of my dream. I survived, though, and so did my club. The semi-finals now.
Pure happiness and immense relief. I had thought i’ll put in an hour or two at the book after the match but the match was all I could think about so I gave up and went to sleep. The next day, in the examination room. Me with a very unfamiliar looking question paper in front of me, wondering what the hell I was supposed to make of it. The invigilator or anybody else watching me would’ve been under the mistaken impression judging by my joyful smile that I knew exactly what to write down, but unknown to them, I was of course thinking about the match. I wrote down a few things half-heartedly, whatever I could summon from my seive-like brain, but as the results were to show a month later, it wasn’t enough. I failed and I would have to give the paper again the followng year. I probably did panic momentarily then, but later as I thought about it, exams would come and go, but that campaign ended with the Champions League trophy coming home to us. Not a yearly occurence by far, and one I was
happy to make a sacrifice for. In the characteristic inflated self-importance of football fanatics given to such excesses, I was adamant I had played my part.
And another thing… In the run-up to the match, a lot was written about how the past was on our side, listing a number of coincidences the last time the trophy was won by the Reds — Wales winning Rugby’s Grand Slam, the death of the Pope, Prince Charles getting married. How incredible was it that it really happened? While skimming my finals marksheet which came out two weeks after 25.5.2005, I started laughing just thinking about how I may have failed history, but history DEFINITELY didn’t fail me.
Three words: Totally worth it!
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