Udanta’s Shot Deflected Off Marti Crespi’s Achilles Before Curling In At The Far Post On Monday, And It Was A Crescendo From The Stands That Claimed The Assist…
This column thrives on unravelling moments you aren’t privy to. Anecdotes that take place miles away from any stand at the Fortress. And when things do happen with you around, we pray hard that you’ve completely missed it. But we’re biting the bullet on this one. It’s taken something special for us to succumb and we don’t feel bad about it all.
This isn’t about something we saw. This isn’t even about something we heard. It’s about something we felt. And it would be criminal to make it a footnote on this piece. Game night at the Fortress against Delhi Dynamos was a struggle and that’s putting it mildly. There were no illusions of it being otherwise in the dressing room before kick-off. Turns out even rondos hate Mondays.
But we’ll fast forward to Tuesday, when the boss stuck his head in the media room and asked for a word in his chamber. “Sit down. I’d like to talk about the 82nd minute last night.”
In chess, the pawn is oft branded the weakest of all the pieces by novices. There’s so many of them and their movement isn’t the most dynamic. When you want to kill and cherish the feat, you turn to the rook, the knight, the bishop. When you want to simply step forward, you flick the pawn. But in its helplessness, it is also the one that makes the first move, and essentially the difference.
The clock had struck eighty two minutes at the Fortress and the scoreline had remained unchanged. As Carles Cuadrat looked down into his black timepiece, he realised that it would take a moment of deliverance from any one of his men to ensure that his winning streak would remain intact when he shook hands with his opposite number at the full-time whistle.
In its relative silence, a voice in the West Block bellowed in a bid to charge his clan into a chorus of “Come on, BFC!” The numbers kept adding till the collective could be heard in the press box, at the concourse and you could hear it pretty much everywhere. Like pawns that had reached the eighth row, the Blues’ faithful screamed their lungs out, adding another man to fight with their boys on the pitch; the proverbial twelfth. Commentator Andy Paschalidis wasn’t going to let the moment pass off as regular frenzy. This wasn’t a filler, an interlude. “That’s the noise that will inspire you out in the middle.” Prophetic, at the least.
Meanwhile in his room, Cuadrat was weighing every word and you could tell he was making an effort to convey what he was thinking, as accurately as possible. “It’s usually the team that does things on the pitch to raise the noise in the stands. Last night they returned the favour. They won us Udanta’s free kick, they pushed Sunil to make that steal, Semboi to make that final pass and then got behind Udanta to score the goal that won us the game. Please make sure you find somewhere to convey this to the fans.”
Monday night was supposed to be Chhetri’s moment. The captain was turning out for the 150th time in a shirt he loves beyond compare. Surely, the skipper scoring the winner would be the perfect coronation. Or so we thought. But the plan was grander. His understudy – one who he loves, nurtures and protects – turned up with a tribute that went beyond a plaque, a commemorative patch on a shirt and reams of cloth that formed the special number in the West Block. Even on a night where Bengaluru were far from perfect, there was a faultless moment.
Eons ago, a Frenchman Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais went up against Alexander McDonnell in what is widely regarded as the first ‘unofficial’ World Chess Championship.
Bourdonnais went on to win the first, third, fourth and fifth matches, but in losing his third in six, Irishman McDonnell claimed that in real life, there was a lesser chance his King would die under the circumstances. There had been a call of ‘checkmate’, but with more white pawns on the board, McDonnell said about them what has been passed down the ages as “I would have never have lost with those many men who would give their lives for me.”
The pawns were in the stands at the Fortress on Monday night. There was no way the king and his army would lose.