Friday, August 6 2021

Dive In

Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles… As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

That’s part of the statement put out by FC Barcelona marking the end of a football era: the departure of superstar Lionel Messi—who will be leaving the only club he has ever played for since he was a teenager. The reason: money. The club was unable to pay his salary—despite Messi accepting hefty cuts—as per the limits imposed by the Spanish league La Liga. His rumoured suitors include Manchester City and Paris St. Germain.

Big Story

Tokyo Olympics update: Bronze is sweeter than silver

The TLDR: Since there isn’t a big headline that needs explanation, we’re doing an Olympics roundup—with a big spotlight on hockey.


A single bronze in hockey

Both the men’s and women’s Indian team lost in the semi finals—but kept the door open for a bronze. And their critical matches were on successive days. 


Heartbreak for the women: Yes, it’s official. Britain has defeated India 4-3 to take home the bronze. The killer: a penalty corner in the fourth quarter. SRK—always the first to jump in on all ‘Chak De’ matters—sweetly tweeted: “Heartbreak!!! But all reasons to hold our heads high. Well played Indian Women’s Hockey Team. You all inspired everyone in India. That itself is a victory.” There were tears on the field:


But as this sports journalist reminds us—they lost a very close game to the Rio 2016 gold medalists: 


“So close. So close! But what a 4th place finish this is. Right up there with the ones like Milkha Singh, PT Usha and Dipa Karmakar that we will talk about for years to come. Chin up, Rani Rampal and Co. Terrific. PSA: If you see any article today that says ‘why India must not celebrate such 4th place finishes’ do yourself a favour and don't click on it.”


Also, beware the casteist a****les: Upper caste men harassed team member Vandana Katariya’s family at her village in Uttarakhand. They burst crackers, danced and hurled casteist slurs, saying the team had lost the semi finals because it had “too many Dalit players.” Two men—one of whom is a national-level hockey player—have been arrested, and one has gone missing.


A big bronze for the men: who beat Germany 5-4 on Thursday. Why this is such a big deal: It ended a 41-year drought in Olympic medals for men’s hockey. The last time we won was a gold in Moscow in 1980. This is our 12th Olympics medal in men’s hockey. As Captain Manpreet Singh said, just moments after the victory: “Medal... Medal toh medal hota hai.”


A pandemic medal: Manpreet Singh dedicated the medal to “doctors and frontline health workers who have saved so many lives in India.”


Why this medal mattered: Men’s hockey has long been big on talent and low on self-confidence. As Ashish Magotra in Scroll writes:


“Some might tell you it is just a bronze, but for those who have been on the hockey journey with the Indian team, this is so much more. For years, this team has been plagued by self-doubt. They would go into the final stages of the match and invariably find a way to lose. And each time that would happen, it would break a million hearts… That is why it is important. That is why it matters a lot. It sends the message that India are back.”


The skipper echoed the sentiment at the press conference, where Singh declared: “If we can finish on podium in Olympics, we can finish on podium anywhere.”


The big star: India put in a lion-hearted performance, staging a big comeback after being 1-3 down in the first half. The star of the match was goalie PR Sreejesh whose brilliant saves—including one with just six seconds left on the clock—preserved our lead. Ironically, he once said of his role:


“It’s difficult to love a goalkeeper. He is invisible, and is only in the limelight when he makes a blunder. When I was young, I didn’t know who India’s goalkeeper was then. Besides, I am not someone who goes behind attention, never gone behind superstar-dom.”


The sheer joy: Sreejesh climbed up the goalpost. Manpreet was in tears. And former India captain Viren Rasquinha was ecstatic in the commentator’s box.


But the Prime Minister struck a very odd note as he used the hockey win in a political speech—linking it to the two most controversial issues: Kashmir and Ram Mandir: 


“It seems the process of India’s triumph has begun. In this, August 5 has become very special, very important. This date will be lodged in history for years. It was on August 5 two years ago that the country had strengthened the dream of One India, Best India. The removal of Article 370 after nearly seven decades gave every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir full partnership in every right and every benefit. It was on August 5 last year that crores of Indians had, after centuries, taken the first step towards the construction of a grand Ram temple… August 5 has once again brought us excitement and enthusiasm.”


A (sorrowful) silver in wrestling

While other Indian athletes have been rejoicing in their bronze medals, Ravi Dahiya was heart-broken when he won a silver after the 57 kg wrestling final. Dahiya put up a valiant fight but could not overcome his Russian rival: two-time world champion Zavur Uguev—who beat him 7-4. And Dahiya’s disappointment was writ large on his face and in his body language—even on the podium where he did not crack a smile. See him below:


In Dahiya’s mind, he did not win the silver, he lost the gold. He later said: “What’s the point of this? I had come here with only one target, a gold medal. This is okay, but it’s not gold.”

PS: The other Indian wrestler to win an Olympic silver medal: Sushil Kumar who is currently in jail facing murder charges (we explained that story here).


In other big moments…



In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Government’s big tax move
  • A Patanjali palm oil empire?
  • A secret Indian base in Mauritius
  • Softbank bets big on… dogs!


Weekend Advisory

  • The return of sex-and-cuddle parties
  • The story of scientists playing foster moms to baby sea stars

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