It is these two iconic images from the game between the current champions Spain and the Netherlands in the ongoing FIFA WORLD CUP 2014 which have formed the theme of the strip.The strip celebrates the extraordinary performance by the ‘Flying Dutchman’ and the disastrous sinking of the ‘Spanish Armada’ during the game.
June 13,2014,Arena Fonte Nova,Salvador.
Spain ,the defending World Champions, are lined up in their opening encounter against the Netherlands, the team they humbled at Johannesburg to win the crown in 2010.Current form and the fact that 7 of the 2010 squad in South Africa form part of the present Spanish team under manager Vincent Del Bosque makes the Spanish team an overwhelming favourite to win the match ‘hands down’.
90 minutes later… The Spanish Armada has been sunk!
Mercilessly pounded by the Dutch and mauled beyond recognition of their world beating aura the Spanish football team was decimated. The final scoreline ,5-1 for Netherlands, was the worst result for a defending Champion in FIFA World Cups.Its all over for the Spanish and the team seems to have lost its midas touch and worse still their claim on retaining the World Cup at FIFA 2014. The entire Spanish team failed but it was one man, their Captain and talismanic goal keeper Iker Casillas ,who took the biggest fall at the biggest stage of world football.
And this piece is all about him…he was the biggest success for the world beating Spanish teams from 2008 onwards and on this fateful day he was more responsible than the others for debacle at Salvador.He.was.most certainly The Humpty Dumpty equivalent in the match…who too had a great fall in the iconic nursery rhyme.
At the start of the game, fresh from a Champions League victory, Casillas would have been smug in the knowledge that he had already ‘thumped’ most of his European opponents many times over.But it was going to be ‘a Eureka moment’ night for him when at the end he would be acknowledging to himself that he was better off being a baker or a grocer rather than a ‘keeper’ with Spain ‘s all conquering football team and that after almost 15 years of top flight football!
Before the Netherlands scored its first goal Casillas was 44 minutes away from bettering Walter Zenga’s record of not conceding a goal for 528 minutes at the World Cup. And prophetically at the stroke of 44 minutes into the match, Dutchman Robin van Persie scored and shattered the first of the many illusions that Casillas may have harboured for the game (he was denied the record by 44′). And from here on started Casillas’ s very own and customised ‘nightmare at Elms street’.
In fact such was the helplessness of Casillas after the first goal that his immediate reaction may have been to applaud and congratulate the striker as there wasn’t anything else that he could do.He would have probably done that had he secured his grocer’s job in Madrid prior to coming for the World Cup at Brazil!!!
After Arjen Robben had blitzed past Casillas in the 53rd minute to score the second goal for Netherlands a strange stupor seems to have set into Casillas.It seemed he suddenly had a vision that Robben was actually Frank Rjikaard from the 90s and that they had conspired to do the unthinkable ie score against the ‘unparalleled’ San Casillas!
It is now that Casillas realised that Robben and Persie were the very characters his mother had told him about in the bed time stories way back as a kid! His fears were back!
He seemed to have lost his confidence and thereon he was easy picking for the mischievous elves of Scandinavia who had descended in hordes, wearing blue, on the hapless Casillas on a night which was supposed to bring him glory and not accursed luck. He failed to parry a simple chance offered by de Vrij in the 65th minute and Spain were trailing 1-3!
The transformation of Casillas from ‘keeper’ to ‘shocker’ was about to be completed when he lost the ball during a regulation backpass and saw van Persie (the one whom he knew from the stories as a child😎) steal the ball and make it 1-4.
Lying sprawled and cringing within, all that Casillas could do was probably admire the shoes that Persie was wearing and being thankful for the soft turf under his body for after this he was only going to be between rock and a hard place when it came to his future with Spain and it’s football team.Some say that it’s at this point that Casillas started looking for a safe exit route from the stadium, one which would skirt the change room of the Spanish football team ,and lost his composure!
Having lost his focus (and preoccupied with the thoughts of escape and re employment) Casillas allowed himself to be fooled by Robben and found himself wrong footed while the Dutch striker fired into an empty goal…
With this the meltdown of Casillas was complete and he could only sink to his knees to feel the soft turf( watching Robben celebrate) and to give one last look to confirm the alternate exit route which happened to be a hole in the earth beneath his very feet!!!
The ‘sank-on-his-knees’ look made for a terrific selfie but as ‘San Casual’was busy getting busted the entire world’s media lent him a hand (or a shutter) in immortalising the moment.
Casillas had now realised that the chill going down his spine was nothing else but the fear of tackling his girlfriend Sara Carbonero. No naughty thoughts please (we are Indians) , Iker was feeling performance pressure (yes!! ) but of a different kind . Carbonero , an attractive sideline sports commentator, (also voted the sexiest in the world) had once left Casillas tongue tied after Spain’s opening game defeat to Switzerland during the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.Well, Cassy baby it’s time to answer the same question again (and she is not going to be asking about marrying her) which she posed way back in 2010, “How did you muck it up?”
And to help you out with what you said back then “I don’t know if this defeat will have consequences. The dressing room is fed up. “
You are lucky Casillas you know what she is going to ask you and better still you know what to answer as well.(Wish you’d had even a slice of this luck in the game though)
Casillas was candid in the post match media interaction when he said that “I am the first one to ask for forgiveness”.Was it that he actually realised his game was up (for sale😎…buyers ??) or had hit up on a PR campaign idea to start on a massive dollop of public sympathy for his re employment bid once he was thrown out of the team or guillotined for sinking Spanish hopes at FIFA 2014.
Admittedly ,Casillas had had a tough and lack lustre 2014 where he had not been the #1 keeper for Real Madrid and had been a famous member of the bench during the course of the La Liga.( Had he spent that time acquiring vocational skills his situation may have been redeemed while he sank on his knees on June 13th).But he had been the “Special One’ when it came to the Copa Del Ray, the Champions League and even the Confederation Cup with the National team.So nothing that had happened in the years gone by had suggested the dismantling of the invictus Casillas Castle in such a humbling manner.
The fall from grace is even greater when seen in perspective of Casillas ‘ career. He had been a part of the Spanish teams which had won the UEFA European Under 16 Championships in 1997 and the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999.He became the youngest ever player to play in the Champions League finals when he played for Real Madrid in May 2000.Soon after he broke into Spain’s senior football team.
In his first four years he helped his club win two league titles, two Spanish Super Cups, one UEFA Super Cup and the final of the Champions League against Bayern Leverkusen in 2002.He was instrumental in ensuring back to back league titles for Real Madrid in 2007 and 2008.He won another Spanish Super Cup title in 2008 as well.And starting 2007 he figured in the UEFA Team of the Year for six straight years. He went on to win another league title Spanish Super Cup in 2012 and a famous ‘Decima’ for Real Madrid in 2014 just before the ‘Carniball’ ( FIFA World Cup 2014) in Brazil.
With the Spanish national team he played a stellar role in their 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup campaigns.Was handed over the captaincy after the 2006 World Cup and helped in ending the major title drought for the ‘La Roja’ by winning the 2008 European Championships and following it up with the victory in 2010 FIFA World Cup and successfully defending the title in the 2012 European Championships.
So in spite of Casillas losing his place in the Real Madrid starting line up pist 2012 partly due to a fractured finger and partly due to a fractured relationship with Jose Mourihno his past record suggested that he was the ‘go to’ man for the Spaniards in a major tournament such as the FIFA 2014.His penalty saves against Italy and Portugal in 2008 and 2012 European Championships and his breathtaking saves to thwart Arjen Robben and Netherlands in the FIFA 2010 championship and 10 consequetive clean slates in knock out matches were testimony to his big match temperament.
And then on June 13th,2014 he ran into Robin van Persie and and Arjen Robben who ended his dreams and destroyed his legacy as an all time great.
It is on account of the iconic status of Casillas, the Spanish football team- the La Roja- and the spectacular effort of the Dutch team in dethroning the Spaniards from there high pedestal that the Amul strip features their collective saga.
The strip shows two caricatures, both Amul girls, pitched against each other with the one in blue leaping and scoring over a bamboozled goal keeper in fluorescent green. The caricatures depict the iconic images of van Persie and Casillas respectively from the Spain vs Netherlands game in FIFA 2014.
The tag line…Dutch ke rehna re baba! ..is a taken on the popular Bollywood number ‘Bach ke rehna re baba’…simply implying be safe and beware – there is danger lurking!And it was lurking for Casillas in the form of the Dutch duo of Persie and Robben.
The Punch Line… Truly Breadtaking.. is a tribute to the breathtaking goal and display by the Dutch players in particular van Persie for his extreme athleticism in scoring the acrobatic equaliser for Netherlands.The impact of that strike was such that it threw the ‘La Roja’ and Casillas in such disarray that thereafter they conceded a goal every ten minutes – 44′,53′,65′,72′ & 80! Breathtaking display indeed.
After this game many predicted the end of the era of several magnificent players from Spain including Casillas. Heeding the advise of the millions of analysts ,including his girlfriend Sara, Casillas has already posted his CV in numerous job portals with his credentials for having ‘safe hands’ being highlighted. After this match only those who do not follow football will fall for that one…and there aren’t many of that tribe!Particularly so in Real Madrid who have already started looking beyond Casillas.
So it’s curtains for you Iker. Don’t forget to roll over to break the fall!
And who’s that we see you walking into the sunset with..Arjen Robben. .The Elf …all I can say is …Dutch ke rehna re baba !!!