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World Cup Souvenir Program is a good work. (10/19/2006)
--K.Arumugam
The ‘Souvenir Program’ brought out by Deutsche Hockey Agentur on the eve of Monchengladbach Men’s World Cup is not a run of the mill stuff. It is refreshing, painstaking endeavour and pleasingly laid out with images that strike the eyes. Furthermore, the content -- a mix of vintage and contemporary -- makes it an ideal collector’s item that needs to be preserved for posterity.

Priced at 3 Euros, the 96-page glossy output, proves to be a reader’s delight in view of the fact that it is a treasure trove of information, told in an interesting manner.

In fact, the construct of the publication is so thoughtfully conceptualized that its effectiveness is manifest in each piece of article. The ‘program’ starts like any other in this genre would, with customary messages from people at top. Jurgen Ruttgers, Prime Minister of North Rhein Westphalia, Norbert Bude, Mayor of Monchengladbach and our own FIH president, Els van Breda Vriesman, give their welcome and perspectives, which is then followed in this order by Paul van Elten, a BDO bigwig and ends with the message of Stephan Abel’s, the president of German Hockey Federation. Abel welcomes us as a part of globally well-known soccer footprint: ‘World as guest with friends’

Then commences the true literature. The first piece is a fair world cup sum up. This is followed by a comprehensive article on each participants arranged in alphabetical order. These articles are really worth reading in the sense that they do not just restrict to hockey alone. These are cast in five parts – general run down, brief stat on the nation’s achievement in major hockey tournaments, another stat (this is in bilingual) on geography, culture and politics, the fourth is the nation’s sporting culture, history and contemporary scene. The last part, which focuses on a German player’s reminiscence of a match or incidents with that country, is the icing on the cake.

For instance, Germany’s Carsten Keller, 66, recollects Germany’s first-ever world cup match – against Argentina -- in the first article. As the only world cup in which the Germans did not reach the semis, the oldie lets us know how ‘I have tried to wipe this tournament out of memory’.

The introductory article on each countries are not just summation of past and present, but moves beyond this mundane, perfunctory routine. Under Australia we therefore come to know the efforts of Hockey Australia to introduce hockey to 200,000 pupils and how field hockey is a regular subject at many schools. Even it traces the origin of the ‘Australian way of hockey’. “When the Indian national team visited Australia on its way to the Olympic Games in Berlin in the 1930s and crushingly beat its hosts, it was decided to develop a style of ones own, using Indian elements as a basis”. Certainly, the articles have been sourced from right quarters – from those who know the subject. In another context, we get the glimpses of history, ‘Although Australia is one of altogether only two nations that have participated in all the Olympic Games since 1896 in Athens, and often was one of the most successful nations, Australia’s most popular sports are not Olympic disciplines: number one is the rugby league, followed by horse racing and motor sports’.

Similarly, each participating nation’s portrayal of sporting scenario gives a total picture. Popularity of Japan’s baseball football (Nakata is Japanese Beckham), rise of tennis sensations -- Sania Mirza of India, Spain’s Rafael Nadal -- the role of ‘Cricket Diplomacy’ in India-Pak relationship, the popularity of bicycling in Dutch, All Blacks in New Zealand and Taekwondo in Korea are all there .

German goalkeeper Christian Bassemir’s account of how he could defeat nerve wrecking semifinal tie-breaker (10 penalty shoots for each side) against Australia in the Bombay World Cup is really fantastic. He says, “Our national coach had dressed up as a tourist and sneaked into the Australians’ final training. There he secretly noted all the players’ favourite seven meter corners. That was a valuable espionage”.

Some images, like the one depicting a poodle running on to the field in the Germany-Japan match, Korea’f former captain Kim Young Bae’s ballet like pose and others further improve the visual pleasure of the publication.

In short, the ‘program’ is a fantastic piece of work, whose content far exceeds the expectations. By producing such a valuable publication, that too bilingually, the organizers have made the world cup a truly memorable occasion for generations to come. With the type of imagination, hard work and resources going into the making of even such a small souvenir into a superb work, one can imagine how much efforts ought to have gone into their team preparation. By the same standard, don’t they deserve to successfully defend the title, only the second country after Pakistan to do so?

Editorial group consisting of Christoph Pla

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