Winner takes it all – Primepost

Thoughts by Shekhar Nambiar

Now that the World Cup has ended with winners Argentina taking it all, it’s time to get on with work and life. Ballon d’Or winner Messi would have given the tournament a fitting farewell knowing he would continue to play for his country. We will have to wait and see how this develops.

Mbappe and Messi

The final was nail-biting and exciting. France had its twists and turns, holding out almost to the end. Kylian Mbappe emerged as the hero and savior of the French, but that could not help his team and nation retain the title. This young footballer is the proud winner of the Golden Boot award.

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Despite allegations of a racist ad against the young and bright Mbappe, things generally went well. The unmanageable crowd in Buenos Aires that came to welcome the Argentine national team caused the cancellation of the players’ movement by bus in order to be transported by helicopter. Earlier there were hysterical scenes as rabid fans jumped onto the bus from the tops of buildings, injuring melees.

French President Macron consoles Mbappe after France’s World Cup final loss

With this World Cup, Qatar’s shares have risen in the world. The tournament, stadiums and facilities were, by all accounts, fantastic and everything went flawlessly. Controversy ensued, the latest of which was allegations of strikes by Qatar against members of the European Parliament. Although unrelated to the World Cup, the accusations have kicked up a lot of dust in the EU and will take some time to resolve. There were earlier allegations of a Qatari bribery scam to FIFA, which seemed to be settled as the tournament progressed.

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Watching on the big screen

The highlight of the season was catching the third-place playoff live at the Khalifa International Stadium on the big screen, with immersive sound, surround sound and all. The excitement, the popcorn and hot dogs, and most of all, watching the game with the cheering crowd, brought back memories of the old days. The game, it must be said, was played with all seriousness. Neither team gave up even once and it might be the final.

My soccer crazy daughter and I cheered as the rabid fans cheered as Croatia scored a goal five minutes into the game and a thrilling equalizer for Morocco. For the rest of the match, it was Croatia, the runner-up in 2018, all the way with the second goal and the lead until the end. We were neutral. It didn’t matter to us who won. The honest Croatians and Moroccans both worked hard to get where they were.

A large crowd welcomes Messi and other Argentine players

However, we watched the finals on TV, wanting to avoid the Sunday crowds.

Stadiums for the future

The 974 Stadium near Doha, built from recycled shipping containers and equipped with technology to protect spectators and players from the heat, will soon be dismantled. The stadium marks another milestone: built, used and dismantled. It has been presented as a masterpiece of sustainable engineering. I don’t know if it can be called completely sustainable.

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Built from 974 used shipping containers, which provided space for stairs and lavatories and reduced water consumption by 40%, the space between seats and aisles was designed to provide Persian Gulf air circulation and reduce load. stadium cooling system. Naturally, construction costs were kept low with minimal waste. Could this be the model for future stadiums? It’s possible Shipping containers and seats from the dismantled stadium structure will apparently go to aid some less developed countries.

Qatar’s dream stadium made of recycled shipping containers, an engineering marvel

Football unites

For us, perhaps like most Indians, the excitement of the Asian tournament made a big difference. It was as close as it could get. I don’t know how much money the Qataris made. Statistics and analysis will reveal all this. But for four weeks, the palpable excitement, including in the subcontinent, knew no bounds. As in all games, there were winners and losers. There were surprises and incidents. Brazil didn’t make it and so did Spain, England and Germany!

Some of us can be encouraged and comforted. Morocco, despite being a North African group, is geographically closest to Asia!

The queen of hill stations

From football to travel. For someone brought up to believe in the grandeur of Shimla, Ooty has always been a distant destination nestled in the Nilgiri Hills.

Ootacamund, now Udhagamandalam, was what my mother told us about. Toy trains and his tours up there. Shimla, or Simla, steep hills, views of the mighty Himalayas and as they drove along the Mall Road, Ooty hairpin bends, pine groves, fresh air, Wellington and the surrounding thick forests.

The wonderful garden of Ooty or Udaghamandalam

I had a partial perception of Ooty. At home, it was always Ooty vs Simla. My father insisted that the great Shivalik ranges are higher and stronger, after all these are the Himalayan ranges.

The dinnertime chats didn’t work. Mum insisting on taking the cake for the milder and perhaps greener Ooty with its rolling fort hills, beautiful Wellington, Coonoor to the north, lake, botanical garden and beautiful flower show.

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My father’s opinion was that Simla offered more adventure, more demanding and rugged and yes, the snow-capped Himalayan ranges in the distance was a distinct advantage.

I could never completely ignore the gentle charm of Ooty perched on top of the Nilgiri Hills in the Sahyadri Mountains or the Western Ghats, which I was in awe of since childhood. It has been only six to seven years since I first visited Ooty. And Shimla remains a dream, still!

Southern comfort

It’s a holiday and perhaps the best time to travel to some southern destinations. Yes, we start with Ooty.

Ooty, the queen of hill stations

Location-wise, Ooty couldn’t have asked for anything better. Nestled high in the Nilgiris and in a bowl-shaped valley. The town is not large, but together with Lovedale, and the suburbs of Coonoor and Wellington, it is capable of adding much more area. Ooty, or Udhagamandalam, is the headquarters of the Nilgiri district, which includes hilly tracts and forests.

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Biosphere reserve

Ooty is located at the junction of three states: Kerala in the west, Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) and Palakkad (Kerala) in the south, and Karnataka in the north. Kerala is connected to Malappuram in the west.

Doddabetta Peak, Ooty, Nilgiris

Doddabetta Peak is 2,700 meters high in the Nilgiris, offering visitors a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and forests. The distant, mostly misty view of Coimbatore on the lower plains is breath-taking. Occasionally you catch planes passing through Kerala or landing at Coimbatore.

The virgin forests around Ooty are rich in flora and fauna and the friends who live in Glenmorgan, just a few kilometers away, is a must for adventurers and the drive from Ooty here is awesome.

A friend who owns a cottage in Glenmorgan will testify that he has heard the call of the big cats, including the tiger, the greatest of wild hunters. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is surrounded by Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Attapadi Forest Reserve and Wayanad, further north-west, both in Kerala, and Bandipur, with Nagarahole, in the north.

South of Ooty, the mountain ranges descend to the Palghat natural void and the famous elephant corridor. Beyond Palghat, the Western Ghats rise majestically once again catching the rain-laden clouds to grace the Kerala coast with its famous southwest monsoon and the romance associated with it. The Leeward side keeps the flat plains relatively dry, except for the Palani Hills, the outcrop of the Western Ghats and small hills like Kodaikanal and Yercaud in the east.

Unpretentious Kodaikanal

Kodaikanal is a quaint hill station without the pretensions of Ooty or Shimla. The place has good accommodation and hotels and wonderful restaurants, which can be quite cheap in the off-season. There are very quaint cafes lining the main streets that offer peace and quiet. It’s a popular filming location, with a beautiful golf course and stunning views. Munnar, a very popular hill destination in Kerala, is easily accessible from here through thick forest areas.

Lake View Hotel in Kodaikanal

A better option to access Munnar would be from Theni town – it can also be approached from Madurai – and beyond, up an almost vertical climb from the lower plains. But for a thorough check of the drug smuggling car at the Kerala border, the climb is uneventful. Once at the top, the trek becomes more enjoyable as you catch the high hills and mountains, fresh air and crystal clear lakes in the valleys of the Idukki district below.

A couple of days in Munnar in Idukki district, savoring the fine cuisine of Kerala in a humid yet exciting weather, and it’s time to take on the next exciting part, Thekkady to see wild elephants, the elusive big cat Periyar Tiger Reserve and a base for deer and pig prey, wild bison as well as birds. some really exotic ones too.

Vagamon, about 100 km south-west of Munnar, in Idukki and partly Kottayam districts. The attraction of the town is its relatively untouched flora and fauna, but this is under threat due to the growth of irresponsible tourism. The place offers quite a few trekking and paragliding opportunities. A hundred kilometers to the north-northwest is Kochi, my final destination in Kerala.

Sweet Kochi

My travels end in the beautiful, energetic and prosperous city of Kochi. Every time I enter Kochi, my heart skips a beat! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again.

There is something in the city. Kochi has been a melting pot of cultures, religions and cultures for centuries, as it has been to seafarers from distant lands. Muziris, or modern Kodungallur, was the site of an ancient port where sailors and traders visited Kerala. The oldest and first mosque and all the early churches were founded in or around Muziris.

The celebration of Muziris is held every two years in the form of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. And I hope to catch the festival in progress. More on that, hopefully, next week. Until then, goodbye and Merry Christmas!

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