When two entities that have a history of rivalry between them clash in any form of competition, passions are bound to go up by several notches. Any day when India takes on Pakistan in a cricket or hockey match or Brazil clashes with Argentina in a football field, battle lines get clearly drawn between the supporters of the nations. Such fierce contention helps those who are tasked with promoting the event into a money spinner.
And, such a rivalry takes me down memory lane to two decades back when I saw from ground zero two European nations that have geographical proximity, fighting bitterly for the top honours. If one could not win, all they wanted was that the other should not triumph! Those two are not only members of the European Union (EU) but one more club of five called Nordic countries. One is the land that gave the world tennis legend Bjorn Borg – Sweden and the other, the land of a thousand lakes - Finland.
In 2006, I visited Sweden in my first-leg and Finland in second-leg of an official trip. On the evening of May 20, I went for dinner to a restaurant in a Swedish town along with Mr Stefan, the Swedish official with whom I coordinated during the trip. As we entered, there was a large gathering in front of a giant television screen and people chanted slogans for Sweden to win and Finland to lose. Stefan explained it was the Eurovision song contest finals beamed live from Athens. Sweden and Finland had made it to the last stage.
When Finnish band Nordi performed the song ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, it was quite different with the band members appearing in monster costumes. I clapped in appreciation of the fact that the troupe’s performance made people sit straight and take notice of them. The Swedes seated in front of the TV, though, jeered and shouted, “Oh, no, it’s eerie, awful and terrible. No to Nordi and Finland.” Finally, the results were announced and it was Nordi’s band from Finland that won the trophy leaving the troupe from Sweden that performed, far behind. The Swedes could not control their disappointment. I wondered how they would take a sweet revenge.
The very next day, I was in Finland. Stefan had accompanied me all the way from Sweden to Finland. On that day was scheduled the prestigious World International Ice Hockey championship finals between Sweden and Czech Republic. Finland had already been eliminated in the semi finals.
Around 8 pm, we were in a restaurant and live coverage of the match was on. The Finnish people crowded near a TV rooted for Czech to win. But ultimately, Sweden thrashed Czech 4-0 and won the championship. The crowd yelled and booed, not being able to digest Sweden, their adversary walking away as the king.