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   My friend, Sumedh Shah, of the Professional Management Group... (June 13, 1990)

My friend, Sumedh Shah, of the Professional Management Group, is running a friendly sweepstake on the World Cup champions. You put your 100 rupees and name your choice for the eventual champions. Winner takes all.

All bets are to be laid by 5 p.m. today and I have not yet decided which team to back.

It not Indian, I would normally like to back an Asian team, but then good sense dictates I should lay a proper bet with odds, not a sweepstake, where the kitty is the same, whether a form team wins or an outsider. I understand they are giving 1000 to 1 on the UAE and not much less on South Korea. In any case, neither has a chance of making it to the next round and I would be wasting my money.

The two teams from Africa, I have considered, but the same logic applies. And, what have I got to do with Africa!

Everybody is thinking Italy should win. Good team, home grounds, home crowds, the blessings of the Pople, what else do you what! But things don't always work out that way. And in football it takes just one lucky goal to topple your projections. An unmarked man slipping in a goal, then nine men in the circle, defending and timewasting for the rest of the evening. Also, I have not been all that impressed with Italy's success over Austria.

Austria, of course, cannot be considered, and I am not considering it. The British Isles, though represented by three out of five teams, and all credit to them, may also not be considered. I would have liked Scotland to win, and it has been my favourite team for many years, but its loss in the opening game was tragic and unfortunate. Rarelu has a team done so much except win.

Yes, the Netherlands, the Indian football correspondents' favourate team. I do not watch last night's game in full, sleep overtook me. Shame, and it will be another ten minutes before I go to office and know the results. But I do not thing the Dutch played like eventual champions. Though there is one thing Ė to play well, you need a good, strong team opposite you, not Egypt.

Romania could be the dark horse, there is magic in their play right now, probably caused by the new spirit of freedom. But there is still a long way to go before the finals and magic does not last. The Czechs are the other strong team from Eastern Europe. The US were no match for them and they showed it. And I do not understand the US; how can such a great nation not be able to play soccer and cricket.

Eventually, I may have to decide between the solid methodical West Germans (the German machine), and the talented, instinctive Brazilians, the men with the dancing feet. And if I cannot decide between the two, which probably I would not be able to, then I will put my money on Argentina. I still think it is going to be Diego Maradon't World Cup.

Tonight, past midnight, we should know, as Maradona plays the Soviets. My money will be riding on him.

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