FIFA World Cup

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo gears up for likely last shot at World Cup glory

European champions Portugal face neighbours Spain in their opening World Cup game on Friday.

Cristiano Ronaldo will launch his latest and probably last attempt to crown his career with a World Cup winners medal when European champions Portugal face neighbours Spain in their opening World Cup game on Friday.

The 33-year-old will lock horns with six of his Real Madrid team-mates as the Spaniards attempt to shrug off the shock sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui following the announcement that he will take over at the Bernabeu next month.

It is worth wondering what Ronaldo might have known of Lopetegui’s imminent appointment at Real, given the relationship both have with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, at a time when the forward’s own club future remains the source of speculation. But now, amid all that, Ronaldo’s focus is on the World Cup, the one major honour still missing from his CV.

It is a stretch to make Portugal one of the favourites to win the trophy, even with Ronaldo, but they are nevertheless in Russia as the reigning European champions after surprising France on home soil two years ago. Ronaldo is 33 now, still in fantastic physical condition and the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. He can probably play on for as long as he wants, but it is hard to imagine him returning for a fifth World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

If he is to cap his career with a World Cup winner’s medal, then now is his time, and what better way to start than by inspiring Portugal to victory over their neighbours and put themselves in pole position in Group B.

“Of course Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world at the moment and he will be the top player at this World Cup. There are no words to describe him,” said admiring team-mate Joao Mario at Portugal’s base near Moscow this week.

Father figure

Ronaldo was playing the last time Portugal beat their rivals in a major tournament, winning 1-0 to eliminate Spain in the group stage at Euro 2004. He was just 19 then, and has gone on to become his country’s leading scorer with 81 international goals.

He won his 150th cap in the recent friendly against Algeria. And yet he has never quite managed to replicate his club form on the major tournament stage. He lasted just 25 minutes before coming off injured in the Euro 2016 final, watching from the sidelines as Eder’s extra-time goal shocked France.

At the World Cup so far, Ronaldo has managed just three goals in three tournaments: a penalty against Iran in 2006; one against North Korea in 2010, and one against Ghana in 2014. There will be an obvious determination to improve that record in Russia, with Portugal also facing Morocco and Iran in their group.

But he also needs to act as a father figure to the talented young members of Fernando Santos’s squad, like Bernardo Silva, Goncalo Guedes and Gelson Martins. The latter is one of four Portugal players – along with William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes and Rui Patricio – who say they will be breaking their contracts with Ronaldo’s first club, Sporting Lisbon, after being attacked by disgruntled fans last month.

Ronaldo has a responsibility to unite the squad and focus minds ahead of his fourth World Cup.

“Ronaldo is our captain, he sets an example for us and is advising us younger players and sharing his experience,” said Manchester City’s Silva.

That experience, and inside knowledge of many of the Spain players, will be crucial on Friday by the Black Sea.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.