Here is a country that ranks in the 150’s in the world, here is a city where people crib about lack of amenities, here are tourists who highlight about the great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s, here is a weather equivalent to natural sauna which prevents people to venture outdoors, here are the localites who struggle for employment – Yet, here is that city where the law of undiminished passion reigns. This is the city of Kolkata or erstwhile Calcutta !
In a country where sports means either mediocre (read ‘poor’) performance or only cricket, I sometimes wonder how come this part of India is so much different from the rest of the country when it comes to the love for football. It is this city again which calls for a hundred thousand spectators rooting for a local derby between East Bengal and Mohan Bagan. The standard of the game is quite poor – very often tending to below average when compared with other South East Asian countries. But that does not deter the thousands of supporters who overcome many odds when it comes to public transport to shout for their teams.
Whenever the FIFA world cup happens, the city is broadly divided into two camps – one for Brazil and one for Argentina. The traditional Brazil-love got split when the Kolkatan’s witnessed the magic of one Diego Maradona in the 1986 world cup. From that day, there has been a great vocabulary rivalry between the two camps, something rare to be seen in a city which is thousands of miles away from both the countries. There are hero worships of the Ronaldo’s, Ronaldinho’s, Messi’s of the world that surpasses normal expectations. Even the city looks like Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo whenever one of these teams reaches the knockout stages of any game.
Where in the world you will find around 10,000 people lined up in the streets, in front of the airport at 3 am in the night, just to catch a glimpse of Maradona, Forlan or Messi – who will be just passing by in a car ? For a international friendly between Argentina and Venezuela, the city is gripped with so much excitement that even in offices, people are coming wearing the Argentina colours !
This madness, this passion, this fan following for the game of football in a country where cricket rules is quite unique. This love for the beautiful game is quite remarkable specially when there is no success for years from India’s international team.
Hope one day this passion will help the city to host a World Cup final – that day, I can guarantee, all records for maximum fan following will break. Long live the passion ! As quoted in a famous Bengali film song, “Bangali’r sera khela football” – let this love relationship continue forever !