Football and Calcutta!

If you are in Bengal, you cannot help but be swept away by the Football Frenzy! Even the non-enthusiasts also are perfectly aware of what goes on, the finer details of the game, the latest news etc, so you can wonder how enthusiastic are the enthusiasts!

Calcutta boasts of Pele (if you don’t know him, there’s no hope) playing (or butchering) at the Eden Gardens (originally a football ground, football comes no where near cricket!) against Mohun Bagan in the September of 1977. Calcutta felicitated Diego Maradona (you can’t possibly not know of him) when he came to Salt Lake stadium, Calcutta in December, 2008. Even recently, Oliver Kahn (goalie of Germany) made it here. So you can understand how far-reaching our craziness is, if you say Calcutta, we don’t think rosogollahs (tired of that one), we think “Football”!

Now, Calcuttans are biased towards South American football, any day! Even personally, as much as I enjoy European Club Football, and Italy, they come nowhere near the South American style. There are many funny distinctions (not discrimination) between the Calcuttans, bangal-ghoti (according to whether you’re from East Bengal or West), then there is East Bengal-Mohun Bagan (the respective football clubs) and several other but none as profound, marked (or disarrayed even) as Argentina-Brazil!

Calcuttans are divided with a straight line into the Argentina supporters and the Brazil ones. You cannot support both. Ever. And you should take part in the Bangali addas in the same, you need to have pretty good ammunition and loyalty invested to make a mark and be heard! There are some arguments that can never be resolved; this is one of the leading ones- “Who are the best, Argentina or Brazil?

My college (where I did my Masters) canteen has been divided into blue-white and yellow-green. We have huge flags hanging on the tenth floor. When the matches are on, no one works (PhD scholars mainly), we have a TV with cable in there and you are not allowed to watch without your team jersey on! Oh, and the jerseys were bought with donations from the respective supporters, it is the unofficial property of our department! Even the laboratories are not spared from decorating!

Wall-paintings are rampant in Calcutta by small locality clubs who paint the World Cup teams and players, even some clubs have erected statues of Messi, Maradona, Ronaldo and the likes! Posters are everywhere. Every road, street shows their colours. You’ll look right and see yellow and green hanging overhead, then you look left you’ll find the blue-white fluttering in the breeze. People on the street are seen wearing their respective jerseys, even to work on a weekend, to colleges after a win! Shops in New Market, Esplanade in Calcutta are flooded with the unofficial jerseys! Forget Nike, Adidas, the jerseys sell like hotcakes, mostly fakes but still enough to show the colours they support.

Few months before, the original World Cup had made its round in Calcutta, only place it visited in India (in its maiden visit to the country), even with the two days reduced to one, the turn-out was awesome; fought for that single glimpse!

Think about the Mexican wave, it is a complete Football thingy, and the Calcutta crowd  at the Eden Gardens loves it (knows it) and they do that even in the cricket matches… And now, the Mexican wave has become a rage during cricket matches in other cities too. It is funny!

Coming to my personal life, I am a hard-core Brazil fan, have been one for 15 years (or more) from when I understand football. And my dearest fiancé, as luck would have it is a die-hard Argentina fan. So we are fighting every night! Harrumphhing, too! I did try the “If you love me…” angle (anything for football) but discarded it, too… Nothing doing, won’t support Argentina for even him, and cannot ask him to that either for me! Of course, we have to make-up (with an effort) in the mornings but the nights (all matches are in the evening) are spent in verbal wrestling and name-calling! We are totally biased, all of us, pro-Brazil or pro-Argentina, and proud of it!

Funniest thing for us is the non-Bengalis, non-Calcuttans especially the ones who work in Calcutta away from home! They are literally baffled with the football craze, and are complete football-illiterate! A non-Calcuttan senior of mine said “Ahh, a red card! Damn, they have to play with 10 players in the next match!” We rolled around laughing!! As much as their reactions amuse us, we stare at them like they are some unknown species. Football is so big here, that the Fifa World Cup is a huge occasion. Everyone arranges their time-tables accordingly, it is usual to be late for office next day after a big late-night match (including the Boss)! Disrupted schedules, slow working pace, it is understood!

We never had good players, but players we had. And only out of blind love for the sport. The greatest regret that cricket gobbles up all the money but we have never ever played a Fifa World Cup. In 1950, by elimination, we had qualified but had refused to play as the players were not allowed to play bare-footed (Imagine!)! On the brighter side, the excitement and expectations attached with football, it’s a consolation that India doesn’t play, it would hurt, literally bleed, to see India lose. But still, one hopes that India will host Fifa World Cup one day, the only way that India can play then!

Football is not just a sport, it is a religion. And you cannot escape the fever in Calcutta. It is not just a love, it’s an obsession. If you don’t really enjoy football, you are missing a world out here!! 

Calcutta is a city to behold when football takes over! No wonder, Calcutta is the Football Capital of India!

N.B. Each to his own. Just sharing the madness. I, for one, cannot think of life without football! 

About Guria

An Artist in Science: A Misfit 'cause I choose to be one. "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform" And a Maverick, because, I'm... umm... brilliant?
This entry was posted in Calcutta and Bengali, India, Passions, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Football and Calcutta!

  1. Neha says:

    I have been a football fan too for love for it started with Manchester united games. England became my favourite team as most Man United players played for England..

    I have heard a lot about Calcutta's love for football. even about Brazil and Argentina fever there. even news channels show calcutta on one side and the host country on the other if any of these teams wins the final.

    amazing and passionate post darling..loved it 🙂


  2. Ahh whole of UK is football crazy….You can see police standing alert outside the PUBS when England is playing a match….

    I have heard about Calcutta's football craze…


  3. Harini says:

    Recently me and S were talking about the same and we both came to one conclusion, “The only state that plays and follows football like religion is Bengal”. I will never claim i m an expert in football as I only started seeing it in 2002 but i do enjoy and like the game a lot. But i never knew i cant support both Brazil and Argentina :(.


  4. Arif says:

    Superb post! I've never been to Kol, have only heard about the football madness but you post proudly shouts about culture de futbol es la ville de Kolkata! I could literally feel the electric frenzy amongst you all.
    PS – Argentina is the best! 😉


  5. Phoenixritu says:

    I was the non-Bengali novice in Calcutta when I went there as a bride. My ex-husband was taken aside and admonished “Bou Ma ke footballer gyan ta dau, eimon cholbe na” Now I am a die hard Argentina fan


  6. Urvashi says:

    hey I hv heard abt this Calcutta football fever too, as my Dad is from Calcutta and he has deep love for football as it the game they hv been playin since childhood there..!! 🙂 🙂


  7. Sree says:

    Urgentina it is for me!! 😀

    Lovely post G, shows the true soccer spirit!! 😀
    Waka waka! 😀


  8. Dhiman says:

    Sob khelar sera Bangalir tumi phootball 😀 … orey aar batha dis ne… du du to world cup dekhechi kolkatar baire bossey…missing all the action and lucky this time my office people have taken interest in phootball …bikeler khela gulo dekhte parchi…:D …


  9. Had no interest in the game, where so many men run crazy for a 'ball' 😛

    And cricket is better, Eden Garden is now a cricket ground .. need more proof! 😛

    Staying in Bengal most part of my life, I agree football is one seriously followed game, though only after cricket! 😉


  10. Bikramjit says:

    Wow ask me when i got to polcie the fotbaal matches here in uk.. its mad here ..
    the pity is eveb though we are in Kolkata a football frenzy city YEt we dont have a SINGLE world class player.. would have been great to find India participating in the world cup I would have done everything to be in south africa ..

    the pity is apart from cricket (oops did u say cricket not even in that now).. we are good at nothing SO many people yet not one ..

    Hope one day to see India come up in the world cup.. I promise I will be there wherever the match is any continent…

    But yeah I remember being in kolkata when it was calcutta and the match … we went to see Mohan began VS something east I dont rememvber the names now It was indeed a frenzy then .. we went mad it ws raining heavily and yet so many people …

    I am supporting england here .. finger crossed we might go to next round though we dont deserve it at all.. But just to piss my fellow colelgues at work I support argentina oh yeahhh

    the ladies in office have huge flags and tv in adn it was FACES to see when i said I am gonna bring argentina flag and put it behind my chair wall.. oooh if only looks could kill I would be dead … 🙂


  11. I only enjoy the World Cup and that too because the rest of the family does 🙂

    But I do enjoy watching it as much as I enjoy watching cricket.

    Calcutta is ofcourse the epi centre for Football-fever or Socceriitis 🙂


  12. sharmila says:

    it's not only in Kolkata – all bengalis living in or out of west bengal … is a die hard fan of football. n so are we. Even my parents support Argentina/Brazil but i was happy when Italy won last worldcup .. i know this year Argentina will win …

    p.s. yes waiting for india to host the fifa worldcup too 🙂
    p.s. came to ur blog for the 1st time from indiblogger !


  13. RGB says:

    The spirit is truly infectious. When you see the banners and posters all around you, you cannot help but be a part of it!


  14. The Bongs carry the fever outside Bengal as well..
    The Prabashi that I have been, I was bred on the idea that Goa and Bengal imbibe football like no other..
    Good post! I root for Germany ofcourse, but,Argentina is for sure a second favourite 🙂


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