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Envoy's football fidelity tested

Who are you supporting at the FIFA World Cup — Argentina, Uruguay or Paraguay? That's a tough question for any fan of South American football. For India's sole ambassador to the three football-mad nations, it's a job hazard to pick a team. "I can't be frank about that," says R. Viswanathan.

delhi Updated: Jun 28, 2010 01:46 IST
Jayanth Jacob

Who are you supporting at the FIFA World Cup — Argentina, Uruguay or Paraguay?

That's a tough question for any fan of South American football. For India's sole ambassador to the three football-mad nations, it's a job hazard to pick a team. "I can't be frank about that," says R. Viswanathan.

He has reason to be diplomatic. "In South America, marital infidelity is forgiven, not football disloyalty," he chuckles.

Elaborating, he says that when he was anointed a fan of Argentine club Boca Juniors and presented with its jersey, he was warned: "You can change wives but not this shirt."

With most of his local staff busy watching the matches, Viswanathan says running the embassy is like an extra-time affair.

"During games, when their countries play, the South Americans stop every work and activity. No traffic, no one doing shopping."

If being based in Buenos Aires obligates him to being an Argentina fan, the Uruguayans testily remind him that they beat their more illustrious neighbour to lift the trophy in the first edition of the Cup in 1930.

And like the India-Pakistan cricket clashes, Viswanathan says the big rivalry in his part of the world is between Argentina and Brazil. "A Brazilian wanted to buy a Brazil jersey in Buenos Aires. The shopkeeper said 'go back to Brazil. You will only get some kicks here'," he explains.