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Surreal Madrid

india Updated: Jun 19, 2010 23:22 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Fanatical Brazil and Argentina football fans clash — in Bangladesh. Running battles between heavily armed Brazil and Argentina football fans have left 30 people injured — in Bangladesh.

Daily Telegraph, May 23

A group of journalists today visited the villages in Bangladesh where the football clashes had taken place. As their boat chugged upstream past the paddy fields, they saw that the mango, palm and jackfruit trees lining the river were all draped with Manchester United flags. As they approached the makeshift village jetty, a small choir dressed in red lungis, accompanied by the village band, struck up the chant, “Glory, glory, Man United/Glory, glory, Man United/Glory, glory, Man United/ And the reds go marching on, on, on.”

“We changed the name of the village to Manchester-on-the Padma,” explained Sheikh Wayne Rooney, the village headman, “after we all became Man U fans.” He took the journalists on a tour of the village, proudly showing them the statue of Maulana Alex Ferguson, who he said was the Manchester United manager. “Took us hundreds of thousands of takas to build, but we all skipped meals and contributed,” he said. “After all” he explained, “you have to make sacrifices for what you believe in.”

He then took the journalists over the paddy fields, mostly uncultivated now because of the World Cup. Pointing to some fields across the river, Sheikh Rooney dropped his voice to a whisper. “A few miles beyond is enemy territory”, he said. He added that the village over there, called Chelsea-on-the-Meghna, used to periodically send bands of marauders in blue lungis into Manchester to loot football trophies. “They’re led by a bloodthirsty no-good character called Mohammed Frank Lampard,” said another villager angrily. The two villages had also chosen opposite sides in the World Cup, with Sheikh Rooney supporting Brazil, while Mohd Lampard was all for Argentina.

As the journalists expressed surprise at the extent of the fan following for English clubs, Sheikh Rooney laughed derisively. “This is nothing,” he said, “you guys should visit another village up the river where they support Celtic. ““They all wear kilts and play the bagpipes,” he said, “while watching the Scottish League.”

As a matter of fact, the football rivalry can be seen all across the country and even in the capital Dhaka, where Real Madrid is the favourite team and where the journalists were taken next. After touching down at Kaka International Airport, their coach drove down Raul Gonzalez Avenue, turned left at the Plaza Casillas, past Jose Mourinho Mall right down to Gonzalo Higuain City Centre , where a huge statue of Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled by the country’s prime minister. “They’re thinking of changing the name of the city to Surreal Madrid,” informed a city guide. But he dismissed rumours that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed was secretly learning to play the vuvuzela, the South African horn, so that she could blow on it while watching the World Cup matches.

Incidentally, football fever has spread over the border into neighbouring India, with several Congress politicians allegedly professing great admiration for Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro, for reasons best known to themselves.

At a glittering World Cup party in Kolkata, however, a small boy stunned everybody by telling them he was a fan of the Indian football team. Pressed for a reason, he said he was fed up of teams that beat other teams. “I don’t like all this beating,” said the non-violent youngster, adding that he liked the Indian team because it beat nobody.

n manas.c@livemint.com

( Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint )

The views expressed by the author are personal