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World Cup 2014 : With the exit of Brazil, Kolkata roots for Messi and his band

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, July 11, 2014
First Published: 18:33 IST(11/7/2014) | Last Updated: 18:36 IST(11/7/2014)
Rarely have bookies and fans differed so sharply as in the World Cup final on Sunday night. Kolkata bookies are favouring Germany but citizens of Bengal and overwhelmingly betting on Argentina's Latin American brand of football.
 
Bookies have released rates that pit Germany at 1:1.25. Argentina's rates stand at 1: 2.25. On Friday evening, bookies in and around the city reported hectic activity receiving calls. They were surprised to find almost all the bets on Argentina despite the odds against it.
 
Significantly, when the football extravaganza was kicked off in Brazil in the second week of June, the host country was the favourite to lift the cup, followed by Argentina and Spain. Germany was fourth favourite.
 
"Our phones are constantly ringing. After Brazil lost we thought that the betting fervour would diminish in Kolkata and the suburbs. But now it seems that everyone has switched from Brazil to Argentina. Almost all calls we are receiving are in favour of Argentina despite the odds against it. I think people are betting with their heart not mind," a Kolkata-based bookie told HT.
 
A rupee placed on Germany will yield Rs. 1.25 only. But every rupee invested on Lionel Messi's team would yield Rs. 2.25, if it wins.
 
"A few, only a few, are betting with their heads. And they are betting on Germany," said a Howrah-based agent.
 
From the bookies point of view, it has been a tournament of upsets. When the World Cup began Brazil had a rate of 1:3.10 followed by Argentina with 1:5.20 and Spain 1:7.50.
 
Germany was way below as the fourth favourite with 1:8 (rupee one will yield Rs. 8).
 
Bookies, sub-bookies and their agents expect to have a field day as the number of calls kept increasing on Friday with each passing hour. People from all walks of life, from students to housewives, were placing bets. Telephone calls were also pouring in from district towns like Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Asansol, Durgapur and Midnapore.
 
In neighbourhoods, localities, clubs blue and white flags are fluttering in Kolkata. Pictures and clay models of Messi are being garlanded and showcased by Argentinean fans in the city. The Argentinean jersey, especially number 10, is in high demand.
 
"Football in Bengal is like religion. We expect to do good business in this season and even surpass Indian Premier League (cricket), or even the cricket world cup. People who generally do not indulge in betting are also putting their money," said a Howrah-based agent.
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