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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Kolkata down by Brazil loss, but up for ‘clash of Europe’

Kolkata’s love for Samba boys took a beating after the Brazil national U-17 football team lost to England in the semifinal of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. But the full house expected at Salt Lake Stadium for the final between England and Spain will appreciate good football

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 26, 2017 20:27 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup final,England vs Spain
Lincoln of Brazil national U-17 football team reacts after the loss against England football team in the semifinal if the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) in Kolkata on Wednesday.(AFP)

The sentimental favourites Brazil will only be playing for minor placings but the Salt Lake stadium will again be full on Saturday ensuring exactly the kind of end everyone connected with this under-17 World Cup would have hoped for.

“The only thing we would have done differently this time is get 48 teams for this World Cup. There are teams who were sad not because they had lost but because they had to leave India,” said Jaime Yarza, Fifa’s head of tournaments.

“I have been to a few World Cup matches, both men and boys, and to see so many turn up at a neutral venue for a semi-final in two days notice is massive,” said Shaji Prabhakaran, who was Fifa Regional Development Officer South Asia for five years till 2016.

Getting to see Brazil in the undercard bout would be a disappointment Kolkata seems to be living with after Wednesday’s masterclass by England. “Yes, I will be there for the final and yes like a lot of people from Bengal, supporting Brazil seems to be the most normal thing to do,” said Saubhik Goswami, a chartered accountant with a multi-national who was at the stadium on all six match days.

“The way George McEachran and Philip Foden controlled the midfield on Wednesday against quality opposition was an eye-opener for me and many others. We are used to seeing the senior England team at major tournaments and this isn’t how they play,” said Goswami.

England was the team this football cathedral backed in the group stages and against Japan in the pre-quarter final. Had it been any other team but Brazil, Steve Cooper’s boys would have got the full-throated backing on Wednesday as well. That being out of the way, the Young Lions should get the support of the most of what will again be a full house. The first signs of the tide turning were perhaps visible in the 87th minute when Philip Foden left to an ovation.

“It was a nice moment. Phil Foden being cheered by 60,000 Brazil fans,” said England coach Steve Cooper. “But it also showed that the crowd appreciates good football.” It was a point Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu had made after winning the quarter-final against Germany. “They applauded good moments from Germany showing that this is a crowd that understands football,” Amadeu had said.

Kolkata’s appreciation of sporting prowess isn’t new. Think of Majid Bishkar who came from Iran and is still talked about, said Raju Mukherjee, former Bengal cricket captain who has also written a book on the Eden Gardens.

“Asif Iqbal played his last Test at Eden Gardens and may have been forgiven for thinking that he was in Karachi not Kolkata. And that’s not all. The England team got tremendous backing from Eden Gardens when the 1987 World Cup final was played but then Steve Waugh took a catch at long-on and realising he had overstepped, immediately signalled to the umpire that it was a six. The Eden acknowledged that,” said Mukherjee.

Saturday’s double-header will also have Spain in the mix and given how many people have been seen in Real Madrid or Barcelona shirts on game days, they too should get some vocal backing. Yes Brazil lost, but for Kolkata it is important that football won.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 19:27 IST