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World Cup played & won in a day

France are the Fifa World Cup 2014 champions, and this isn’t a prophecy by the late Paul the Octopus or the Ghanian witch doctor claiming to be responsible for Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury woes.

Les Bleus did beat Brazil by a solitary goal in the dying minutes of a fantasy World Cup final at Salt Lake on Sunday, four days before the real show kicks off at Sao Paulo.

The nine-a-side daylong championship, played with as much intensity as the World Cup in Brazil would be over a month, saw a bunch of local Messis, Ronaldos, Neymars and Riberys put on their icon jerseys and lace their boots for a contest that missed the WAGs but little else.

The event had been organised by Football is in Our Blood, an online community with over 55,000 members on Facebook. The semi-annual championship this time had eight teams, each representing one of the eight Cup-winning countries.

From giant flags fluttering in the breeze to the jerseys, everything matched Fifa specifications.

Maidan Market replicas of the World Cup’s official ball, Brazuca, were used for the matches and the trophy was a mirror image of the original, minus the 4.9kg of solid gold, of course!

The championship even had its own anthem. “Pitbull and Shakira’s Cup We are one has been trumped today by the local flavour of Sab khela’r shera Bangaali’r tumi football (The greatest of all sports for Bengalis, you are football),” said Viv Sarkar, president of the community.

A website had been created for online registration of players interested in being part of the eight Cup teams. More than 150 registered within the first two hours of registrations opening, prompting the organisers to stop accepting entries after that.

A two-day auction with virtual currency saw 14 players each being picked by the team owners, all NRI members of the community. The owners themselves had to bid for the teams before selecting players in consultation with their respective talent scouts.

While seven teams were picked up for a base price of $30, the battle to own Brazil saw intense bidding. Toronto-based financial consultant Anjay Roy finally picked up the team for $151 (around Rs 9,000). The money from the team auction was used to buy the jerseys, match balls, trophy, food and refreshments for the players and spectators.

“We tried to create an atmosphere as close as possible to the real experience. The jerseys, trophy, ball and ambience were to give the people a feel of playing in Brazil,” said Tamas Sinha, a senior member of the online community.

The championship may have mimicked the World Cup but the quips were quintessentially Calcutta. Shouts of “Rooney ke lyang maar (tackle Rooney)” and “Brazil’er jamaye Samba kom kor, dribble beshi kor (Do less of Samba and more of dribbling in that Brazil jersey)” rang out loud through the KB Block playground.

If any confirmation was needed for the World Cup to become an unmistakably Calcutta event, it was the choice of chilli chicken and fried rice for lunch!

Italy and France advanced to the semi-finals from Group A, Brazil and Uruguay made the cut from Group B.

France was a squad comprising mainly of high school and college students, while Uruguay was the oldest team with the majority of the players over 30.

After a host of nasty tackles, glorious goals and a couple of close penalty shootouts, France and Brazil squared off for the trophy in an encore of the 1998 World Cup final.

“I am to leave for the US in a day and here I am, in my Brazil jersey, doing what I enjoy the most,” said Sanjib Basu, at 41 the oldest player in the championship.

The senior Wipro executive had turned Neymar for the day.

A “Frenchman” named Russian Bose, who studies in Class XI at M.P. Birla School, was the youngest in the fray at 15.

“Although I am supporting Brazil in the World Cup, today I feel like Ribery in a French jersey and am overjoyed to have beaten Brazil in the final,” the schoolboy said.

When Faiz “Benzema” Ahmed sent a long-range screamer into the net after 20 minutes of deadlock, Les Bleus knew they had to stonewall the Brazilians for the nervous last few minutes.

The moment the referee blew the final whistle, the yellow jerseys slumped to the ground while the boys in blue leapt at each other to form a huddle.

“In the end, football and Calcutta won,” said Soumya “Pippin” Chakraborty, 23, the French goalkeeper who was adjudged player of the tournament.

As the sun went down and the victorious French team was handed the World Cup trophy, the joy of lifting a Rs 3,500 replica bought from College Street wasn’t any less than what the Cup winners would feel on July 13.

Over to Brazil.

Who do you think will win the World Cup? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com