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United Nations of Siliguri
- Jerseys and tresses show off World Cup mania

Siliguri, June 12: Bitten by the soccer bug, football fans across Siliguri are flocking to sports and garment shops to bag jerseys of their favourite teams and salons to get a haircut with the replica of the World Cup etched on the heads.

The FIFA World Cup is slated to start in Brazil at 1.30am on Friday. Brazil will take on Croatia in the inaugural.

“We are eagerly waiting for the tournament which comes once in four years. The next one month will be exciting and as each day passes, the fervour will increase,” said Romit Lama, a resident of Pradhannagar.

Jerseys of Brazil and Argentina are mostly in demand at the garment showrooms in Siliguri.

“For the past fortnight or so, we have been selling jerseys, mufflers, cap, key rings and flags of various countries which take part in the World Cup. The demand is high for items featuring Brazil and Argentina and as on date, we are running short of stock of materials of these two countries,” said Khokon Bhattacharya, a sports shop owner at Seth Srilal Market.

“However, as the event progresses, demand for the jerseys of other teams like Italy and Spain will also increase,” he added.

If the sartorial symbols don’t suffice for a die-hard soccer fan to declare his loyalty for the beloved team, he can scamper to salons.

“Youths are turning up at my salon everyday, asking for haircuts similar to those of their favourite players. While some are asking for a haircut like Neymar’s, others prefer Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Rabin Burathoki, the manager of Neel David Hair Salon on Sevoke Road. “There are youths who get their heads shaved, with tufts of hair left on the scalp bearing the design of the World Cup, name or the flag of the favourite team or simply a football.”

A group of youths in Panchnoi, located along NH55 on the outskirts of Siliguri, has decorated their area with flags of different countries participating in the tournament. Brazil, Argentina and Spain are the favourites of the youths there.

The soccer mania is set to push up the sale of television sets also.

Tushar Kanti Ghosh, who owns an electronic goods showroom at Bidhan Road and supplies items to the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim, said: “Shops in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Gangtok are asking for more and more television sets. Compared to those places, the soccer temperature is yet to soar in Siliguri. Once Argentina and Brazil start winning matches, there will be more demand for TV sets.”

Some football enthusiasts have replaced their TV sets with larger versions. “We were thinking of changing our television set. As the World Cup is round the corner, we bought a new one today. It has a 40-inch screen while the old set measured just 24 inches. It would be more enjoyable to watch matches on a bigger screen,” said Prajok Chakraborty.

Football fans took out a colourful rally in Siliguri today under the banner of the Seth Srilal Market Byabsayee Samiti. Hundreds of youths and traders came down onto the streets, displaying flags of different countries and pictures of prominent players.

“We want to enjoy the tournament in every way. Win and loss should be taken in sporting spirit,” said Bhattacharya, the secretary of the samiti.

Joyobroto Ghosh, the coach of SMKP-XI which had played against Bayern Munich FC of Germany at Kanchenjungha Stadium here in 2008, can’t wait for the matches.

“It was a rare chance to meet players like Thomas Muller, Podolski and some others who are in the German team now. We had seen their skills then and would love to watch them playing in the World Cup. Most of the people here are rooting for Brazil and Argentina, but Germany is no less a favourite team,” he said.

Mridul Chakraborty, another soccer fan, was disappointed that he couldn’t make it to Brazil to watch the World Cup.

“Back in 2010, I had been to South Africa to watch the World Cup. This year, too, I had tried to go to Brazil, but couldn’t manage tickets. At the last moment, I had to cancel my trip. Otherwise, I would have surely gone to Brazil,” said Chakraborty, a tour operator.