German and Argentinean flags atop a house in Dawki along the international border. Telegraph picture
Shillong, July 12: Every four years, one of the greatest carnivals on earth — the World Cup — is played in front of billions with unbridled fanfare and enthusiasm, not only among the men wearing different shades of jerseys, but even more among their fans.
This year, too, is no different for the residents along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya whose passion for O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game) runs high.
Flags of their favourite teams have been flying up high atop their homes to celebrate the Brazilian samba and the World Cup in the South American country, which 32 teams had been vying for.
Now only two are left in the fray, with tomorrow’s summit clash set to realise the ultimate passion, the ultimate dream.
Along with their counterparts across the world, residents of Dawki and Tamabil in the Ri War area, about 90km from here, have been passionate in expressing their love for “the beautiful game”.
“Traditionally, residents have been throwing their weight behind Argentina, Italy and Brazil. But in this World Cup, even Germany and the Netherlands have been receiving support because of their performance. The flags of these countries were flying high. But now, only the Argentinean and German flags are waving,” M.F. Ryngksai, an elderly citizen of Dawki, said.
Ryngksai’s house has an Argentinean flag, although he is a diehard fan of the Netherlands.
According to him, not less than 200 homes in the area have been putting up flags, which came from across the international border. The prices of the flags depend on the strength and popularity of the teams.
“The tradition of putting up flags first started in 2002 when more television sets arrived in the villages. Since then, there was no looking back. The passion for the game has just become stronger,” Ryngksai added.
Gone are the days when residents of Shillong and other places would flock to the border areas to watch World Cup matches, as the signals from Bangladesh would relay the live matches. That used to be a phenomenon in the 1980s.
Now, giant screens like the existing one in the Khyndailad area here have come up. People are donning the jersey of their favourite team.
From Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma to the young boys and girls who adore the beautiful game, all and sundry are eagerly awaiting the midnight carnival tomorrow.
“Watching the game with friends and family on a giant screen at the popular city square will add flavour to the finals, and once again people will exhibit how much football means to them,” Sangma said.
“I wish everyone a happy time and hope the best team wins,” he added, refusing to divulge whom he is backing.
Sports minister Zenith Sangma will be watching the finals on a giant screen with his people in Rangsakona, West Garo Hills.
“It will be a thrilling final with two brilliant styles of play. But my hopes are pinned on Germany. They truly play like a well-oiled machine, and if they keep the tempo like they did against the Brazilians, then nothing will stop them. But then anything can happen in football, so let us wait and watch,” he said.
AIFF vice-president and Shillong Lajong FC managing director Larsing Ming Sawian said, “I would never predict against a German side that has been so clinical and consistent. At the same time, never ever make the mistake of predicting against a team that comprises Lionel Messi. He just needs 30 seconds in 90 minutes to change the outcome of a game.”
As Messi and company, Philipp Lahm and his team display their skills for the ultimate dream at the Estádio Maracană in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentinean and German flags will fly along the international border.
Notwithstanding which flag flies higher once the outcome is known, such flags will come up again along the international border in 2018 when the World Cup travels closer home to Russia. All for the love of O Jogo Bonito.