The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 15 , 2014
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Fans turn finale into festival of football

Germany won the World Cup on Sunday night and Calcutta the Golden Ball for sheer enthusiasm.

From street corners and para clubs to housing-complex auditoriums and parks with giant screens, Calcuttans from six to 60-plus celebrated the finale of football’s biggest carnival like only they can.

Such was the demand for “community shows” that suppliers ran out of equipment like screens and projectors to rent out.

“I had to switch off my mobile after renting out whatever equipment I had, including 12 large-screen televisions and seven projectors,” said Badal Das, who owns a shop in Gariahat.

Argentina dominated the fan count across the city but the Germans had their share of followers. Metro drove through town to catch the mood before the heartbreak and hurrah at dawn.

South City

As Gonzalo Higuain popped the ball into the German net in the 40th minute, the DJ started playing Shakira’s La La La and the 200-strong audience seated in the spacious auditorium began dancing, drowning the voice of the commentator and the sight of the assistant referee signalling offside.

The celebration continued for over 30 seconds with some young fans in T-shirts with “Messi” printed on the back even pulling open a can of soft drink and spraying the liquid on the audience before someone shouted from the rear to make the DJ stop the music. Reality bites.

The auditorium on the ground floor of the fifth tower of South City was filled with such emotions throughout the 120 minutes of the match as residents and their guests remained glued to the big screen, their hands occasionally digging into platefuls of savouries.

The organisers of the show — the South City Residents’ Sports Association — had applied for and got special permission from the authorities to throw open the auditorium to the public for the final.

To make the viewers comfortable, there were mattresses on the ground, plenty of chairs, refreshments like tea, soft drinks and kulfi along with sandwiches, chips and samosas.

“We thought watching the World Cup final together was better than a few of us getting together in someone’s house,” said Sunil Agarwal, the club’s sports convener.

The audience loved it. “I had a great time watching the match with friends and others without missing the comfort and safety of home,” said Priyanka Agarwal, a second-year commerce student.

Taltala Ground, Jodhpur Park

A family of five came all the way from Howrah to the Taltala ground to watch the match under the open sky on a giant screen along with thousands of other Argentina and Germany supporters.

“A day comes once in four years when our favourite teams play the World Cup final. We could not have been sitting at home and watching the match on TV, so we came out to enjoy it with others in a stadium-like ambience,” said Trina Ghosh, a third-year BCom student.

Goutam Ghosh, Trina’s father had offered to drive his daughter and her brothers Deepan and Koustav to the ground beside the EDF Hospital after one of his friends from Jodhpur Park invited them to watch the match on the giant screen. The trio’s mother tagged along.

in the end, fan fervour wins

While Trina and her mother supported Argentina, Deepan and Koustav — the older one a student of Class IX and his sibling a boy of Class VI — pledged their hearts to Germany.

Rickdev Mukherjee, a BPO employee from Garia, was with three friends. “The four of us had planned to watch the match at a friend’s place in Jodhpur Park but since there was a giant screen nearby, we came down and joined the crowd,” he said.

Argentina supporters dominated the 2,000-strong crowd. Avishek Das from Selimpur wrapped a blue and white towel around his shoulders to show which side he was on!

Suruchi Sangha, New Alipore

Youth affairs minister Aroop Biswas’s office room at the club turned into a mini stadium with the audience evenly divided into Argentina and Brazil-turned-Germany supporters.

If football was the main course, the side dishes included rice and mutton curry, followed by rounds of tea and biscuits to keep everyone going till dawn.

“I am a big fan of Brazil. With Argentina in the final, I would have supported any team they were up against,” said Biswas, who banged the table in frustration after the Germans failed to stitch together an attack in the 88th minute.

Seated beside the minister was Dhrubajyoti Bhowmik, a doctor and the most vocal among the Argentina supporters. “I had waited for this day for 24 years. The way the team had been playing this year, I was confident of victory. We missed some golden opportunities, but I had a great time,” Bhowmik said later.

Sreebhumi Sporting, Lake Town

The park that hosts a large Durga Puja found sponsorship even for the World Cup final! The Sreebhumi shamiana had a large screen and a food kiosk, all arranged for by a soft drink company.

Unlike in many parts of the city, Germany seemed to have large support base in this neighbourhood along VIP Road. The Germany fans were also more vociferous, clapping and cheering, if not trying to sing along, when the German anthem was played at the Maracana.

“The Germans play like a professional, cohesive unit should. It is just a matter of time,” said Sougata Sen, a resident of Block A in Lake Town minutes before the lone goal that decided the match.

Gopalnagar, Alipore

Residents of this Alipore pocket are such devoted supporters of Lionel Messi and Co that they even have an Argentina Fans’ Club, formed a couple of years ago. For the World Cup final, the club decided it would be a small television rather than a giant screen because their favourite team had lost a big match every time they had made special arrangements.

“This time, we are sticking to an old television. Let’s see if it brings our team luck,” said Biplab Mitra, president of the club, ahead of the match.

The 50-odd club members huddled around the TV clapped and chanted “Messi…Messi” every few minutes until they and the dhaks fell silent at the fag end of extra time. Nobody stayed back to see the Germans receive the Cup.

Deshapriya Park

Rain in the evening turned the field slushy but failed to dampen the spirits of the 200-odd Argentina fans who gathered here to cheer their favourite team. “Messi deserves the trophy and his team owes it to him,” said Gagan Sachdev, watching the match with his friends.

“The Argentines played like champions throughout the tournament,” trilled Amit Ghosh, a college student.

Like everywhere else where fans rooted for Argentina, Goetze’s goal silenced the gathering.

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