Fight for World Cup spills onto club walls

Replicas of the World Cup and Zabivaka, the mascot of the tournament, in a north Calcutta neighbourhood. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta: Hours before the football World Cup kicks off in Moscow, Calcutta was in the grip of a fight over wall space and also air space between lamp posts.

So fierce is the fight, a club in Girish Park has decided not to be involved in the distribution of Brazil and Argentina flags among its members.

During the last World Cup, supporters of the two countries had come to blows on the club premises over the distribution of the flags. Given the mood this time, club officials are fearing a rerun.

"The supporters of Argentina among our members have procured their flags and started hanging them between lamp posts. The Brazil fans will probably start tomorrow. The club won't be involved. On behalf of the club, we have decided to restrict ourselves to organising screenings of key matches," said Anup Mullick, secretary of Janakalyan Samity in Aditya Mullick Lane in the Girish Park area.

Members of the club have sculptured a giant FIFA World Cup Trophy and an 8ft-tall thermocol model of Zabivaka, the wolf mascot, to get into the cup groove.

The World Cup kicks off at 8.30pm (local time) on Thursday with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

There are 30 other teams playing but a look at wall graffiti in Calcutta suggests the tournament is confined between the two Latin American giants.

Going by some graffiti, the contest is between Captain Lionel Messi of Argentina and and Captain Neymar of Brazil.

At the Kalyan Sangha club in Gopalnagar, Alipore, Argentina fans were aggrieved that they had got less space on the walls of their club room.

"What can we do? About 65 per cent of our 350-odd members are supporters of Brazil. The rest mostly root for Argentina," said Saibal Guha, an official of the club and a Brazil diehard.

His son Arka, an engineer who has just joined his first job, was among the few members of the club, mostly youngsters, who would shout for Portugal because of their love for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The club wall sported pictures of Neymar and Marcelo from Brazil but only Messi from Argentina.

"This is unfair. Why not (Nicolas) Otamendi or (Sergio) Aguero along with Messi?" asked Vishal Singh, 24, an Argentina diehard.

At the Mathgoli Milan Sangha in Bowbazar, the members are equally divided in their support for Argentina and Brazil. "We have amicably decided which wall belongs to whom. Unless, they (Argentina supporters) provoke us, there won't be any problem," said Bijoy Dey, 28, who is confident Brazil will reach at least the semis.


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