Mini Champ de Mars in Calcutta
Park Street: On est les champions...on est les champions. Hands spread over adjacent shoulders, members of Team France in Calcutta stood wearing the final seconds of injury time down with their chant.
And once the referee blew the long whistle, signalling the end of the World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with France 4-2 against Croatia, two things happened simultaneously at The Park. French consul general Damien Syed kicked a World Cup official football that he had received on Saturday as a gift from the Russian consulate. A roar drowned out the on-screen commentary, as if the crowd in the room was one with the 90,000-strong audience gathered far away at Champ de Mars, under the Eiffel Tower.
"We will party once they hand over the Cup," Olivier Cassin, the deputy consul, decided on behalf of the entire group of expatriates.
For the young volunteers from a French non-profit organisation, the party had already begun as they started singing La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. Others, including Viviane Leconte, heartily joined in.
The 58-year-old, in town to visit her son Jerome, was the chief cheerleader, orchestrating support for Les Bleus at the screening organised by the French consulate on Sunday night. She did not sit for a single minute during the match.
"My wife is very passionate about football. Her father was the president of a football club," husband Yannick said as Viviane sang along with her son and his friends.
The match, belying the scoreline, was a tense one for the French camp. Most people had left their seats and gathered in the space behind the rows of chairs ever since the 18th minute, when Croatia's Mario Mandzukic netted an own goal and Croatia drew level within 10 minutes through Ivan Perisic's left-foot diagonal shot. "I am too tense to sit. And the ambience is better here," said Fabrice Plançon, the director of Alliance Francaise du Bengale. "France is not playing well. They need to run more," said Charlotte Chouteau, shaking her head.
Even Antoine Griezmann keeping his nerve to convert the penalty and taking France ahead after Perisic was deemed to have knowingly used his hand to intercept a ball did not soothe the French nerves. "This is too slender a lead. I hope (manager Didier) Deschamps manages to boost his boys during the break." a deeply worried consul general said at half time.
The only face not betraying the mood was that of Clementine Mandal's two-year-old son Ved.
Deschamps seemed to have done the needful when the boys in blue and white came out roaring, putting two more in, back to back. Alexandre Martinez, a former director of Alliance Francaise who is back on a visit, rushed to congratulate Syed but was told to wait till the end. Barely had he spoken the words, Croatia scored a second goal through a goalkeeper gaffe. But it was not to be Croatia's night in the rain. France wouldn't be denied like in 2006.
As the trophy was brought out in Moscow, Metro reminded Syed of a half-time promise to colour his cheeks red, white and blue if France won.
"This is the first time I am putting on make-up," he laughed. "But this moment is bigger than everything I have seen," he said, the emotions welling.
The rest of the group celebrating in the room couldn't agree more.