Brazil bliss, Aarghentina agony

Lionel Messi fanboy Snehasish Mukherjee lost his appetite on Thursday night. Neymar devotee Amitava Chowdhury found a reason to cheat on his strict low-fat diet with biryani from Arsalan on Friday evening.

By Rith Basu, Debraj Mitra and Ritoja Mukherjee in Calcutta
  • Published 23.06.18

CUP splits city: Brazil fans celebrate at a cafe on BT Road near Sinthee More (in picture by Pradip Sanyal) their team’s win against Costa Rica in a World Cup group match on Friday evening. The mood of Argentina fans in the city is reflected in Lionel Messi’s reaction (above) after Croatia’s third goal during the team’s group match on Thursday night. Croatia won 3-0. (PTI) 

Calcutta: Lionel Messi fanboy Snehasish Mukherjee lost his appetite on Thursday night. Neymar devotee Amitava Chowdhury found a reason to cheat on his strict low-fat diet with biryani from Arsalan on Friday evening.

The gastronomic responses of these young men to the outcome of two high-voltage World Cup matches featuring Argentina and Brazil in less than 24 hours characterised the contrast between the Latin football camps in this emotion-fuelled city.

While Argentina fans struggled to digest the 0-3 humiliation at the hands of Croatia, the Brazil fan brigade held tight through some exasperating near misses before everything came together at the 90th minute.

Tiyasha Ghosh, a first-year student of English, had sat with hands folded in prayer throughout the second half as Brazil squandered chance after chance to score a goal against Costa Rica. In the first minute of added time, the Rajarhat resident was out of her seat and leaping up and down. Phillipe Coutinho had just stabbed in the all-important goal.

Around her erupted the voices of 60-odd Brazil fans belonging to the Blaugrana Fans of Bengal, who had booked a cafe at Sinthee to watch the match on a 10ft x 5ft screen. Shouts of "Brazil... Brazil" and "Neymar... Neymar" often drowned the commentary in full volume.

A little later, as Neymar delivered the final blow, the room could have been a cafe in Rio de Janeiro.

The previous night, the Argentina faithful had been numbed by the listless performance of the 2014 runners-up in their second match of the tournament. Rajdeep Sarkar, a bank executive, was so dejected after the loss that he muted his WhatsApp groups lest anyone send a mocking message.

"The loss was heartbreaking enough. I was not ready for post-match taunts," said the 35-year old resident of Behala.

He should probably have gone completely offline because social media was scathing. "Messi announcing his retirement in 3...2...," read a post, alluding to his aborted decision to quit playing for his country after losing to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final.

A sample application that has since gone viral on social media says: "Argentina-r theke Brazil jogdan form (Form to join Brazil from Argentina). "I have had enough, will not support Argentina in my life again," the form mentions.

Calcutta police's Facebook page hadn't let go of the opportunity for some fun either. " Shob penalty miss hoena (All penalties are not missed)," reads a post with the hashtag "Safe Drive Save Life".

A picture accompanying the post shows Messi missing a penalty against Iceland. The other depicts a traffic sergeant penalising a motorbike rider without a helmet.

For Soham Ganguly, the manner of the defeat to Croatia was what hurt the most. "You can lose a match, that is okay. But the team hardly showed intent. Messi was also surprisingly timid," said Soham in between watching the Iceland versus Nigeria match at the Milanayatan Club in Kasba.

The double strike by Ahmed Musa for the African side brought the smile back to his face. "Argentina are still alive in the tournament," he said.

Around 300 metres from there, Haltu Nabin Sangh club has a giant Messi cutout outside the gate. Hundreds of small blue-and-white flags dot the narrow lane leading to the club. "I thought of bringing down the cutout this morning. But some of my friends wanted to wait till the group league," said Banti Sarkar.

For Brazil fans, the most heartening part of Friday's match was Neymar making a mark after a lacklustre first match. "We were getting very worried about the missed chances. But Brazil is back... And, thank god, Neymar is back as well," said Sushmita Das, a make-up artist who watched the match with friend Kaushik Dasgupta.