A scintillating love story between Argentina and Bangladesh fans
Argentine media and Fifa recently praised Bangladeshi fans' passion for football
The excessive enthusiasm for Argentine football among Bangladeshi people is beyond imagination, and it comes close to reality every four years during the World Cup, the greatest show on earth.
The streets and houses are adorned with sky blue and white flags, jersey sale reaches its peak, the gossips and discussions are mostly about football, and big screen matches of Argentina are always jam-packed with football lovers.
This time too it is no different and Fifa's official page sharing a viral video of crowded Argentina fans wildly celebrating Lionel Messi's goal against Mexico is just a glimpse of the overall craze in this country.
The madness or show of love for Argentina however, began well before the first game of the 2022 World Cup kicked off in Doha, Qatar on November 20.
The Puranabasti-Jhulikya link bridge in the Reserve Bazar area and the Brahmantila link bridge in Asambasti of Rangamati city, some 300 kilometers away from the capital, painted in the colors of the Argentine flag is one of the early instances.
Coloring houses has become a common trend.
Then, there were flamboyant rallies at different places of the country, including a group of fans in Sarishabari, Jamalpur carrying out a colorful one with a 1,060-feet long Argentina flag, and a large one with band party in Bagerhat city, ahead of the mega show.
The capital city has also been vibrant since the beginning, and one can notice people with Argentina jersey everywhere, especially Messi's No 10, and flags and banners.
How it began
There were a few Argentina fans before, like legendary Bangladesh footballer Sheikh Mohammad Aslam, who was impressed by Mario Kempes, but the number increased significantly after the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Diego Maradona and Co mesmerized the football world with magical performance to lift the golden trophy that shaped a massive fan group in Bangladesh that is more than 10,000 miles away from Argentina.
This was also the first time that the country's then only television channel, BTV, got the opportunity to do real business as all the knockout games were shown live, as well as some selected fixtures from the group stage.
It created quite a hype across the country since the opening ceremony and Maradona caught regular headlines in the local newspapers since his World Cup debut in 1982, followed by his record transfer to Barcelona.
The Bangladeshi people however, were yet to see the best of Maradona, not before 1986 anyway, and people of all ages were enthralled by the indomitable genius of the Argentina captain.
Even in the villages, everyone gathered at that one special house that owned a television.
The 1990 World Cup beat every previous edition in terms of live telecast and daily coverage.
Maradona carried on entertaining his Bangladeshi fans right through to the final, and many emotive men and women in the city and villages started supporting Argentina after seeing him break down in tears after losing to Germany.
The Messi mania
Messi became the most popular footballer in Bangladesh in the last one and a half decade, not only because he is an Argentine, but also for his individual skills and performances throughout an enchanting career.
By this time, television reached every nook and corner of the country, and people can watch day-to-day live matches of top European league where Messi has been phenomenal, perhaps rivalled only by Cristiano Ronaldo on occasions.
People of Bangladesh loved Messi more and more and thus a new generation of football fans built affection for Argentina as well, despite the fact that they have not won the World Cup since 1986.
For instance, most of the female footballers at the football federation's camp are big fans of Messi as all of them were born after 2000.
Like them, one will find numerous young Argentina fans around, and the reason for their support is nothing other than Messi.
The greatest show has grown from strength to strength, even more so since social media became popular over the mobile phones, and Messi is still entertaining his fans with goals and assists.
Support among Bangladesh footballers
Bangladesh are placed among the lowest-ranked countries in world football, but that never stopped the national footballers showing support for their favorite team during the World Cup.
Here too, the fan base is mainly divided into two groups – Argentina and Brazil - but in the current male and female national team, the number of Argentina supporters is slightly more than the Latin American neighbors.
All the national footballers are currently staying with their clubs due to ongoing domestic league fixtures.
They can't watch all the World Cup matches, especially the late night ones which are followed by training early the following morning, but don't miss the opportunity when their favorite team play.
Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings were on their way to Dhaka after playing their Independence Cup match in Munshiganj at the same time when Argentina were playing their opening game against Saudi Arabia.
Every player had smartphones on hand to watch the live-streaming on running bus.
“We all watched the game from mobile. Everyone was excited and enjoyed the game from bus, but it was the Brazil fans who celebrated the result,” Kings' national defender Topu Barman told Dhaka Tribune.
Topu however, started supporting Argentina after being impressed by the performance of former legends Gabriel Omar Batistuta, Ariel Ortega and Juan Seba Veron.
Most of the national footballers play for Kings, while the second-most feature for six-time Premier League winners Abahani Limited.
Their midfielder Emon Mahmud, a Brazil fan, informed Dhaka Tribune that the most of the players at the club tent support Argentina.
The female footballers are more active showing their support for favorite teams, especially Argentina, by wearing jersey and posting them on social media.
Sabina Khatun, the captain and the most experienced member of the national team, is a diehard Argentina fan since 2014.
She said around 60-70% national team players support Argentina.
“Basically we support the footballers,” Sabina told Dhaka Tribune.
“When I started understanding football, I liked Argentina because of Messi. I also like Neymar.”
“But Bangali people exaggerate a bit while supporting their favorite team. I don't like them who spread negativity against the opponents.
“We, the Bangladeshi people, love sports and when the World Cup arrives, it is evident that we are actually crazy about football.”