'I have purchased a jersey of Messi couple of days back and I will also get a jersey of Neymar'
On a green field surrounded by hills, 22 football players are busy at the centre of the field trying to take control of the ball. One side is clad in yellow-blue coloured jerseys and 11 others are wearing white-sky blue coloured jersey. Several hundred people are surrounding the field, chanting: “Brazil! Brazil!...Argentina! Argentina!...”
Such was the scene, unexpected as it might be, at Cox’s Bazar’s Kutupalong camp on Friday. It was a friendly match of among Rohingya youths, inspired by the greatest show on earth, the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018.
Uprooted from home and trapped in a foreign land, the refugees seemed to find respite in the frenzy of the World Cup. Football fever has taken over the densely populated camps of displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
Flags of Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Portugal and other World Cup favourites were hoisted almost everywhere over the Rohingya camps that stretch about 10,000 acres of hilly lands from Ukhiya upazila to Teknaf upazila.
Children and teenagers are busy on the hillside fields with footballs during daytime while most adults are busy watching the matches on big screen.
Mohammad Hussain, who lives in the D4 area of Kutupalong camp, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Most Rohingyas support Argentina. The second largest supporter group is that of Brazil, while Germany and Portugal also enjoy a large following.”
The children and teenage residents of the camps are supporting their favourite teams in this world cup by donning their teams’ jerseys. Some have taken on the haircuts of favourite players such as Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Salah and other star footballers.
Young Rohingyas are organizing football matches on the muddy hillside fields at the camps almost every afternoon since the world cup kicked off, said Rohingya leader Nur Mohammad.
Rohingya youth Reaz said: “I have purchased a jersey of Messi couple of days back and I will also get a jersey of Neymar.”
Two Rohingya friends Rafiq and Jalal said that some people in the camps are arranging bets at the camps before the matches.
Sometimes it is fun but sometimes it ends with scuffles, they said.
Asked what his name is, a teenager proclaimed that his name is Jahangir Alam Neymar. He admitted later that he had affixed that last word to his name himself because he was a “crazy fan of Brazil football team.”
“I love Brazil. Neymar is my idol. Brazil will win the world cup!” he said.
As soon as the sun sets, the football lovers sit before big screens to watch the football matches.
The Rohingyas informed that the sitting arrangement on ground costs Tk20-Tk30 while the sitting arrangement on chairs or bench costs Tk50-Tk60 for each person.