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The fiercest rivalry between Brazil and Argentina unfolds in the streets of Kolkata
By Devjyot Ghoshal @DevjyotGhoshal June 16, 2014
A tale of two teams. Rohan Chakravarty for Quartz
Only two events merit both defacing and festooning the decrepit walls and narrow lanes in Kolkata.
One is an election. The other is the FIFA World Cup.
But unlike India’s elections and the unending list of political parties, when Kolkata gets decked out for football, it is either blue and white, or yellow and green. Argentina or Brazil.
This year is no different. Half a world away from the action, the great Latin American football rivalry is playing out in the innumerable paras—Bengali for neighborhoods—of Kolkata, a heaving metropolis in eastern India of 14 million.
Late one evening last week, Anuj Barman, a 34-year-old jeweler, sat in the darkened room a south Kolkata club—as one-roomed community centers are called here—as the projector warmed to show Argentina’s debut at the 2014 World Cup.
“From the day I’ve started watching football, understanding it, its always been Mohun Bagan on the fields of Kolkata,” he says, referring to one of city’s two great local football clubs. “And internationally, its always been Argentina.”
In Kolkata, football fanaticism begins early. Barman even claims to remember when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986, despite being a six-year-old. “When Maradona lifted that trophy, I just felt like putting my arms around him and giving him a kiss,” he unabashedly declares.
Of course, that’s enough emotional outpouring for the Brazil fans in the club to do some remembering of their own. “The hand of God,” they cry out repeatedly, teasing the opposing posse about Argentinian star Diego Maradona’s infamous goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal.
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