By Tausif Salim,
Photo: Ahmed Ashiful Haque Niloy
Just when the World Cup fever is about to reach its dizzying state, the exit of the two Latin American giants seems to have snubbed the fire out of the hearts of most of the local fans. Apart from a very few, the World Cup for most Bangladeshis is already over. When you are reading this article, the finalists have already been decided, and the world is waiting for a grand finish to the month-long football extravaganza.
In a country where cricket has established itself as a number one sport, the excitement about football mainly revolves around the world cup. This is the time when you'll see flags fluttering from every rooftop, TV sets selling like hot cakes, and fans arguing for ages over why-they-think-their-team-will-win-the-world-cup. The other day on TV one guy was saying that the sale of bamboo poles has gone up considerably during this period. Now whether these baash are used as flagpoles, or against fans of rival teams, is not very clear.
Talking about flags, there seems to be an evolution of flags in this one month. I've seen Brazil's flag alone in 3-4 different designs, with all sorts of writing one them like 'Brazil jindabad Laltu bhai', where Laltu Bhai seems to be the sponsor for the flag. One guy went as far as hanging a long green banner, with a red disc signifying the Bangladesh flad, and below it, the yellow diamond with the blue disc signifying the Brazil flag, and the words 'Hridoye Bangladesh, Moidan e Brazil' loudly proclaiming his mind-boggling eccentricity. My friend Niloy had recently been to Meherpur where he saw a lot of Ghana flags with a writing on them that said 'Eta Ghanar potaka' (This is a flag of Ghana).
It was not very surprising to see even Ghana has some support over here. They were the only team from Africa to have made a real impression this time, the other being Ivory Coast who couldn't reach the second round in spite of playing some spirited football. Perhaps the most surprising factor of this world cup was the lack of surprises, as there has not been a single big upset in the entire tournament (only Ghana beating a lacklustre Czech republic was somewhat close to being one). Most of the big teams had generally struggled to find their touch, especially in the first round, while some had fired during the crucial stages like France and Italy. The Asian giants of the 2002 never made it to the 2nd round, although some felt South Korea's exit on goal difference with Switzerland was somewhat undeserved.
In spite of the tearful exits, the 18th FIFA World Cup, with its flurry of goals and cards, its colourful fans and their even more colourful emotions has not disappointed the lovers of the game itself. So even though it's nearly time to put away those flags, the fans would make sure the spirit is held within the heart, only to be rekindled four years later when the nations meet again in South Africa. It's only four years you know...!