a year ago

Is it football euphoria or craze?

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The World Cup Football in Qatar, first in a Gulf country of the Middle East kicked off yesterday with the host country taking on Ecuador. But only a small fraction of football fans the world over will be lucky enough to watch matches from the gallery. However football fever has not gripped in the least those who will not be present in the stadiums in Qatar. 

The greatest show on Earth is expected to be viewed by the record number of football lovers all over the globe. Bangladesh may not be a contender for a place among the 32 teams that earn the right to compete at the final stage of competition, the craze for football among some of the followers here is too overwhelming to be matched by that of their counterparts anywhere in the world. The passion of some goes beyond all limits and therefore draws flaks from conservative quarters. They consider the excesses nothing but sheer insanity.  

What a man from a remote village called Khalla in Brahmanbaria has done can send many people's heads into a spin. He has unfurled a South Korean flag supporting that country's team. And lo! the flag he has made is four-kilometre long and it cost him a whooping amount of Tk500,000. But he is not a rich person. He and his wife saved Tk 180,000 for the purpose, which proved inadequate. So he had to sell the land property he received as a share for his wife from his father-in-law's side and on which he planted trees.  

Thus he satisfied his intense passion for doing something extraordinary for a team he considered most favourite when S Korea hosted the World Cup in 2002. At that time the man was in that country as an expatriate worker. It is unbelievable that he has kept alight the flame in his heart for two decades for a team that has hardly any chance of proceeding too far this time. 

His exceptional feat, however, has been overtaken by another flag of Germany displayed in Magura, which, its chief organiser claims, is the largest in the world. How much it cost and how the money was managed for making the flag is not known but what can be assumed is that the two record-breaking flags will make supporters, if not all, at least the crazy among the Argentine and Brazil supporters depressed. Will they also go for a flurry of never-say-die flag competition when the footballers in stadiums in Qatar will give their best to wrench a win over their rivals?  

Football fans in this country have mainly been divided into two camps ---Argentina and Brazil. Supporters of the two camps compete to beat their rivals in hoisting the largest flags of their preferred countries. Last time in 2018, two die-hard supporters in a village decorated their houses in the colours of Brazili's and Argentina's flags. This year also in Sirajganj town a Brazil supporter has painted his entire house including the roof with the colours of Brazil's flag. The front wall has on it a large flag of the Selecao painted and inscribed on it is 'Brazil Bari (home). So long no house painted in Albiceleste flag colours has come to notice but hopefully it will not take long to do so.       

If the country cannot produce world class footballers and a national team of the WC brand, what options do followers of this most popular game have open before them? They are satisfying their ego by tussling over the size of flags. But aren't they taking their cravings for entertainment much too far, particularly at a time when many of their compatriots are in no position to manage the minimum daily foods required for maintaining their body and soul together? 

The leading footballers of the world earn millions of dollars annually and the champion team and the runners-up will receive $42 million and $30 million respectively. Even the teams placed between 17th and 32nd will get $9.0 million each. But fans back home of the teams represented at the Qatar WC finals are unlikely to have one like the Brahmanbaria supporter of the Korean team. Thus Bangladesh beats the world in a strange way.

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