Kolkata: Giant screens have been set-up in all parts of the city, late night community feasts are being organised and schools have declared Monday a holiday as football mania grips Kolkata ahead of the mouth-watering clash between Argentina and Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final Sunday night at the famous Maracana Stadium in Brazil.
From ministers to celebrities to the hoi poloi – it seems Kolkata is divided between Argentina and Germany, as also between the two Ms – (Lionel) Messi and (Thomas) Muller.
If Argentina flags flutter from rooftops with Messi cutouts standing tall, German colours and Muller’s portraits, too, adorn walls across Kolkata.
It is a million-dollar guess which finalist has more supporters. Argentina seem the hot favourite in Garia, Baranagar, and Gangulybagan while in localities like Kudghat, Jadavpur and Bansdroni, German fans outnumber those of the Latin American nation.
Madan Mitra, the middle-aged sports minister of West Bengal, admits he is partisan. “I shall watch the match on a giant screen along with my friends at Deshapriya Park. I have done the rounds of temples – Dakhineswar, Adyapith, for my team Argentina’s victory”.
But yet, one may find politics in that. The white and sky blue jersey of the La Albiceleste, as Argentines are known, resembles chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s favourite colour band – blue and white.
Under Banerjee’s instructions, the city’s government buildings, new taxis, park railings, flyovers, bridges, have all been daubed in blue and white over the past two years.
Joked comedian Mir. “The way things are now in Kolkata, I won’t be surprised if the government employees get a holiday on Monday in the event of an Argentina victory.”
But the beautiful game has brought even political arch-enemies together. Left Front chairman Biman Bose, and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shamik Bhattacharya both support Argentina. However, Bhattacharya acknowledges Germany are the favourites. “My heart says Argentina, but the brain says Germany.”
For children, youth, and other ordinary sports aficionados it’s a night of merriment, feasts and community viewing of the biggest football clash on the globe.
“Messi will score, Argentina will win 3-0,” said a youth at Gangulybagan, the home of the Argentina Fan Club.
“No way, this is the best German side. We have great speed, we play as a team. Our players are the best in business in their respective positions,” said Ashesh Dey, a Germany supporter of Jadavpur.
Students at Max Mueller Bhavan, the city edition of Germany’s worldwide cultural institution, cut a cake, and held prayers wishing good luck to the Mannschaft, the nickname of the German team.
“We will win, there is no doubt,” said a young language student, her face painted in the German colours.
But popular television star couple Rahul and Priyanka differed.
“We are Brazilian supporters. But after the way they have broken our hearts, I am all for Argentina. I want Argentina to win and avenge Brazil’s humiliation,” said Rahul, while buying an Argentine jersey for their child.
Sensing the craze, several schools including the La Martiniere for Boys have declared holiday Monday to give rest to the students and teachers after the match which will continue at least up to 2-15 a.m.
At St. James’ class will start one hour and 45 minutes late, while Delhi Public School New Town has postponed class tests scheduled for Monday.
Cashing in on the World Cup fever, a local television channel has announced prizes for the locality celebrating the occasion in the best possible way.