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World Cup Diary: A 'muktiyoddha' amidst the green wave in Eden
A few thousand passionate Bangladesh fans have descended into Eden Gardens in the City of Joy — including a freedom fighter
Stopping to speak to one of the roadside vendors lined up on the way into Eden Gardens, Qamrul Alam Chowdhury picked up a Bangladesh flag.
The red sun in the green perhaps meant a bit more to him than to most of the supporters today than most — he belongs to the generation that fought in the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh.
‘’I am regular visitor to Kolkata. This time, I have clubbed this visit to watch two of our games here with some medical treatment as well,’’ said Chowdhury, who was a deputy commander of the Bangladesh Muktiyoddha Sangsad (Basundhara unit). Keeping him company was Mizanur Rehman Bhuiyan, an old friend and a professional singer.
Now in his late sixties, Chowdhury is one of the few thousands of passionate cricket fans from the neighbour nation, the 'other Bengal', who have descended on the city for Bangladesh's two matches over four days.
The green shirts were hard to miss along the terraces as Bangladesh took on qualifiers Netherlands on Saturday, 28 October, with an even bigger crowd expected on Tuesday, 31 October, when they play Pakistan.
While it’s only a 30-minute flight from Dhaka to Kolkata, there is also an overnight bus ride.
The favourite hub for Bangladeshi visitors in central Kolkata — Marquis Street and Sudder Street — are dotted with enough budget hostels and guesthouses for the usual exchange, but this week they are already chock-a-block.
‘’We are staying on the southern fringes of the city, as I have to do some hospital visits also,’’ Chowdhury said.
An insipid performance from the Bangla Tigers so far has certainly left him unhappy, and he is quick to blame the ‘politics’ for that.
‘’Politics has prevented them from sending the best team. Hopefully, they can give a better account of themselves in the remaining matches and go back with heads high,’’ he remarked.
Not that the supporters change their allegiance any, either way. They remain steadfast in their sportsmanly politics.
“Harleo Bangladesh, jitleo Bangladesh (victory or defeat, it is Bangladesh we support),” said Md Asaduzzaman, a member of the Bengal Tigers Fan Club, the official fan club of the national cricket team, said in an interview.
Speaking from experience, I can vouch for the fact that the Bangladesh fans can be quite a passionate lot — some, in fact, verging on stans.
The group of 50-odd Bangla journalists, who have been following the team’s campaign across the country, can also be an animated lot — but are less steadfast in their support, lionising their cricketing heroes one day and dumping on them the next.
Sitting quietly in the new-look Press Box in Eden was Mohammad Ashraful, one of their finest cricketers and a former captain turned TV pundit for a start-up channel in Dhaka: ‘’The visa processing has been taking longer these days, otherwise you would have possibly seen a bigger crowd from Bangladesh,’’ he told me ruefully... even as the Tigers pinned the Netherlands tightly down to 229.