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Brazil or Argentina? Football Rivalries Play Out Thousands of Miles Away From the World Cup in Bangladesh

Football fever spreads in Bangladesh. Playing football in front of a wall colored with different national flags of the participants in the FIFA World Cup. Jatrabari, Dhaka. Image by Sourav Lasker. Copyright Demotix (8/6/2014)

Football fever spreads in Bangladesh. Playing football in front of a wall colored with different national flags of the participants in the FIFA World Cup. Jatrabari, Dhaka. Image by Sourav Lasker. Copyright Demotix (8/6/2014)

The FIFA World Cup 2014 is about to begin in Brazil on June 12 and ‘World Cup fever’ has gripped Bangladesh, like it does, every four years. 

Nothing can dampen the South Asian country's passion for football, not even their consistently low FIFA ranking – this year it is 167. Bangladeshis may not get the opportunity to celebrate their home team during the World Cup championships, but they do religiously follow and passionately cheer for their favourite international teams.

Most Bangladeshis are staunch supporters of either Brazil or Argentina. This football rivalry grips every Bangladeshi fan. Ahmad-Musa writes on [bn] the Somewhereinblog:

১২ জুন সাও পাউলোতে শুরু হচ্ছে ফুটবল যুদ্ধ। এই যুদ্ধে বাংলাদেশের আপমর জনতা মূলত ভাগ হয়ে যাবে ব্রাজিল-আর্জেন্টিনা শিবিরে। ঘরে ঘরে চলবে এই সমর্থন যুদ্ধ।এলাকা মহল্লায় কার আগে কে কত বড় পতাকা উত্তোলন করতে পারে, কাদের সমর্থক বেশি তা নিয়ে চায়ের টেবিলে ঝড় উঠেছে।

The Football war will start in Sao Paulo on 12 June. All of Bangladesh will essentially be divided into two camps – Brazil and Argentina. This show of support will be reflected in every home. Every neighbourhood is rife with competitive spirit about who is able to hoist the team flag before others. There are ongoing, heated debates over endless cups of tea about who is hoisting the largest flag, whose team holds more supporters etc.

Traders are out to make some quick money as the sale of jerseys of various countries soar ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Image by Md. Manik. Copyright Demotix (5/6/2014)

Traders are out to make some quick money as the sale of jerseys of various countries soar ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Image by Md. Manik. Copyright Demotix (5/6/2014)

Everyone is wearing their team loyalties on their sleeve, especially on social media.

Marina Chawdhury (@M_e_R_i_n_a) tweeted in a lighter vein that (unlike others) she did not quarrel over football:

I’m a Brazil supporter, and I am a peace-loving person. I don't quarrel with the supporters of others teams.

Tailors sew Brazil and Argentina flags at a shop in Dhaka ahead of the World Cup.  Image by Rohit Rajib. Copyright Demotix (21/5/2014)

Tailors sew Brazil and Argentina flags at a shop in Dhaka ahead of the World Cup. Image by Rohit Rajib. Copyright Demotix (21/5/2014)

Sale of flags of the competing nations rise to an all-time high during the World Cup season. Supporters and fans can be seen flying flags of their favorite teams from their houses, a phenomenon that caused Blogger Sobak Pakhi to comment:

বিশ্বকাপ ফুটবলের সময় ব্রাজিল, আর্জেন্টিনার পতাকা উড়ানোর উপর করারোপ করলে সরকার কিছু টেকাটুকা কামাইতে পারতো।

The government can earn some money by imposing tax on waving of Brazil-Argentina flags.

Ashiqur Rahman Rean wrote on Facebook:

Neymar and Messi should get their “revenue share” from the flag sales in Bangladesh during World Cup: they would go mad if they know the sales number here.

Nillufar Sharmin Jessy comments on the ubiquitous display of flags of playing nations, on almost every building and vehicles plying the roads:

Interestingly, though Bangladesh will not be playing in the World Cup, seven International teams will playing wearing jerseys made in Bangladesh. Zubayer Aziz is proud of this. He tweeted:

Blogger and educator, Ragib Hasan, raised a question on Facebook:

কিন্তু আর্জেন্টিনা ব্রাজিলের এই পতাকার ভীড়ে আমার এই সোনার বাংলার পতাকাটা কোথায়?
বাংলাদেশের পতাকা আইন অনুসারে বিদেশী পতাকা কেবল তখনি ওড়ানো চলে, যখন বাংলাদেশের পতাকা ওড়ানো হয় এবং সব চাইতে উঁচুতে সগৌরবে। খেলা নিয়ে আনন্দ, উল্লাস এসব আমাদের জীবনের, আমাদের বেঁচে থাকারই অংশ। কিন্তু খেলার উন্মাদনায় বাংলাদেশের লাল সবুজের পতাকার মর্যাদাটা ভুললে চলবেনা, কারণ লাখো শহীদের অর্জিত এই পতাকাটা কোনো ব্রাজিলীয় বা আর্জেন্টিনীয়র রক্তে না, বরং এই বাংলার মানুষের রক্তে, আত্মত্যাগেই এসেছে। কাজে ওড়ান পছন্দের দলের পতাকা, মনের আনন্দে, কিন্তু একই সাথে বাংলাদেশের পতাকাও উড়ুক, আর উঁচুতে, আমাদের গর্বে, আনন্দ বেদনার চিরসঙ্গী হিসাবে।

Amidst this ubiquitous presence of the flags of Brazil and Argentina, where is our Bangladeshi flag? According to Bangladesh flag law, you can fly a foreign flag only when you also fly your national flag, which must be flying in all its glory, at a higher level. Craze and fun around sports (and football) is fine. It is a part of our lives, a tonic for our daily living. But while doing so, we must remember to respect and honour our own national flag. We must not forget that  we achieved our flag through the sacrifices of our martyrs, and it was their blood, their sacrifice that won us this flag – not any Brazilian or Argentinian blood. So,go ahead, fly the flag of your favourite team and enjoy yourself but alongside, let our national flag fly higher, as a symbol of our national pride, joys and sorrows.

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