Kolkata loves football

MANJIRA MAJUMDAR trains her lens on lens on Kolkata which is a city seeped in football history

“Why me?” I wailed when the editor of The Thumb Print webzine asked me to pen an essay on the World Cup madness in Kolkata. “What kind of a Bengali are you?”  she asked. Well, why only football? We Bengalis have this unenviable trait of going over the top for a host of things. You just have to recall the recently concluded IPL tournament.  However, KKR did win so there was something to celebrate about but it is intriguing to note that a carnival (this time, more so) in a country that is far away (and World Cup is always hosted in developed nations, Brazil this year being one of those aberrations), excites us so.

The game is popular across several countries and even those who do not have their teams featuring in the Cup, whipping up a rare frenzy. If Indian magazines are to be believed, it is the next big thing after the Lok Sabha elections. This is because the magazines perhaps do not have to justify the girlie pictures on their covers as samba dancers and football have segued well to offer us some titillating visuals.

In between there are match schedules, analysis and gossip. There are matches to be played, won and lost. Only one is keeping one’s finger crossed about violence not breaking out in Sao Paolo if Brazil does not qualify.

It is after all, a sport.

Now to train our lens on Kolkata which is a city that is seeped in football history.  Without getting into the details it is suffice to note that our other Didi – Usha Uthup has already started singing her anthem “Brazil” from the Terry Gilliam film of the same name, giving her other anthem “tumi koto sundari Kolkata” a month’s break!  B.R.A.Z.I.L How coincidental!  Almost all auto rickshaws, whose drivers make up for the largest support base are already sporting the Brazilian flag and late to work will perhaps be perfected to an art form due to those late night matches.

It’s a fun and fiesta all right with animated discussions on unexpected results. City hotels and restaurants are hoisting large screens beaming the matches with accompanying food and drinks till very late at night. In some case, like the ITC’s Eden Pavilion, will offer unlimited beer with its late-night buffet. And some restaurants are offering free home deliveries throughout the day. Note some of the offerings to date. FIFA inspired cocktails such French Striker and German Off-side, Moqueca (Brazillian fish stew), while a home-spun joint Koshe Kasha has introduced dishes named Rooney (crumb fried bekti); Nimble as Neymar – chicken breast stuffed with seasonal vegetables and seasoned with Indian spices etc etc.

So its fusion time in Kolkata; painted flags on faces is passé. Unlike cricket, we must understand that it is a sport that every Bengali lad has played. It cuts across class and caste. It binds men as men,  What remains is that Bengali women no matter how strong, are compelled to let their men become that young lad, caked in dirt and mud,  albeit vicariously, once again. They (the women) either try to use their head to make sense of it all, or give into their hearts and join the celebrations.

The city waits to discover a new hero, not necessarily handsome, but one who can really kick that ball in a reaffirmation of life.

Manjira Majumdar

Manjira Majumdar

Manjira Majumdar is an independent journalist, media consultant and a would-be novelist.