World Cup fever sweeps Bangladesh

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Image caption, Flags of teams playing in South Africa are on sale on Dhaka streets

World Cup fever has taken over Bangladesh - a country with one of the world's worst football teams (currently ranked 157th) but some of its most passionate fans.

They have decorated their homes, offices, factories, markets and vehicles with the flags of teams who will be playing in South Africa.

Some have even draped huge banners over the front of their buildings - and most of them are the blue and white of Argentina.

"In my family, six of us support Argentina, and two support Brazil. It's the same thing across Bangladesh," Salim Javed, a businessman said.

"I have supported them since I was a child and watched [Diego] Maradona on TV.

"Now they have [Lionel] Messi and [Carlos] Tevez. That's why they are so popular," he said.

'Crazy for football'

Cricket is the dominant sport across South Asia, but in neighbouring India too, there are pockets of football fanaticism in states such as Kerala in the south, and Assam and West Bengal, which both border Bangladesh.

Image caption, Many Bangladeshis support Argentina and Brazil

"This [Bangladesh] might be a cricket-playing nation, but during the World Cup we go crazy for football. We'll go back to cricket next month," Salim Javed said.

Kamruzaman, a factory worker and Brazil fan, says he intends to watch every match, however late in the night they are, with supporters of both teams.

"For us football means Argentina and Brazil. You know that in Bangladesh we have two political parties which always argue with each other. It is the same thing with us and football. It will be good fun," he said.

The past few weeks have been a boom time for tailors and flag-sellers.

Abdul Aziz says he makes between 100 and 150 Argentina flags a day with his sewing machine in an alleyway close to the national stadium.

"Normally Eid [the main Muslim festival] is my busiest time, when I'm making new clothes for people. But this World Cup has been even better than Eid," he said.

The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) now hopes that it too can benefit.

"Football has always been popular here but cricket has recently become very well established," BFF vice-president Badal Roy said.

"We hope that the World Cup will encourage more people to play.

"People are so enthusiastic about football right now and watching all these games will help them understand much better how it is played," he said.

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