The FIFA World Cup in Brazil is now in full swing and halfway around the world, the tiny South-Asian country of Bangladesh is wildly excited.
Bangladesh is not particularly renowned for its football prowess. Although they have participated in every FIFA qualifier round, they have never made it past the first match. The biggest win ever for the national team was a 2-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzogovina in 2001 and Bangladesh has met with little success since.
Bangladesh's current FIFA ranking may be 167th but this has not dampened the rampant enthusiasm and hunger for football that I've seen on the streets over the past few days. Rickshaw wallahs and random people on the street have eagerly asked me which team I support (Ecuador in case you're interested) and hawkers push cheap flags and football jerseys at me whenever I step foot into a market. Tea-stall customers gesticulate wildly as they discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different teams as they watch previous matches on dusty, crackling TV screens.
The aforementioned cheaply sewn (and inaccurate) Spanish, Brazilian, Argentine and English flags have spread rapidly across the city. From car hoods, to rickshaws, luxurious high-rises to slum shacks, the flags of FIFA teams are everywhere.
Brazil and Argentina are clearly the two major favourites; the forest-green of Brazil and white, gold and blue of Argentina have become ubiquitous. It seems that wherever my eyes wander, I find a South American flag waving gently at me. Every construction site, every apartment building and every roadside, bristles in a competition to see which fan-base can produce the most flags.
I did not expect the World Cup to be so popular in such a cricket-crazy nation. It also seems particularly random that South American countries are the fan favorites rather than European ones. At the end of the day, I simply find it ironic to know that there are probably more Argentina fans in Bangladesh than there are in Argentina.
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