West Bengal’s obsession with football is legendary. Nonetheless, when the World Cup comes around, passions take on a different level.
No one exemplifies this better than Shib Shankar Patra, a tea-snack stall owner in the Nawabganj township of North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, and a hardcore fan of the Argentina national football team.
The 53-year-old has painted his entire three-storied home-cum-tea stall in blue and white colours of the country’s flag after he found out that he couldn’t afford a trip to Russia for the current edition of the World Cup.
Patra’s dreams of watching Argentina live in Russia fell apart when a Kolkata-based travel agent told him that he needed a budget of Rs 1.5 lakh to fund his trip. He had only managed to save Rs 60,000. However, this did not dampen his spirits. Instead of flying out to Russia, he set up his own “Argentina Chaayer Dokan” (Argentina Tea Stall), and fans will come and flock his establishment.
“I don’t smoke or drink. I have only one addiction, and that is Lionel Messi and Argentina. I don’t earn much but ensure that bulk of my earnings are kept aside for these indulgences when the World Cup comes calling,” said Patra to the Press Trust of India.
On days when Argentina is playing a match, tea and samosas are complimentary for customers.
In fact, every four years, when the tournament comes around Patra gives his home a fresh coat of blue and white. According to PTI, the walls inside the home, including the family prayer room, are layered in Argentinean colours. The walls of each room “adorn a life-size vinyl flex print poster of Messi”.
Supporting Patra’s indulgence are his wife and two children, who are also hardcore Messi and Argentina fans. “They (children) don’t miss a single match of Messi. If there’s a late-night match during the exams, they will pretend to sleep early but will watch live streaming on their cell phones,” wife Sapna told PTI.
Every year since 2012, on Messi’s birthday, the family conducts a blood donation camp. This year, since his birthday falls on June 24, in the midst of the World Cup, the Patra family has decided that “a 30-pound cake will be cut and 100 Argentina jerseys will be distributed among local kids with Messi’s photograph embossed”, reports PTI.
Many have tracked West Bengal’s obsession with the beautiful game to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico when for the first time the entire tournament was telecast live in India.
That was the World Cup where Diego Maradona stamped his authority and established a cult-like following in West Bengal, especially Kolkata (then Calcutta). Today, many see Messi as an extension of Maradona. Little surprise that many fans in West Bengal have embraced Messi in a similar manner.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)