When Brazil and Argentina Meet, It’s More Than a Game


The rivalry shared by Brazil and Argentina is one where football is heralded as more than a sport. It is tantamount to a religion.

This competition has transcended borders and hit the shores of the Bay of Bengal like never before. Bangladesh has made it to Argentine national newspapers with the fanaticism and altercation between supporters of the two nations.

How exactly did this small nation become so frenzied about a football rivalry that they would go extra miles to show their allegiance?

Argentina has two World Cups under its belt, the most recent coming in 1986. In fact, the country has not won a single international trophy since its Copa America triumph in 1993, apart from gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In a country where football fans like to flaunt their favorite team’s trophy case, it’s interesting that so many still have their hearts stitched with the pale blue and white flag.

Once the world cup broadcasting history is taken into account, the fog around this issue starts to settle.

BTV first began broadcasting the World Cup in 1974. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and came tantalizingly close in 1990, losing to West Germany on a controversial penalty decision.

What drew Bangladeshi television viewers and football fans to Argentina was a man called Diego Maradona, who needs no introduction. Nonchalantly outmaneuvering defenders, taunting defensive lines with disguised runs, and dishing goals to forwards – Maradona epitomized the concept of a ‘one-man army’.

His relentless personality, exemplary leadership along with his on-field tantrums and off-field antics made him a figure who was always in the limelight; a character loved by his fans for all his reprehensible actions. Bangladeshis even shed tears when they saw their football hero crying relentlessly after losing the 1990 final.

After Maradona’s retirement from football, it was difficult for Argentine fans to replace such a gargantuan figure. Players like Gabriel Batistuta and Juan Sebastian Veron gave them a lot, but with a lack of trophies, they had no right to brag.

And amidst all this, the Brazilian fan base began to grow and gain a voice. The land of beautiful football has reached three consecutive finals, two of which were won in 1994 and 2002. The second was hosted by Asia.

You don’t have to dig deeper to understand this fandom. An ornate trophy cabinet containing five World Cups gave their fans a lot of buzz. In addition, Brazil has consistently produced stars who have not only dominated international tournaments but also graced club football, regularly winning individual and continental awards. Stars like the phenomenal Ronaldo Nazario, Rivaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, and Kaka epitomized swagger in their respective positions.

Fans not completely captivated by the complex tactics on the pitch could easily be mesmerized by Jogo Bonito, the flair and fluid passing of Brazilian football. Big names and five World Cups were the icing on the cake for samba fanatics.

This fandom became generational as children stayed up all night with their parents, grasping very little of what was going on in that CRT TV, as they were touched by their enthusiasm, tears and jubilation — all just for the love of a team.

Some of those kids grew up to find their own messiahs. An alien called Lionel Messi revived the case for the Albicelestes fans and the Seleção fans found the evanescent samba in Neymar Jr.

The rituals of flying massive flags, painting houses and streets with respective colours did not die down despite a surge in European fanbase. The Messi-Neymar duo blossomed into a meaningful relationship but the fierce rivalry between their Bangladeshi fans took a dive in Lazarus pit and rose like an untamed Ra’s al Ghul.

While tomorrow’s early morning clash of the two footballing giants in the Copa America final may stir up new controversies, one can be sure that the Brazil-Argentina fandoms and their fanbases in Bangladesh are far from a peace offering.

Source: the daily star

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