A revolving football graces the entrance of a community Puja canopy, every city crossing showcases its logo, and the marquees themed on the tournament are major crowd-pullers — the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup was a huge build-up in the ongoing Durga Puja festival in Bengal….writes Debayan Mukherjee
Intensifying the excitement, the state’s biggest carnival highlighted the overflowing passion for the game in this part of the country.
Belgharia Seva and Maitri Sansad Club, celebrating 52 years of its community Puja, had the U-17 World Cup as the theme. There is a 20 foot-long, football-shaped canopy. The goddess rests on astro-turf.
The entrance to the canopy showcases the history of Indian football starting from Mohun Bagan’s 1911 IFA Shield win over East Yorkshire Regiment to East Bengal’s 2003 ASEAN Championship triumph — and also the Indian national team’s best-ever FIFA ranking of 96 since 1996.
“We want to support our U-17 footballers,” Arup Sarkar, chairman of the Puja committee, said, adding: “At the point of entrance, the ball revolving continuously is five feet in diameter.”
A 42-year-old Durga Puja on Beadon Street also has the U-17 World Cup as its theme, besides saluting important feats of Indian football.
The entrance of the canopy has been made aping the artificial turf to make it look like a football pitch.
The entry gate to the canopy has been modelled on the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, the newly-renovated venue that is set to host 10 matches, including the October 28 final, of the showpiece event, being hosted by India for the first time. The 24-team tournament starts on October 6.
Volunteers dressed in East Bengal and Mohun Bagan colours stand on both sides of the gate greeting visitors. To heighten the World Cup theme, FIFA slogans have been liberally used in the canopy.
“Football fever is coming to India and also Kolkata. We wanted to send out a message across the city that after the Pujas it’s time to celebrate the U-17 World Cup. Football in this part of the country is an emotion and we tried to capture that,” said Puja committee member Debarghya Dey.
Top teams like England, Chile and Mexico will strut their stuff in Kolkata and the two best outfits at the end of the three-week extravaganza will be seen at the iconic venue, which has previously hosted legends like Diego Maradona, Oliver Kahn and Lionel Messi.
“Kolkata is experiencing two mega festivals this year — the Durga Puja and the U-17 World Cup. This shall be a wonderful memory for all those who are in Kolkata to celebrate them,” All India Football Federation Vice President and member of World Cup Local Organising Committee (LoC) Subrata Dutta said.
Former soccer stars based in the city are also being invited to some of the marquees to celebrate the football fever.
Biswa Bangla — as brand Bengal has been christened by the West Bengal government — hoardings with the U-17 World Cup Trophy logo have been put up at every corner of the city.
Besides, the state government has taken up a plan to streamline traffic flow and roadside beautification on the Biswa Bangla Sarani from Kolkata airport to the EM Bypass surrounding the Salt Lake stadium.
Locals of this soccer-mad city, now soaking in the Puja spirit, are ecstatic. “I can’t wait to catch the future stars in my own city. I am a Manchester City supporter and England have a few budding City players. The fact that Durga Puja is also highlighting the World Cup is a great thing,” Aditya Barman, who works in a private bank, said.