India, a Soccer Under-Performer, Loves Brazil

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Indian fans of Brazil watch a match in Bangalore (photo: The Hindu)

India’s national team ranks a lowly 154th in the FIFA world rankings – behind Afghanistan and North Korea. But that hasn’t stopped passionate fans of the ‘beautiful game’ from following the ongoing FIFA World Cup with interest. This edition is doubly important, since most Indians happen to be huge fans of the Brazilian team.

Argentina too has its share of local fans – every time the World Cup comes around the walls on Kolkata’s streets erupt with paintings of soccer legend Maradona.

Indian fans tend to favour South American teams since their style of football – individual artistry and flair – seems familiar to Indians. The European preference for tactics and brute power is not as popular.

According to the Hindustan Times, several residents of Kerala’s soccer-crazy villages have taken the names of their soccer idols. For instance, locals have names such as Messi Koyos, Abdul Neymar and Yousef Ronaldo.

The newspaper reported that the Muslim League councillor of Kozhikode City Corporation is a soccer fan called Brasilia. This is her original name, given by her parents at birth. The 32-year old is now a mother of a seven-month-old baby named Rio - she had initially intended to name her child Rio de Janerio, but settled for the simpler Rio.

Brasilia’s name proved to be troublesome when she campaigned as a candidate in the corporation election in 2010. Local soccer fans of Argentina refused to vote for her, though she won them over by declaring that soccer was her first love and she respected the arch-rival (Argentina) of her favourite team (Brazil).

Not content with watching the matches on television, some Indian fans have made the pilgrimage to Brazil. The Hindu newspaper reported that sports tourism “is no longer restricted to cricket.”

“Bookings to Brazil commenced as early as June/July 2013 and we have seen a 20 per cent increase in queries,” Shibani Phadkar of Thomas Cook (India) told The Hindu.

For those fans unable to afford to travel to Brazil, there is always Goa. The former Portuguese colony shares a similar colonial history with Brazil and is also soccer-crazy.

Meanwhile no retailer can afford to remain insulated from the current soccer craze. eBay India now offers Brazil-branded football jerseys for sale as well as cushion covers with Brazilian soccer sensation Neymar’s face plastered across. Not to be left behind, online retailer Flipkart also offers jerseys of different teams, including Germany.

Just don’t wear that Germany jersey in Goa though.

- Karan Singh


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