Kolkata, Messi and Argentina vs Venezuela

30 Aug

Kolkata, formerly Calcutta is a football mad city in the state on West Bengal. Its the capital of West Bengal and the commercial hub of East India. The city is home to around 5 million residents, and millions more in the suburban areas surrounding the city. Kolkata has been home to the two most famous footballing teams in India for as long as I can remember. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Think of them as your Boca Juniors and River Plate, or Manchester United and Manchester City or Inter Milan and AC Milan. The rivalry is serious, the passion unparalleled and their pride at stake every game they play. Argentina National Team fly into Kolkata to take on Venezuela on Friday, September 2nd, 2011. They will play at the famous Salt Lake stadium with a capacity of 120,000 people. Huge doesn’t begin to explain this event. This game will eclipse any cricket match on TV and that in itself is feat considering India which happens to be a cricket mad country.

Argentina are playing a team who’re known more for their love of baseball than football. Venezuela and Argentina have met a total of 9 times, with Argentina winning 4 times, drawing thrice and losing 2 times. More recently Argentina beat Venezuela 4 – 1 in a friendly game, where Argentina played with all local players from Primera A. This however is a game where the pressure will be on Argentina. This is Alejandro Sabella’s first game in charge of the national team. This is Lionel Messi’s first game on Indian soil. This is Leo Messi’s first game on Indian soil as the new Argentine captain. The expectations are high to say the least – on both Messi and Sabella. In his first press conference before a friendly, Sabella expressed that his primary concern was the fitness of the squad. Other than that he said the lack of preparation time would be the only other hindrance. This game might be a friendly, but all of India will be hoping for Argentina to turn on the style against a Venezuelan team – who are no longer the whipping boys of South American football.

Argentina has a large following in Kolkata. Argentina Fans Club is a growing gathering of fans in the city. In 2008 they erected a huge statue of Diego Maradona before his visit. Well, not to be outdone Messi is getting his own 18 foot cut out. And there are plenty of cut outs which will be installed around the city. The club has also set up a giant screen where the match will be beamed live. They’re also trying to organize a welcome party for Messi. What does that entail? Fans on 100s of motor bikes escorting the little genius from the airport all the way to his hotel.

Calcutta which is synonymous with Mother Theresa is home to a lot of slums and impoverished children. Leo Messi who had a troubled childhood (to say the least) has been at the forefront of initiatives that support children across the globe. Messi, the 2010 UNICEF Goodwill ambassador will lead the Argentina team with the help of some very special kids. These kids from the slums and the most marginalized communities in Kolkata – will have a chance to not only meet Messi but also see him play live in person. Maybe one day football can be the life changing factor for these kids, just as it was for Messi, Tevez and countless others across the globe.

In the city of Kolkata, Argentina will be hoping to start a new era under Sabella on the right note. The opponents are tough, the expectations are paramount and hopes are astronomical.  What better place for a football showcase than in the city of joy, the city of bridges, the city of football, the city of hope – in the great city of Calcutta on the banks of the river Hoogly.

Few tidbits:

Although ticket prices usually go for around 50Rs per ticket at the Salt Lake Stadium, for this game, tickets start at 20 times the regular price.

The match ball is a polyurethene “Nivia Simbolo” ball certified by FIFA.

One of the FIFA certified match officials is Biplab Paddar, a former fish seller who’s dream has come to true to officiate this match. Crowds of people have been coming up to him and want to shake the hands of the person who’ll have shook the hands of Messi in the upcoming days. Amazing.

Lisandro Lopez and Cristian Ansaldi are injured and won’t take part. No replacements have been announced.

Messi is scheduled to arrive in Kolkata on Wednesday, August 31st.

The line up is yet to be predicted and will be posted in the upcoming days, keep checking back.

Vamos Argentina!

 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QJ3N7NWANKA5XFOHQ6SLNQIYFU Shinobu Shinobu

    Thanks for giving such detail background of Kolkata and its people. I hope Sabella gets it right for Argentina. I don’t expect much because the players must be tired after playing for their clubs just few days before and also the long journey. I’m just hoping to see a clear system which was missing under the reign of the last 2 managers…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QJ3N7NWANKA5XFOHQ6SLNQIYFU Shinobu Shinobu

    Ah I heard that there are still some tickets unsold. Perhaps that because of the steep price so ordinary ppl can’t afford it. But, I also heard that some people didn’t manage to get the ticket although they are willing to pay. Oh, I hope the stadium will be full. They should just give some unfortunate children a chance to see Messi live rather than just waste the seats.

  • Vinodtiwary

    This is a big occassion for Indian football, and may boost football in India to a large extent. A very welcome step by FIFA. Let’s hope more such events to follow.

  • http://argentinafans.com DeccanAjay

     I hope so too. India deserved to be at the forefront of such sporting events. Lots of fans who are very passionate.

  • Dgdfg

    yep, they should just give away the unsold tickets to under privileged children. these kids’ idol is Messi and they should get a chance to see him

  • kumar suraj

    i m very much to just have messi and maria in india

  • Venkatyadav22

    messi i love u