Green and red are the colors of Bangladesh’s national flag, but if you walked the streets of Dhaka this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
The endless stripes of blue and white have overwhelmed Bangladesh in recent days as their unofficial adopted national team. .
It’s arguably Bangladesh’s most unlikely open secret: the fans have a wild obsession with the Argentina national football team and the man whose name is linked to the team’s success, Lionel Messi.
Thousands of people in Dhaka thronged areas where live viewing sites were set up to watch Argentina’s World Cup matches. Source: Getty, AFP / Munir Uz Zaman
It was chaos in the Bangladeshi capital on Tuesday night (local time) as thousands of fans blocked the streets to celebrate Argentina’s dominance against Croatia in the semi-final.
The crowd sang, danced, chanted and cheered all night until 3am: their hero, Lionel Messi, had earned his chance to lift the World Cup trophy.
Anirban Kaisar was at one of the live viewing venues in Dhaka, where he said there was only one word to describe the scenes as they unfolded: “crazy”.
So how did Bangladesh, a country that does not share borders or even a continent, make this connection with Argentina?
Although Bangladesh has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, many children grow up supporting Argentina and Brazil. Source: Getty / Future publication
“It’s something magical”
The stage is set for 19-year-old Sydney resident Ikram Ahmed to watch the match of his life.
His garage was given a makeover for him and his friends to watch the World Cup final, hoping to see their idol, Messi, lift the trophy.
A large TV screen has been installed and a host of Argentina-themed decorations are hidden away with plans to overwhelm the makeshift viewing venue on Monday night as they play reigning champions France.
The young man has no connection to Argentina: he was born in Australia and his parents are from Bangladesh.
But he has an unmatched love for the Albiceleste team since watching the 2010 World Cup.
That’s when Ahmed’s father, who lived to experience the legacy of Argentina’s ‘God’ Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup, shared stories of how Argentine football shaped his love for the sport.
Bangladeshi-Australian Ikram Ahmed is a passionate Argentina World Cup fan. Source: supplied / Ikram Ahmed
when [Lionel Messi] he is happy, everyone is happy.
Ahmed links his father’s inspirational stories about Maradona and witnessing Messi make history in real time, describing the generational love for Argentina as a “cultural tradition”.
“I can make a correlation between [Maradona] and watch Messi play as he tells stories of his history in Argentina too. We all want to see Lionel Messi win the World Cup,” he said.
“With this top player, you want to see him perform, you want him to win everything. When he’s happy, everybody’s happy.”
Scoring diplomatic goals
For Argentines, it is surprising and beautiful to see people from a country with little geopolitical connection wearing their colors and waving a foreign flag.
And the overwhelming love for Messi is likely to have reached diplomatic ties to establish the two countries.
Last Sunday, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero announced on Twitter that Argentina would reopen an embassy in Dhaka that it closed in 1978.
As Argentinians felt the passion of Bangladesh, they decided to return the love by supporting Bangladesh in cricket, a sport that the South Asian country is passionate about.
Bangladesh’s FIFA ranking is low (at 192 out of 211 countries), but fans remain obsessed with football, while cricket is considered its official national sport.
A Facebook page, created earlier this month, “‘, has already gathered nearly 200,000 members.
“It’s something magical because Argentina is very, very, very far from us. Not even in Asia, but we support them and our country is full of their flag,” Kaisar said.
“[Argentines] we have been painting our flags red and green in the Argentine streets. They have brought our cricket shirts. It’s an exchange of love.”
The activated on Monday 19 December from 1.30am AEDT.