You can’t miss the enthusiasm around World Cup in Kolkata’s Bidhan Roy Market. It is popularly called the Maidan Market due to its proximity to the Maidan, a vast stretch of greenery filled with football and cricket fields, the Eden Gardens ground and stadium, and the race course.
For the past few days, there has been a remarkable rise in enthusiasm in this market thanks to the Football World Cup. Despite the scorching heat, Bidhan Roy Market – a sporting haven – is buzzing with the excitement of football fanatics who are taking in its sights and sounds, choosing jerseys of their favourite football teams and players. Some are also picking up flags of countries they are cheering for, footballs and gloves. Everything adds to the fun of World Cup, after all!
The market, opened more than 50 years ago, has rows and rows of shops selling every sporting item you can think of – from cricket bats, helmets, wickets, batminton and tennis racquets, sports shoes to footballs and jerseys. Now, thanks to the Football World Cup, naturally, football and everything related to the sport has got a priority for buyers and sellers alike.
The most popular buys are jerseys printed with names of Brazilian star Neymar Junior, Argentina skipper Lionel Messi and Portuguese star Christiano Ronaldo.
Nayeem Syeed, a shopkeeper, said, “People generally buy Brazil and Argentina jerseys, particularly Messi and Neymar Jr jerseys all through the year. But with World Cup, the demands for other jerseys have gone up.”
People are buying jerseys of national teams too – the most popular being defending champions Germany, Kolkata’s eternal favourites Brazil and Argentina, and of course France, England and Portugal jerseys.
Angad Shaw, whose shop is stacked with jerseys, footballs and flags of the World Club playing clubs, says, “Over the years we stock Messi and Ronaldo jerseys for Barcelona and Real Madrid. But during World Cup, these jerseys hardly sell. People prefer Messi written on Argentina jerseys or Ronaldo written on Portugal jerseys. Jerseys of other World Club playing countries sell too.”
You can meet all kinds of football crazy people of Kolkata at the Maidan market, and it gives a clear idea of which teams and players Kolkata is rooting for. The tastes and preferences are made very clear. “My family is a Brazil supporter and there is nothing beyond Brazil for me,” says Sayan Basu, a fourth-year engineering student. He adds, “Apart from Brazil, I also like Mohamed Salah from Egypt.”
Are sales figures of jerseys any indication of a World Cup playing team’s popularity in Kolkata? You bet they are. Shopkeepers say Brazil and Argentina are still way ahead of other teams, closely followed by Germany, Portugal, and Spain. As Syeed says, “There is a sharp increase in the purchase of Germany and Portugal jerseys.”
Monirul Islam, who has watched several World Cups with great enthusiasm over the years and knows how people’s tastes have changed, says, “It’s not just Brazil and Argentina any longer. We sell jerseys of almost every big team in World Cup. Mesut Özil and Mohamed Salah of Egypt are also hot favourites after Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar.”
Jerseys sold in the Maidan market are of varying prices. What determines the price? Not just the quality of the material, it depends on the player’s name on the jerseys and even the country? Shaw says, “Jerseys sell between Rs 50 and Rs 80, and those that are of good quality sell at Rs 350 or Rs 400.” Messi and Neymar Jr jerseys are priced higher – usually Rs 400 while Ronaldo closely follows at Rs 350.
Football clubs, local clubs and individuals buy jerseys of teams they are supporting. They wear these jerseys and watch the matches together. Each shopkeeper sells have been selling about 50 odd jerseys on an average for the past few days.
Shaw says, “A little while ago, a club bought 30 Neymar printed jerseys. However, on an average about 20 Messi printed jerseys are being sold daily. Others like Ozil and Salah follow with about 10-12 every day.”
Photographs: Sampad Nandy