Other than the typical bilateral relationship that exists between any two nations in the world, there are no historical ties that unite Argentina and Bangladesh. They are situated miles apart, speak different languages, and play different sports, but when it
comes to FIFA World Cup, they root for La Albiceleste, the team that has blessed the footballing world with the likes of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.
Even though their nation has never qualified for the summit tournament, the Bangladeshis have a team to root for. Social media is bristling with images from the streets of Bangladesh, where people have painted the entire alleys, their shops, their homes, their bikes and cars in vertical stripes of white and sky blue – to show their support for La Albiceleste.
Every time Messi deposits the ball into the net, a mass of humanity, glued to the community screen, soars up in delight in the streets of Dhaka. They throw air punches, jump over and run maniacally into each other. Everything feels surreal, and if you’re not from Bangladesh, the first question that might pop up is how and when such a strong bond was developed.
You need to turn back the clock to the 70s and the 80s, when the formative years of Bangladesh as a sovereign state coincided with the peak of Argentine football, when Diego Maradona led them to World Cup glory. There was a sense of optimism as Argentina headed to the event with an unbeaten streak of over 30 matches, and Messi back to his best at the club level.
The clips of Bangladeshi fans celebrating Messi’s goal caught the eyes of the Argentine fans, and they decided to return the favour by supporting the Tigers – a popular name for the Bangladesh men’s cricket team. Some Argentine fans in Qatar were seen waving the Bangladeshi flag as the ODI series against India is underway. They also created a Facebook group titled Fans argentinos de la selección de cricket de Bangladesh. The group has now over one lakh members already.