Sunday, July 11, 2010

Silence of the Fans

The World Cup has been in full swing for a few days. Looking for related street art I find myself in Sutrapur in old Dhaka. I have entered a serious football fan zone with flags waving overhead and walls covered with street art. I take my time photographing the flags fluttering in the wind, trying to capture them at the right position. A few people stand around watching me. One of them comes up and says, “The best World Cup art is still ahead.” How far? I ask. Right there, just follow me, he beckons. As I follow him, he says, “I am a lowly government servant, but I love football. So I had to have my say.” He introduces himself as Satu.

We walk a few blocks, then into a narrow lane across from Dalpottir More. I have been on this lane before – it splits like the bars of a Y. The light here is difficult so I never got a good picture here. We take the right bar of the Y. Soon Satu is pointing out his three-story house, the last one in the alley.

Satu proudly shows off the Argentine d├ęcor on the wall of his house. He says he paid the local street painter Tk. 1700 to paint it. But then I look up and see a Brazil flag on his rooftop. What gives? Is the devoted Mr. Satu really two-faced about his fanhood?

“Oh, that’s nothing. It’s just that one of my renters likes Brazil. So I allowed him a small flag.”

Mr. Satu then offers me a cold drink. However I have many roads to cover, so I thank him for his offer and move on.

At an intersection deep inside Narinda, I find a gorgeous Argentina painting in front of a car-part machine shop. I look at it for a while from across the street and decide to photograph it. I bend down to make sure the photo is not crooked and snap the shutter during a gap between rickshaws and pedestrians.

I am walking away when a voice cuts across sharply from within the shop. It's one of the workers and he steps out to point. “Aren’t you going to take a picture of the other one there?"

Ooops. That was a nice Brazil painting diagonally across the street. I had missed it completely. And this man was a diehard Brazil fan. Of course I had to photograph it. What was I thinking? “Thank you, Bhaiya, for pointing it out. I suppose you are a Brazil fan?” The guy nods. “Then how come there is this big Argentina painting in front of your shop?” “That’s the owner’s,” he replies sullenly, and pops back into the shop.

A few days later I am in the same neighborhood. Only a few days, but it seems like the world has turned upside down for football fans. That’s because Brazil and Argentina have both lost ignominiously.

I search for the Brazil and Argentina fans. “Where have they gone? Are they still watching the games?” I ask a man at a tea stall adda. “They have all gone home,” he says, snickering in a most disrespectful way. At this another man pipes in indignantly: “No, no, it is like this. The Brazil fans became German fans because Germany defeated Argentina, and the Argentina fans became Holland fans because Holland defeated Brazil. And some from each side became Spain fans because Spain defeated neither.” Ummm, I see. But what about the final? Are you supporting Spain or Holland. They look at each other, a little lost, like ships on a stormy night trying to find anchor. I suppose the Final will be an anticlimax for Old Dhaka football fans.

Argentina flag in Narinda...

...and a few days later.

Mr Satu in front of his painting.