Green and red are the colors of the national flag of Bangladesh, but if you’ve taken a stroll through the streets of Dhaka this week, you’ll be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
Endless stripes of blue and white have overwhelmed Bangladesh as their unofficially adopted national team in recent days .
It’s arguably Bangladesh’s most unlikely open secret: fans are wildly obsessed with the Argentina football team and the man whose name is linked to the team’s success, Lionel Messi.
Thousands of people in Dhaka filled areas where live viewing sites were organized to see Argentina matches at the World Cup. Source: Getty, AFP / Munir Uz Zaman
Chaos reigned in the Bangladesh capital on Tuesday night (local time) as thousands of fans blocked the streets to celebrate Argentina’s dominance of Croatia in the semifinals.
People sang, danced, sang and cheered late into the night at 3am: their hero, Lionel Messi, had secured his shot at lifting the World Cup.
Anirban Kaisar was at one of the live viewing locations in Dhaka where he said there was only one word to describe the scenes as they played out: “insane”.
So how did Bangladesh—a country that doesn’t share borders or even the same continent—forge this connection with Argentina?
Although Bangladesh never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, many children grow up with Argentina and Brazil. Source: Getty / Future Publishing
“It’s something magical”
19-year-old Ikram Ahmed, who lives in Sydney, is ready to watch the game of his life.
His garage has been remodeled for him and his friends to watch the World Cup final in hopes of watching his idol Messi lift the trophy.
A giant television screen has been erected and a barrage of Argentinian-style decorations are hidden to overwhelm the makeshift spectator seat on Monday night when they play reigning champions France.
The young man has no connection to Argentina at all – he was born in Australia and his parents are from Bangladesh.
But he has harbored an unmatched love for the La Albiceleste team since following the 2010 World Cup.
Back then, Ahmed’s father – who witnessed the legacy of Argentina’s ‘god’ Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup – shared stories of how Argentine football shaped her love of the sport.
Bangladesh-Australian Ikram Ahmed is a passionate Argentina supporter at the World Cup. Source: delivered / Ikram Ahmed
When [Lionel Messi] is happy, everyone is happy.
Mr Ahmed makes connections between his father’s inspirational stories of Maradona and witnessing Messi make history in real time – describing the generational love for Argentina as a ‘cultural tradition’.
“I can make a connection [Maradona] and to watch Messi play while also sharing stories from his Argentina history. We all want Lionel Messi to win the World Cup,” he said.
“You want to see him play with this top player, you want him to win everything. When he’s happy, everyone is happy.”
Score diplomatic goals
For Argentines, it is both harrowing and beautiful to see the people of a country with few geopolitical ties wear its colors and wave a foreign flag.
And it’s likely that overwhelming love for Messi has led to diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Last Sunday, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero announced on Twitter that Argentina would reopen an embassy in Dhaka that was closed in 1978.
When Argentina got wind of Bangladesh’s passion, they decided to return the love by supporting Bangladesh in cricket, a sport the South Asian country is passionate about.
Bangladesh’s FIFA ranking is low – it’s 192 out of 211 countries – yet fans remain obsessed with football, while cricket is considered its official national sport.
A Facebook page created earlier this month ‘“, has already gained almost 200,000 members.
“There is something magical because Argentina is far, far, far away from us. It’s not even in Asia, but we support them and our country is full of their flag,” Mr Kaisar said.
“[Argentines] painted our flags red and green in the streets of Argentina. They wore our cricket shirts. It’s an exchange of love.”
That Marry on Monday 19 December from 1.30pm AEDT.