Bangladesh and India, the two neighbouring countries. Bangladesh has a good relationship with India. But it is more closely related to Kolkata mainly due to the similarity in language between them. There are also many other things in common -literature culture, lifestyle.
But they do have some differences. And it becomes more evident when it comes to cricket. More specifically, supporting their own team.
Still, when Bangladesh play in Kolkata, it is expected that a lot of people will support them. But that hasn’t been the case in the past. Even when Bangladesh and Pakistan face each other, a lot of people chant against the Tigers.
Back in 2016, Bangladesh played Pakistan in the T20 World Cup at the Eden Gardens. Bangladesh’s players, board officials and journalists expected there would be a lot of support for Bangladesh. But the scene was completely different in the game.
The jampacked Eden Gardens had more support for Pakistan and overshadowed the roars of Bangladeshi supporters who travelled from home.
It’s no different this time either. There was little support for Bangladesh in the Netherlands match on Saturday. Spectators sitting just under the press box showed their support for the Dutch.
People usually think Bangladesh will get more support for them at the Eden Gardens against Pakistan due to the political unrest and an eternal rivalry in all sports including cricket. A number of people were surprised in 2016 after seeing the support for Pakistan.
Most of the fans travelling from Bangladesh fear there will be more support for Pakistan this time as well.
“We read stories in the newspaper last time (2016) regarding Kolkata people supporting Pakistan. It will be the same this time, I feel. No one from here supported Bangladesh against the Netherlands,” Rajib Ahmed, a fan travelling from Dhaka told The Business Standard (TBS).
Why don’t Bangladesh get the support in Kolkata? Chandan Naath, a local taxi driver, feels the Bangladeshi supporters are responsible for this. Chandan’s father was born in Madaripur, which is why he supports Bangladesh against any other countries except India. But it’s the Bangladeshi supporters that make him not want to support them.
“I still support Bangladesh. But why will others support them? Kolkata is a part of India and Bangladeshi supporters troll Indian cricketers on social media. Even Virat Kohli has been trolled by them. I think that is the biggest reason,” Chandan said.
Shubham Chatterjee, a businessman in Kolkata, thinks the ever-growing rivalry between Bangladesh and India on and off the field has something to do with it.
“Bangladesh don’t give up easily against India these days. Even they have beaten them a couple of times in the recent past. Indian supporters must not feel so good about that. Even off-field rivalry is also there. I assume Bangladeshi supporters also support other teams against India in India’s matches,” Shubham stated.
Uttarbanga Sambad’s senior Sports correspondent Arindam Mukherjee thinks Bangladesh will get less support against Pakistan this time as well. He too blamed Bangladesh for that.
“99 percent of people supported the Netherlands against Bangladesh. Yes, most of them were from Bangladesh and some from Kolkata. Also, there were some local people supporting Bangladesh. There may be a link between them,” he said.
“Bangladesh will get support in the Pakistan match. There will be support for Pakistan as well. If Bangladesh get less support, it is due to their performance and off-field controversies. The team hasn’t performed well. Captain Shakib said there may be a few followers of Tamim Iqbal on the side which might have affected the team’s performance. This can cause a rift in the team. If their popularity is on the wane, it is mostly due to the performance,” Arindam added.
ETV Bharat’s senior correspondent Sanjay Adhikari went a bit deeper. He said there may be two reasons behind Bangladesh not getting the support in Kolkata.
“Maybe the people here think they are two different countries now. Bangladesh are big rival in cricket. Another reason may be the Kolkata people thinking Bangladeshi people dominate their culture over their own here. That is why they want to suppress Bangladeshi people by supporting other teams.”
“That is why Kolkata gets divided during East Bengal and Mohanbagan matches. There are still some differences among the people which have increased in recent years. There may be some political reasons as well. Border issues, Tista issues, Hilsha issues – these can have an impact. After Bangladesh’s loss to the Netherlands, Mohanbagan fans wrote “Your ancestors lost” on social media pointing at East Bengal fans,” he added.
“Some people here still have some affection for Pakistan, I can say that. Pakistan is a Muslim country, and Bangladesh is too. But religious polarization may have an effect here and that brings more support for Pakistan,” Sanjay further said.
Apart from losing the Kolkata people’s support, Bangladesh are losing the support of their own countrymen. Fans travelling to India are frustrated with the team’s performance. Tuhin Sarkar, a student of National Bangla College said he has been deeply frustrated and will be travelling back home despite having a ticket for the Pakistan match. “I will keep the tickets as a souvenir,” he said.
Bangladesh team, especially Shakib Al Hasan, was booed during the Netherlands match. There were jeers from the crows due to the team’s poor performance on the field.