DHAKA - Authorities in western Bangladesh pleaded with football fans Tuesday to remove tens of thousands of Brazilian and Argentinian flags from their rooftops as World Cup fever grips the normally cricket-mad nation. Ahead of Thursday's big kick-off in Brazil, many Bangladeshi towns and cities have been turned into seas of either yellow and green or blue and white in a reflection of the huge support for the South American giants.
But Mustafizur Rahman, government administrator of Jessore district, which is home to 2.7 million people, said the mass display of support for the tournament's two favourites was disrespectful to Bangladesh's own flag. "With the World Cup knocking at the door, we have become a nation of Argentina and Brazil. Everywhere you see flags of Argentina and Brazil are on almost every rooftop," he told AFP. "We don't mind people wearing jerseys of their favourite teams or use billboards or banners. But it does not look good when flags of foreign nations flying on your rooftops."
Appeals had been issued through newspapers for fans to take down their flags while local government officials were driving around villages in remote areas with similar appeals, Rahman added. Although Bangladeshis are better known for their love of cricket, football matches can draw big crowds here. Bangladesh spent $4 million in appearance fees to host a friendly between a Lionel Messi-led Argentina side and Nigeria in September 2011.
Despite never qualifying for the World Cup, the South Asian nation first developed its obsession with Brazil and Argentina in 1982 when television began broadcasting the tournament matches live across the country. During the 2010 World Cup, when power cuts hit television coverage, riots erupted and factories were ordered to close to avoid further blackouts.