Flagmakers in Bangladesh are doing a roaring trade weeks ahead of the World Cup, but no-one is interested in the home nation’s colours — the money is all on pennants for Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Neymar’s Brazil.
Textile printer Kamal Hossain owns one of the scores of small, hot, sweaty workshops in the Merajnagar district of capital Dhaka, working flat-out to produce flags and pennants for the local market ahead of the tournament in Russia.
“For the last two months I have been working non-stop,” said Hossain.
“There are days when I do not even get two hours of sleep,” added the 40-year-old, barely lifting his head from his screen-printing machine.
Bangladesh is traditionally cricket territory, but every four years the country of 160 million people — whose national team is ranked 197th out of 202 in the world by FIFA — goes World Cup crazy.
Flags in the colours of Argentina and Brazil take over the streets, and printers in Merajnagar are expecting to produce hundreds of thousands before the tournament starts in Moscow on June 14.
Homes have been converted into makeshift printing and sewing plants as orders pour in from across the country.
“Every day we’re printing and making thousands of flags. Today we’ve already printed 11,000 Argentina pennants,” said Hossain.
– Maradona to Messi –
Fans across Bangladesh hold flag-waving processions to honour their favourite team. Last week, a video of supporters marching with a 200 metre-long Argentina flag in the northwestern town of Madarganj went viral on social media.
The impoverished country first saw live World Cup matches in 1982.
But it was the 1986 tournament, when Diego Maradona single-handedly helped Argentina win the trophy, that cemented football into the Bangladesh psyche — along with a new favourite team.
“The craze for Argentina is still going strong, Maradona is gone but Messi is the new superstar,” said Faruq Mia, a flag hawker who came from neighbouring Narayanganj district to stock up.
Mia bought 500 flags last week, made a big profit and so needs 500 more. He will be cheering for Argentina.
Factory owner Selim Howlader expects to sell several hundred thousand flags as “World Cup fever came early in the country, months before kickoff”.
“In 2014, I sold more than 80,000 flags. Most of them were sold during the World Cup or just days before kickoff. Now I am selling 2,000-2,500 big flags and 10,000 pennants a day and the World Cup is still weeks away,” said the happy 33-year-old businessman.
Howlader employs 25 workers and said about 2,000 people in all are working in Merajnagar’s flag factories.
– Long hours –
Messi and Neymar’s teams dominate by far Howlader’s order list. “Argentina and Brazil are the two most popular teams in Bangladesh,” he said.
“I have even got orders to make 50-foot long Argentine flags. These two teams have the most supporters in our country. Germany, Spain and Portugal are the other popular teams.”
Some four million people work in Bangladesh’s 4,500 apparel factories, who provide billions of dollars worth of clothes to top retailers around the world.
But experts and rights groups say that while there has been progress in improving conditions for garment workers in the country, they still often face long hours, dangerous working environments and dismally low pay.
The flag boom means extra income for poor workers like Nargis Akhter, 28, and her husband Mohammad Iqbal who work in Howlader’s factory.
“On an average every day we make 3,000 taka ($35),” said Iqbal. An average garment factory pays about $70 for an entire month’s work — among the world’s lowest wages for such a job.
“I wish the craze for flags would go on for many more months,” said Akhter, with a smile.
FINAL ATTRACTED 1.12 BILLION VIEWERS! Russia 2018 is best watched World Cup ever, says FIFA
A record audience of more than 3.5 billion people watched this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the final between France and Croatia attracting 1.12 billion viewers, world soccer’s governing body said on Friday.
FIFA said 3.572 billion viewers – more than half of the global population aged four and over – watched some part of the official coverage, which was broadcast live in every territory worldwide from June 14 to July 15.
The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of the coverage accounted for almost 3.3 billion viewers, a 2.2 per cent increase on the 2014 edition hosted in Brazil, according to FIFA’s audit of audience data published on Friday.
A further 309.7 million caught the action on digital platforms, public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants.
France’s 4-2 victory in the final, which gave them their second World Cup title following their triumph in 1998, was the most watched game of the competition.
It was followed by England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia and the other last-four clash between France and Belgium.
“These figures really do support the claim that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h.
“The fact that half the world’s population watched the FIFA World Cup reflects not just the high quality of our award-winning live coverage, but also that fans everywhere are insatiable for world-class football.”
The World Cup coverage reached around 1.6 billion individuals in Asia, with 655.7 million viewers (18.4 per cent of the global total) in China, who failed to qualify for the tournament.
The 2022 edition of World Cup will be held in Qatar.
HE HAS A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN! Mbappe donates £384,000 World Cup 2018 earnings to charity
French professional footballer, Kylian Mbappé, will donate money earned from featuring in the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia to a sports charity that works with disabled and hospitalised children, Premiers de Cordee.
According to Sports Illustrated, the 19-year-old who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain was paid £17,000 per game and pocketed £265,000 for being part of the team who won the tournament.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Premier de Cordee charity general manager, Sebastian Ruffin said:
“Kylian, he’s a great person.
“When his schedule allows it, he intervenes for us with pleasure.
“He has a very good [relationship] with children, he always finds the right [words] to encourage them.
“I sometimes even feel that [he] takes more pleasure to play with the kids than the kids themselves.”
Mbappe, who joined PSG for a fee of around £166m from Monaco after a season-long loan, was named Young Player of the World Cup.
Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
TENS OF THOUSANDS! Croatians give heroes’ welcome to World Cup squad
Tens of thousands of Croatians gave a heroes’ welcome to their team in Zagreb on Monday after the squad returned from Russia following their World Cup final defeat.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 thronged the capital’s main square to see the players, led by captain and World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, parade through the streets on an open-top bus.
Cheering fans, many waving flags and wearing the famous red and white shirt of Croatia, held up banners celebrating the runners-up after their gallant 4-2 defeat by France.
“This is how Croatia is loved,” read one banner. Another said: “We are few, but we believed and that is enough”.
Many even skipped work to celebrate the team reaching their first ever World Cup final.
“I closed my office to welcome our heroes. I put a sign up reading ‘Today, July 16, 2018’, office closed due to our Vatreni (‘the Fiery Ones’ in Croatian),” doctor Sanja Klajic told AFP.
Earlier noisy fans awaited their side’s appearance by singing a popular song “Play on my Croatia, when I see you my heart is on fire!” while watching the plane carrying the team progress to the capital on a giant TV screen.
When the plane, accompanied by military jets and emblazoned with the logo “Bravo Vatreni” flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted “Hands up, hands up!”.
After landing at the city’s airport around 3:25 pm (1325 GMT), the players emerged to shrieks from fans at the terminal.
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