In India, cricket might be a religion, but football is a way of life, swear fans as FIFA World Cup 2018 kicks off in Russia today. The enthusiasm shown for football, especially in Kolkata and the north-east, is beyond imagination where mornings begin and evenings end with football.
Come World Cup, fans do everything from over the top to crazy to bizarre. This time is no different. Kerala's Electricity Minister MM Mani wore a baby blue and white jersey and posed with a football to show his love for Argentina. He posted his photograph on Twitter today and captioned it #Vamos Argentina.
Putul Borah, a 57-year-old businessman from Assam, took a bank loan of Rs 13 lakh to construct an auditorium so that he can live screen matches for football enthusiasts.
The die-hard fan of Germany has named the auditorium "The German Stadium". The auditorium on the ground floor can accommodate at least 100 people who can watch the matches on a 53-inch screen. He has decorated his house with German flags.
Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created a FIFA WC 2018 sand art at Puri beach using six tonnes of sand.
In Odisha, miniature artist L Eswar Rao from Bhubaneswar's Jatni village has made tiny FIFA trophies using pencils and crayons.
"Through this I am sending my best wishes to all the teams participating in the tournament," said the artist.
Shiv Shankar Patra of North 24 Parganas, who is supporting the Lionel Messi led-side, has painted his three-storey house in the team's blue and white colours. His only wish is to see Messi play in real life.
Having grown up watching the Argentine great Diego Maradona oppose defenders and mesmerise the world, and eventually captain Argentina to their second World Cup triumph in 1986, Mr Patra hopes Maradona's heir apparent Lionel Messi can lead Argentina to glory.
"Ever since I saw Maradona play in 1986, my love for football became more profound," Mr Patra told news agency ANI.
In Kolkata, Ajit Dutta, a kitemaker, has tailored his kites around FIFA trophy. He has also done flags of the participating countries and fans can buy them to cheer for the countries they support.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 will be played between June 14, 2018 and July 15, 2018. A total of 32 teams and 736 players are participating in the tournament, with the teams being divided into eight groups of four in the group stages. The two top teams from all the groups will make it to the Round of 16, which will start from June 30, 2018. The semi-finals will take place on July 11 and July 12, and the final will return to Luzhniki Stadium July 15.