As World Cup beckons, political rivals find rare common ground in Bangladesh

BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul says he will be rooting for Brazil. He may have an unlikely ally in his Awami League counterpart Obaidul Quader

Published : 20 Nov 2022, 08:16 AM
Updated : 20 Nov 2022, 08:16 AM

With the national election just a year away, the political landscape in Bangladesh is heating up as old foes, the Awami League and the BNP, lock horns once again in their quest for supremacy. But this year's football World Cup provides a momentary respite from the hostilities while revealing that even the fiercest of rivals may share similar allegiances away from the realm of politics.

The world's biggest sporting event is set to kick off in Qatar this week and the buzz surrounding the tournament is almost at a fever pitch in Bangladesh. As ever, the country remains staunchly divided between the blue and white of Argentina and the yellow and blue of their eternal rivals, Brazil.

As the saying goes, politics is downstream from culture and, it seems to ring true here as many politicians are indulging in football fever. The general secretaries of the countries' two major political parties, who are seemingly embroiled in a never-ending war of words, may even be on the same side for once.

BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir marked himself as a supporter of Brazil, saying he and his daughters will be rooting for the five-time world champions.

“Football and cricket are my favourite sports. I have always been a supporter of Brazil in football. Both of my daughters support Brazil," he said.

"Brazillian players have an inextricable affinity with the ball. They can change the course of the game in the blink of an eye.”

Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader took a more diplomatic approach, suggesting that he has a foot in the camps of both Argentina and Brazil, which could land him in a sweet predicament should the South American rivals meet in the World Cup final.

“I support both Brazil and Argentina. But I also like France's game," he said.

Despite their busy schedules, veteran Awami League leaders Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Abdur Rahman said that they would try and make time to watch the games.

Though they are on the same political boat, the two leaders will be on opposite sides of the fence during the World Cup, with Nanak being a Brazil fan, while Rahman will be backing Argentina.

Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a member of the BNP's standing committee, will be cheering on the Argentineans led by Lionel Messi, who are among the favourites to win the competition.

Meanwhile, the loyalties of JaSoD chief Hasanul Haq Inu, who made a name for himself as a football player in his youth, lie with Brazil.

"From their passing to their movement, Brazil's game is unique. The way a third-world, developing nation plays the game with their brains rather than brawn is a sight to behold," he said.

The leaders and activists of the BNP and the Awami League student affiliate organisations, too, are in the grips of the World Cup mania.

Imran Noor is a member of the BNP-aligned Chhatra Dal, while his close friend, Rezaur Rahman, is an activist of the Chhatra League. One studied at Dhaka University and the other at North South University.

"We are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we find ourselves in the same camp when it comes to the World Cup. We both support Brazil."

Echoing Imran, Rezaur said, "The Chhatra League council is on the horizon, but we won't be missing any World Cup matches.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher