WHEN HOSTS Russia face Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the FIFA World Cup at the 80,000-strong Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow today evening, football fever will grip fans across Tricity for the next one month. With the 32-team World Cup expected to be watched by over 3 billion spectators worldwide on television, football players and fans are keen on following their favourite teams apart from cheering their idols.
“Brazil is currently second in the FIFA ranking and with players like Neymar and Marcelo, they are a threat to the other top-ranked teams. Coach Tite has revised the team with the latter winning 17 of their last 21 games and losing just one game. In 2014, the team suffered due to Neymar’s injury. We will be cheering for Brazil winning a record sixth World Cup title this time,” said 11-year-old Anshu Dhhaterwal, a football trainee at the Chandigarh Football and Hockey Academy (CFHA), Sector 42 Sports Complex.
The tournament will be played at 12 stadiums across Russia and with the 32 teams divided into eight groups, eager-beaver fans are also following their team’s practice sessions with utmost interest. The 60-odd trainees at the CFHA have been watching videos of their favourite teams online and also getting posters of their hot-favourite stars ready. It will also be a time for fans to root for their idols, including the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Argentina is my favourite team and they will be keen to win the title after they lost to Germany in the last World Cup. Lionel Messi has scored 44 goals apart from 14 assists for FC Barcelona before the World Cup and with players like Sergio Aguero, who scored 30 goals for Manchester City this season and Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain will pose a threat to other teams. We have also bought T-shirts of Messi and De Maria,” shared 21-year-old Sarwesh Gaur, a footballer and MBA student at UIAMS, Panjab University.
While restaurants in the Tricity will telecast live matches in the later stage of the tournament, Alliance Francaise, Sector 36, will show all the France matches live on LED screen. “France is one of the stronger teams and we will screen all matches of France. We are counting on the support of our Indian friends, too. France won their last World Cup 20 years ago and we hope they win this time, too,” said Sylvain Choin, Director of Alliance Francaise, Chandigarh.