Hundreds of football fans jostle as they rummage through piles of jerseys, looking for the shirt number of their favourite players — Welcome to Kolkata’s Maidan Market, which almost resembles the streets of Qatar, where the FIFA World Cup kicks-off on Sunday.
Jerseys and flags of countries like Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Germany and Spain are hot property in this market in one corner of the iconic Maidan, as passionate football fans make a beeline outside shops to get a chance to take home a piece of sartorial glory.
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“We have been witnessing a huge demand since the last one week. Flags and jerseys of Argentina are the most sought after, followed by Brazil. We expect this frenzy to continue throughout the duration of the World Cup," said Azis Sheikh, a shopkeeper at Maidan Market.
The World Cup begins later on Sunday, when host country Qatar takes on Ecuador in the opening match.
“I have bought flags of all major football-playing countries for display in and around my locality. I have been doing the same before the start of the mega tournament for two decades now," Konnagar resident Dulal Sarkar said.
Sheikh said on an average, around 500 jerseys have been sold daily since the last four days. A jersey set, comprising a t-shirt and shorts, is priced in the range of Rs 600-800 at the market, while a standard-sized flag costs Rs 150.
Jerseys are also available for children, as young as two years, starting from Rs 300 per set, Sheikh said.
“We are die-hard fans of Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), and the entire family wears the jersey of the country while watching football matches featuring Ronaldo. For this World Cup, I have bought a jersey for my 4-year-old son, too," said Sohail Khan, an IT professional who resides in Garia.
Football enthusiasts said the market is the go-to destination for jerseys, flags and other accessories due to reasonable prices, which are well below the rate on e-commerce platforms.
“I bought a jersey set of Lionel Messi (Argentina) for Rs 600 at Maidan Market. It is priced in excess of Rs 1,100 on several e-commerce sites," Ankur Hazra, who plays football at the club level, said.
Printing names and numbers on jerseys is also in heavy demand, shopkeepers said.
An alphabet or a number can be printed on a jersey for Rs 10 each, said Shoaib, who owns a shop at the market for the last 12 years.
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