Salt Lake Stadium Gets Sao Paulo Look

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Sashi Ghosh

Kolkata: The Salt Lake Stadium got a ‘Sao Paulo makeover’ submerged in a sea of yellow in support of their favourite team Brazil, even as they lost to England 1-3 in a one-sided FIFA Under-17 World Cup semifinal on Wednesday.

Brazilians outnumbered the England fans but that did not matter to about 20-odd family members of the Young Lions, including their midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe as they made their first ever final of the U-17 World Cup.

Despite the semifinal being relocated in less than 48 hours’ notice, the Kolkata fans did not disappoint the organisers, clocking an official attendance of 63881 in the 66687 capacity stadium.

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A sellout crowd was expected but with time constraints in tickets distribution, many fans especially who had come from Guwahati had to return disappointed.

Mahat Ali, a fan from Guwahati, said before the match: “I first came to the stadium gate but was told that I will get my ticket from Milan Mela ground. There also they refused me tickets and I’m not sure whether I would finally get to enter or not.”

People were seen lining up at the stadium since 1pm, two hours before the gates opened for the 5pm kickoff match, even as vendors selling ribbons, flags and painting flag colours made hay with all of those being bought like hot cakes.

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Jaideep Bag, a vendor, was a busy man and had already applied the flag colours’ paint on more than 200 people with an hour to go for the match.

“We have never seen such an atmosphere. Kolkata feels different today,” he said as Brazil flags and jerseys were going off the shelves for double their original prices or Rs 100 and 150 respectively.

City businessman Shekyar Dutta (50) created a ‘mini Brazil’ at his BC Block House in Salt Lake, adjacent to the stadium.

The green-and-yellow flags not only adorned Dutta’s house but his Audi also got a Brazilian makeover with the flags and mementos he got from the 2014 World Cup.

“It was a great spectacle. Everyone loves Brazil because they play with great skill and spirit. But this England team is very skillful,” British deputy high commissioner Bruce Bucknell said here.

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There were also strict measures taken by the local police as the water pouches were not allowed into the stands.

Fans hurled water pouches from the stand in Brazil’s 2-1 victory against Germany in the quarters.

“You have to come to the entry checking point near the ramp to drink water. You can come as many number of times and have water. But we are not allowing water pouches into the stands today,” a policeman said.

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