Kolkata: Hundreds of soccer fans jostle each other as they rummage through stacks of jerseys looking for the jersey number of their favorite players. Welcome to Kolkata’s Maidan market, which almost resembles the streets of Qatar where the FIFA World Cup kicks off on Sunday.
The jerseys and flags of countries like Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Germany and Spain are fashionable property in this market on a corner of the iconic Maidan, as passionate soccer fans line up in front of the shops for a chance to grab their home a piece of clothing glory. .
“We have been witnessing a great demand since the last week. The flags and shirts of Argentina are the most sought after, followed by Brazil. We expect this frenzy to continue for the duration of the World Cup,” said Azis Sheikh, a shopkeeper at Maidan Market.
The World Cup begins later on Sunday, when the host country, Qatar, takes on Ecuador in the opening match.
“I have purchased flags from all the major soccer-playing countries to display in and around my town. I have been doing the same thing before the start of the mega-tournament for two decades,” said Dulal Sarkar, a Konnagar resident.
Sheikh said that, on average, around 500 T-shirts have been sold daily for the past four days. A jersey set, consisting of a jersey and shorts, is priced at Rs 600-800 on the market, while a standard size flag costs Rs 150.
The jerseys are also available for children as young as two years old, starting at Rs 300 per set, Sheikh said.
“We are die-hard fans of Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), and the whole family wears the country’s jersey while watching football matches with Ronaldo. For this World Cup, I also bought a jersey for my 4-year-old son,” said Sohail Khan, an IT professional based in Garia.
Soccer enthusiasts said the market is the go-to destination for jerseys, flags and other accessories because of the reasonable prices, which are well below the rates of e-commerce platforms.
“I bought a set of Lionel Messi (Argentina) jersey for Rs 600 at Maidan Market. Its price is over Rs 1,100 on various e-commerce sites,” said Ankur Hazra, who plays soccer at the club level.
Printing names and numbers on the jerseys is also in high demand, traders said.
An alphabet or number can be printed on a T-shirt for 10 rupees each, said Shoaib, who has owned a shop in the market for the past 12 years.