By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata– The football mad state of West Bengal which was otherwise missing its euphoria of a World Cup final due to non-involvement of Brazil and Argentina, sprung to life in certain pockets after France lifted their second title beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.
From Chandannagar, located 35 kilometres north of Kolkata, which was once the French colony of Chandernagore, to the consulate here — merry-making defined the hour as Les Bleus supporters partied till the wee hours on Monday.
At the Alliance Française du Bengale, affiliated to the international network of the Alliances Françaises in the world, 30-odd French expatriates came together at a star hotel on Park Street to watch the final.
There were close to 50 more students of the Alliance Française du Bengale, some German expatriates and the city’s France fans who had only one prayer on their minds.
“It was crazy. There was tension after the first half as Croatia were the better team. But in the second half as France scored the goals, the mood changed quickly and expatriates started singing the national anthem,” a spokesperson of the consulate said.
“Merci (thank you in french) to all of those who backed us. I am over the moon,” Fabrice Plançon, director of Alliance Française du Bengale told IANS.
France rode an own goal from Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic to take the lead which was cancelled out by Ivan Perisic. Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty to regain France’s lead which was further increased to 3-1 by Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe before Mandzukic pounced on a blunder from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to reduce the difference.
At Chandannagar, a huge giant screen was set up at The Strand, on the bank of the Hooghly river where thousands of enthusiasts gathered to watch the summit clash.
“It was a scene to savour after France won the World Cup. Paris is far from here but the atmosphere was no different,” Sumita Rakshit, a resident, gushed.
Since morning the fervour surrounding the grand finale was unmistakable around the area which is an hour away from the city.
There were supporters who had their faces painted blue, white and red and Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezman shirts on their back.
The French flag was almost in everybody’s hand as kick off time grew nearer.
“We were here at The Strand in 1998 too. We fondly remember (Zinedine) Zidane scoring two goals with his head. Then we were left gutted in 2006 (when France lost to Italy in the final),” said another resident, who is a Mbappe fan.
After Argentine referee Pitana Nestor blew the final whistle, the small town known for bright festival lights, rejoiced in the hue of blue, red and white as residents exchanged pleasantry and sweets.
The music blared loud from the speakers and went on till late into Monday as some youths prepared dinner near the Strand and the menu was in keeping with Bengali cuisine.
Chandannagar in Hooghly district was one of the first outposts of India’s colonial past, a French colony rather like Puducherry.
It remained an overseas territory of France in India for different time periods stretching over 250 years since 1673. It finally became a part of the Indian union in 1952, five years after the country won independence from British rule.
The town of Chandannagar still has strong French cultural links, which draw tourists from the European nation.
The Chandannagar Museum and Institute (Institut de Chandernagore) possesses a rich collection of French antiques, while the Chandannagar gate constructed in 1937 on the anniversary of the Fall of Bastille, has etched on it the slogan of the French Revolution “Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, equality and fraternity)”.
A French cemetery stands opposite a large lake. Another major attraction is the Sacred Heart Church that was designed by French Architect Jacques Duchatz and inaugurated in 1884. (IANS)