October 01, 2013
Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

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Lionel Messi gestures to the throng of Indian supporters following a training session in Kolkata.
Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images
Children in Kolkata kick a soccer ball in Messi jerseys in front of images of the Argentinian star.
Rupak De Chowduri/Reuters

Salt Lake Stadium was smothered in white and blue, colors adopted not out of fickle interest in the occasion but rather from old allegiance. Unlike many other parts of the country, Kolkata has long been home to passionate football supporters from all class backgrounds, plugged into the global game. The city is fairly evenly divided between those who support Argentina and those who support Brazil. During major international tournaments, the flags of both countries can be seen flying across the city. Fireworks and street celebrations greet their victories, lamentation and public gloom their defeats.

Security escorts Lionel Messi through a crowd of fans in Kolkata before a practice session.
Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images
Lionel Messi wins the ball from Venezuela's Ternando Amorebita during a friendly in Kolkata.
Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

Kanishk Tharoor is a writer based in New York City. His work, which has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, has appeared in publications in the United States, United Kingdom, India and the Middle East.

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