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No stakes but great euphoria: How Indians are cheering World Cup 2018

The football-mad pockets of the otherwise cricket crazy country are all ready and decked up to be the best cheerleaders for their favourite teams

Press Trust of India  |  Panaji/Thiruvananthapuram 

World Cup fever grips cricket-crazy India's football-mad pockets

No stakes but high sentiments -- this best describes India's anticipation for as the country's hubs paint themselves in the colours of 2018 to continue a long-distance love affair with the 'beautiful game'.

It's long-distance because themselves are nowhere close to being at the big stage at this point. But that is not coming in the way of fans' eagerness for the event starting today.

The football-mad pockets of the otherwise crazy country are all ready and decked up to be the best cheerleaders for their favourite teams in what has been described as the 'greatest show on earth' on more than one occasion.

So, while Cristiano Ronaldo's has Goa's near unanimous backing, Neymar's and Lionel Messi's have the fans divided for them in the east and south.

Goa, a former Portuguese colony, also has substantial support for

Huge screens have been put up even at by fans, who would be spending their nights there to catch the action in

"There are huge screens set up to watch matches across the coastal state. The fever will be high for one month," claimed Elvis Gomes, President, Football Association (GFA).

While flags would be a common site in the coastal belt, Gomes' heart is with Nigeria, clubbed with Argentina, and

"I am supporting underdogs, I want that for once should come to Africa," he said.

Former Indian said "atmosphere in is very hot for Football."

"Almost every fan would be watching matches at his favourite place. The club houses have set up indoor screens as due to rains, they can't install them in the open spaces," he said.

Scenes are as colourful down south with fans, especially in Malabar (north Kerala) region, showing their love for the game by lining the streets with life-size cutouts of their favourite players.

Messi seems to be a particular fan favourite and his face dominates Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasaragod.

Large LCD TV screens have already been put up in many cities and towns for the broadcast of World Cup matches.

Many fans have even painted their vehicles in the colours of their favourite teams. Compound walls and shops are also painted with pictures of players in several places.

Though and have the largest fan base in Kerala, Portugal, Spain, and also have followers here.

A recent road show, carried out by the fans of in a hamlet in district, had pulled in a fairly large turnout of people.

First Published: Thu, June 14 2018. 16:00 IST