Shillong: Waka Waka... It`s Time For Africa. From young to old, the talk in Meghalaya is about World Cup soccer.
The passion of the once-in-four years FIFA World Cup has taken this landlocked soccer-crazy state of 2.3 million people by storm. Young and old are excitedly watching their heroes battle it out in South Africa.
Supporting one`s favourite team among the 32 nations playing in the World Cup is a common passion. But the fervour for the World Cup is stronger in villages bordering Bangladesh as people go all out in support of their favourite teams by hoisting flags of the countries they support on rooftops and compound.
Villages along the southern border stretching from Lyngkhat, Dawki up to Amlympiang, have even looked like a little South Africa with flags of various countries playing in the World Cup being hoisted on rooftops.
For instance, a family supporting Brazil will hoist its flag. But there are houses where flags of different nations were hoisted in the same rooftop, indicating that each member of the family supports his or her own favourite team.
"I have not missed a single match and I`ll make it sure that I won`t miss especially when Spain and Portugal fight for victory in the knockout stage," said Zuriel Basaiawmoit, a Class 9 student of St Anthony`s School here.
Ditto with 65-year-old P.L. Nongbri, a resident of Malki here who has so far not missed a single match.
"Football is my religion and Argentina is my favourite to lift the 2010 FIFA World Cup. If Argentina wins, soccer lovers will be the happiest people," Nongbri told reporters.
For politicos in "politically unstable" Meghalaya, the enthusiasm for the World Cup has overtaken the political games that the state is renowned for.
As opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator James K Sangma put it: "Politicking must have taken a back seat for now."
"Many might be in the front row now witnessing the beauty of the game," James added. "I am totally enraptured by its beauty. I have been watching all the matches and I hope my favourite Argentina take home the trophy."
Senior Congress legislator Sayeedullah Nongrum, who is among the front players in formation of the new Mukul Sangma-led government in the state, echoed him.
"Football comes first. No NCP, no Congress, no BJP, no UDP, no politics should come in the way," Nongrum told reporters.
Editor of leading Khasi daily U Nongsain Hima, Lambok Thabah, agreed. "Though I usually miss the early matches as their timing coincide with the timing of my work, I make it sure that I do not miss the second matches at midnight."
Villagers in power-starved Meghalaya have to do something extra to ensure that they don`t miss the matches due to frequent interruptions in power supply.
People from remote places in Jaintia Hills district and the India-Bangladesh border areas of Dawki and Borsora in West Khasi Hills district don`t mind coming all the way to Shillong to purchase a generator.
"We are facing frequent shutdown in our areas. To ensure that we don`t miss watching the World Cup, we have no option but to buy a generator," a resident of Borsosa said.
Power Minister A.T. Mondal had categorically assured on the floor of the assembly that there would be uninterrupted power supply in the whole state during the World Cup.
Jails in various districts of Meghalaya have been provided with large screen TV sets to allow inmates watch the World Cup after prisoners petitioned their demands to Director General (Prisons) Kulbir Krishan.
In the city, some hotels have installed LCD projectors to show live matches for guests in their bars.
"We have arranged LCD projectors for the guests so that they can relax and enjoy the match. But we could show only those matches telecast early like the 7.30 p.m. ones," Alpine Continental Hotel general manager Vishwanath Bhattacharjee said.
There was a plan to show midnight matches from semi-finals onwards provided permission was given to extend bar timings beyond the usual 9 p.m.
Adding that extra zing are Shakira`s ‘Waka Waka... This time for Africa’ and ‘Wavin` Flag’ from Somali-Canadian artist K`naan that has both the young and old tapping their feet. Cyber cafes too are busy attending requests from boys and girls for downloading the World Cup tunes on their mobile phones.