Monday, November 29, 1999

World Cup unites Africans studying in Delhi

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New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) The 1,500- strong African student community here may be thousands of miles away as the FIFA World Cup unfolds in their continent for the first time, but they are together as they cheer for Africa, vuvuzela or no vuvuzela.'I wish I could go to South Africa to see the matches live,' Montaser Nesrelbeen, a 24-year-old Sudanese student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), told IANS.An ardent football fan, Nesrelbeen played for his school team back home. But his busy schedule in JNU, where he is studying Spanish, means he can't fulfil his wish.He has, of course, been watching the live telecasts since June 11 when the World Cup began. 'I try not to miss any game. All my friends visit the Ghana embassy to watch the matches as we like the ambience there,' he added.Similar were the reactions of many African students studying in the capital's various universities.Football is a religion for the community here and interestingly, irrespective of their nationality, they are backing all the African nations. 'Although I am from Sudan, I want Ghana to win,' Nesrelbeen added. Sudan is not in the World Cup, but Ghana is.Nigerian student Aminu Jabbi, 31, who is pursuing a masters in bioscience from Jamia Millia Islamia is supporting Nigeria as well as Ghana.'I am supporting all the African teams. The best team should win and being a Nigerian, I wish my country lifts the cup,' he said.Thirty-five-year-old Joseph Gitonga, who hails from Kenya and has just completed his MA in education from Jamia, said: 'It's in my blood to support all African countries. But my favourite team is Ivory Coast.'The various lounges and pubs across the capital that have set up big screens with attractive offers for football fans have not really been able to draw the African student community.For instance, Abidi Karaga, a JNU student hailing from Congo, prefers the company of his friends and watches the matches in the hostel. 'As the people in Delhi are not so crazy about football, it is not much fun outside,' he said.'My Indian friends, especially from the northeast and Kerala, get together to watch the games on the weekends. We prefer the comfort of our hostel over the lounges,' he said.He wants Brazil or Ghana to win the cup and Brazilian midfielder Kaka is his idol.As the limelight is on Africa, many are confident that such attention will be beneficial for the continent. 'The World Cup will surely bring along lots of development to the region,' Abidi told IANS.The students remain divided on the controversy over vuvuzelas - the long South African trumpets that are being blamed for drowning the sound of football games and spoiling the concentration of players.Some were all for the vuvuzela. 'They are great fun and should not be banned,' said Nesrelbeen while others like Abidi Karaga argued they were a nuisance and should be done away with.(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at

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