How can it be that a small and exotic -for Latin Americans- country in Asia suddenly feels part of the Argentine territory? Since the World Cup began, the people of Bangladesh and their unusual fanaticism have been a recurring theme on social networks and in Argentine conversations.

Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world, and the first most densely populated, with 166 million inhabitants in a territory similar to that of the province of Córdoba. It is a country with a large Muslim majority, a legacy of the times that it was part of the Mongol Empire, between 1526 and 1858. It also has a Hindu minority, as well as 50 ethnic groups, each with their respective languages. It is a country as complex as culturally incomprehensible. Its main sport is not football, but cricket, a product of its British colonial past, since, until 1947, it was part of British India, being the eastern part of the province of Bengal, before becoming part of Pakistan. .

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, which means country of Bengal, became an independent nation in 1971, after the war with Pakistan, however, its current borders were established in 1947, with the second partition of Bengal. The country is bordered to the east by Pakistan and to the west by India. At that time, he was in the spotlight of the international community due to the hardships and persecutions suffered by his people by the Pakistani authorities. This led to the former Beatle George Harrison, always interested in oriental themes and heavily influenced by Hinduism and oriental spirituality, organizing the historic Concert for Bangladesh, with the most famous musical figures of that time. After independence, there were successive famines and an endless list of military coups and permanent political instability. However, in 1991 parliamentary democracy was restored and, since then, the country has doubled its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although the poverty rate remains one of the highest in the world, it has been reduced by 20% in the last 30 years.

Thanks to the connectivity and immediacy provided by social networks, this fanaticism not only became known in Argentina, but also multiplied among Bangladeshi citizens. All Argentines knew, thus, a love story that has been going on for a long time.

The story goes that on June 22, 1986, the “most geopolitical game in the history of football” was played in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron. There, Diego Armando Maradona made history and Argentina beat England 2-1, with two of the most remembered goals of all World Cup matches. This aroused interest and fanaticism rarely seen among Bangladeshi citizens, who saw it as a vindication of Third World peoples against a colonial power like Great Britain. But, further back in time, Argentina was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Bangladesh, establishing diplomatic relations in 1972, during the dictatorship of General Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, where the government established a pragmatic foreign policy, linked to the rest of the developing countries regardless of their ideological positions.

The phenomenon was so great that even the Argentine Foreign Ministry announced that it would reopen the embassy in Bangladesh. It is a reopening, since Argentina had a diplomatic representation there between 1973 and 1978. The third government of Juan Domingo Perón opened it as part of its policy of friendship and relations with the rest of the Third World countries and the global south ; It was closed by the civil-military dictatorship, but starting next year it will work again, taking advantage of the fanaticism for soccer and for the country of the Bangladeshis.

Commercial links are not to be despised. In a context where Argentina urgently needs to multiply its currencies and gain access to new markets, deepening the link with an Asian State that is willing to buy Argentine exports is no less. During 2021, for example, products worth 870 million dollars were exported from Argentina to Bangladesh, with a favorable balance for South Americans.

After obtaining the long-awaited third title of World Champion, there was only one place on the globe where it was celebrated with the same euphoria and joy as in Argentina, and that country was Bangladesh. It is a common place, but no less true, to say that football is much more than a sport. It contributes to creating deep and indissoluble links between peoples, in principle, as far apart culturally and geographically as Argentina and Bangladesh can be. A relationship and a story that is just beginning, and that, as often happens, arose from the bottom up, between the peoples, without any kind of imposition by governments or the powerful.

Argentina-Bangladesh: a love story