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Bangladesh: Real Madrid’s home, away from home

Bangladesh is a nation frenzied about football and of course, Real Madrid. Bangladeshi fans’ love affair with Real Madrid is immense and definitely worth exploring.

French football player Zinedine Zidane ( Photo credit should read FARJANA K. GODHULY/AFP via Getty Images

This Article is in loving memory of Asif Hassan, a lifelong Real Madrid fan and former Peñista from Peña Madridista Bangladesh. He passed away due to heart complications on June 1, 2022. Asif left a truly beautiful legacy of supporting this club as he took a number of Real Madrid shirts even on his final visit to the hospital where he breathed his last breath. Asif also leaves his mother behind, who he loved more than anyone. Rest in peace, Asif.

Television was introduced in Bangladesh in the mid-1960s — half-a-decade before the independence of the nation. In the 1980s, the magic box started to become more popular with local TV dramas, and the American TV series Macgyver caught on soon. Even in the 90s, having one of these boxes was a sign of luxury. Following any global sport, in turn, on a scale how we do right now, was pretty much unthinkable back in the day.

A whole generation of Real Madrid fans were born in Bangladesh just around the same time Real Madrid had launched Los Galacticos.

The 2002 world cup -- the first ever in Asia -- naturally grabbed the attention of Asian countries more than any other World Cup. The timing of the tournament coincided with Real Madrid’s brewing of the Galacticos in a way that many young fans got hooked to Real within a couple of years. Bangladesh has an extremely strong following of English clubs too — Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United -- and have official fan clubs there for those teams.

But the affection for Real Madrid kept brimming within that generation and now, like other passionate Madridistas, they even follow the flight path of Real Madrid’s plane if the weather is a bit frisky.

Bangladesh is now home to two different Peñas of Real Madrid. Peña Madridista Bangladesh is the pioneer in this regard. After 10 years of group activities on social media, public gatherings, social events, and unconditional support of the club, they were officially recognized by Real Madrid C.F. in December 2019 as the first-ever official supporters club of Real Madrid in Bangladesh. Peña Madridista Bangladesh -- locally known as PMBD — has been a constant presence on social media, Bengali podcasts, and with their famous Champions League final live screenings.

This group has been organizing live screenings of every Champions League final since La Decima, in the same restaurant where people even hold superstitions such as sitting in the same seat during every final. We can’t really blame them as they currently have a winning streak of 5 - 0 with these screenings.

Peña Madridista Bangladesh is also an avid admirer of Managing Madrid. I’m a Peñista of PMBD and I had the privilege of co-hosting the El Clasico preview podcast with Kiyan in Toronto, in 2021. The PMBD team also attended the Managing Madrid podcast that was held in Mumbai, making a trip all the way from Dhaka, and shared a wonderful evening, listening to Manging Madrid’s Om Arvind.

Bangladesh has more connections with the reigning Spanish and European Champions. Real Madrid legend and three-peat-winning manager Zinedine Zidane visited Bangladesh in 2006, just after retiring as a player. The man who once gave trouble to the likes of Paolo Maldini and Javier Zanetti spent an afternoon dribbling past Bangladeshi school kids. Zidane was received with great love and affection during this visit.

French football player Zinedine Zidane ( Photo credit should read FARJANA K. GODHULY/AFP via Getty Images

Former Real Madrid forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria played a friendly for Argentina in Bangladesh in 2011. Higuain and Di Maria were both on the score sheet.

The true euphoria of football in Bangladesh could be felt during the World Cup. You wouldn’t realize this country is ranked 188th in the FIFA rankings if you observe their madness up close. Every building, every piece of architecture apart from government buildings in Bangladesh will have the flag of Brazil or Argentina during the world cup. There are fans of Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Spain too but there are very few in numbers compared to the army of fans Brazil and Argentina have in this land.

FIFA world cup fever in Bangladesh Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The younger, newer, and smarter generation of Real Madrid fans hailing from Bangladesh are just as passionate about our club as fans from any part of the world where Madridismo is truly regarded as a unique feeling. The language of football and the magic of Real Madrid cannot be bound by languages, cultures, or borders.

When the Bernabeu sings Hala Madrid Y Nada Mas, 8500 kilometers away from Madrid, Bangladeshi Madridistas do the same, from university halls, in living rooms, from live screenings, in front of their screens with the same authenticity, affection and emotion that makes supporting Real Madrid a once in a lifetime experience, no matter where you are.