Emiliano Martinez or just a moving car with tinted windows?

Emiliano Martinez roamed around Dhaka in this car with black tinted windowsProthom Alo

He wanted to come to Dhaka to experience Bangladesh’s Argentina craze first hand. But what did Emiliano Martinez witness after coming here? He saw nothing of that craze. The only thing he saw was some journalists hovering in front of his hotel in the morning.

He saw them, but none of the journalists could see him. From his hotel room he went straight to the underground parking to get into his car. That car also had tinted glass window. Martinez left the hotel in that car which was tailing a police van a little after 9:00am. Photo journalists ran after the car with their cameras in hand, TV cameramen ran with cameras while the police were blowing their whistles and running after them. No one really managed to capture any photos or record any footage. One could hardly see Martinez behind the black tinted glass.

From the hotel, his next stop was digital business portal Next Ventures office in Pragati Sarani in Badda. It took him around 15 minutes to reach there. The officials of the company along with some invited guests were waiting for Martinez. The most notable name out of the guests was Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. Bangladesh cricket team’s former captain is a die-hard fan of the Argentina football team. So, naturally he was very keen to meet Martinez. His children were even more excited to meet him. Their wish to see the World Cup winning goalkeeper up close came true. Mashrafe posted a lengthy status on his Facebook page about the entire experience.

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The flock of journalists followed Martinez from the Westin Hotel to the Next Ventures office in Pragati Sarani. Many of them hosted Facebook live session from the spot but struggled to find something worthy of saying in those live sessions. Martinez is inside this building – other than that, they didn’t have anything else to say! Some of passersby stopped in front of the building, seeing the rows of police standing in front of the high-rise building. They asked someone who was standing there before them– what’s happening here? The answer was Argentina’s goalkeeper. But after a while, the answer, somehow, transformed to Messi. And the people at the footpath started cheering Messi-Messi.

Argentina means Messi. But Martinez also had a huge role to play in Argentina ending their 36-year-long misery in World Cups in Qatar. Before the final headed into the tie-breaker, had Martinez not made that save in the final moments of the extra time, Argentina would not have won the World Cup. Before that, how can one forget about the tie-breaker against the Netherlands in the quarterfinal! Martinez made a couple of saves which helped Argentina take another step towards fulfilling their dreams. After the World Cup, maybe not more than Messi, but Martinez was in the discussions equally. No one will soon forget his controversial celebration with the Golden Gloves award and the debates it started!

Emiliano Martinez being taken to the Next Ventures office from his hotel
Prothom Alo

Had the World Cup not turned Emiliano Martinez into a literal rockstar, Satadru Dutta probably wouldn’t have planned to bring him to Kolkata. This Kolkata based sports promoter works with big names. Earlier, he had brought megastars Pele and Maradona to Kolkata. Last night during a chat at the hotel lobby, he said that there are three names in his notebook– Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Steffi Graf. Once he brings these three stars to Kolkata, he will happily retire. For a person who can bring Pele-Maradona to Kolkata, bringing Messi, Ronaldo and Steffi should not be too difficult. Even if it is, it’s Satadru’s headache, let him worry about that. Let us get back to this bizarre Bangladesh visit of Martinez.

Satadru said that after the Kolkata trip was finalised, Martinez himself wanted to go to Bangladesh and then to Kolkata. The reason behind that is much publicised. The news of Bangladesh’s fanfare regarding Argentina reached the Argentine team during the World Cup. This is how Bangladesh was present in the World Cup, even though they weren’t participating. The day when Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni officially thanked Bangladesh for its support, I had to explain the reason and history of Bangladesh’s love-affair with Argentina to many foreign reporters.

Much has happened in Argentina about Bangladesh since they won the World Cup. A country has reopened their embassy in another country just because the support they received from them in football– something like this has never happened before in history. Seeing and hearing all of this piqued Martinez’s interest about Bangladesh. It made him curious. But did this visit satisfy his curiosity? He couldn’t even see a glimpse of the sea of Argentina fans in Bangladesh.

Emiliiano Martinez with Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina
Zunaid Ahmed Palak Facebook page

On Sunday morning, I met a young guy at the coffee shop in the Westin Hotel. The Messi jersey he was wearing was enough to guess his allegiance. Today, after Martinez left the hotel, he was still sitting there. He came to the coffee shop early in the morning hoping to click a picture with Martinez. He had no idea that Martinez had already left the hotel. When he got to know, the expression on his face completely changed, he looked as if he had just received the news of a close relative’s demise.

Thousands of fans like him were willing to spend money to catch a glimpse of Martinez. But they didn’t even get that chance. And what did Martinez get! He probably received some money, which most likely wasn’t that much. But he couldn’t see the Bangladesh he wanted to see when he decided to come to Dhaka.

He landed in Dhaka in early morning. The media were waiting for him, but the only thing they got to see was his car. They couldn’t even see Martinez behind the tinted window. Martinez went to the hotel, looking at a near empty road.

The only feeling Martinez’s visit exuded was that of emptiness. He landed in the morning, slept for a few hours, then went to an office, the name of which most people in Bangladesh had never even heard of. From there, he met the prime minister and then went straight to the airport. Other than a selected few, most people will have no recollection Martinez’s visit. The only thing I will remember of Martinez’s 11-hour visit is a running car with black tinted windows.

*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy