The fervour for the Fifa World Cup is at an all-time high in the national capital. With less than 24 hours to go for the final, where giants Argentina take on defending champions France, excitement is palpable.
Also adding to the fervour is the fact that this is very likely to be the last international game for arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (and many would argue the greatest ever), Lionel Messi. Having won every trophy there is, including the Champions League multiple times with Barcelona, and the Copa America with Argentina, the World Cup winner’s medal is the one honour missing from his cabinet.
Given Messi’s massive fan following in India, restaurant and pub owners are expecting a full house.
Pebble Street, a restaurant-pub in New Friends Colony, is fully booked for Sunday, with more than 150 people expected to be in attendance.
“The football world cup has been a very successful campaign for us, in fact better than the India- Pakistan matches. Sales have been double of what we usually sell and beer buckets are selling out like water,” Ahuja says.
As a match commences, the music is turned down and patrons can enjoy the live play with the commentary on. Ahuja likes to call it ‘Live and Loud’.
“The Fifa world cup has shown us that football is definitely bigger in India than we presume it to be. We have also seen a lot of women enjoying the matches” a gleeful Ahuja adds.
At Monkey Bar, another lounge bar in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, preparations are in full swing for Sunday’s final, with even table mats, coasters, tent cards, and menus designed with a football theme.
With the staff dressed in jerseys, the place is decked up in football gear and games. With predict and win cards, patrons can predict the winner in the first half and win discounts on the bill if those predictions come true.
With live commentary, the lounge bar expects a full house on Sunday evening and the celebrations to continue beyond match hours.
At Chatter House, a European-style bar, free drinks are on offer for people who turn up for the love match screening in the winning team’s jersey, at both the establishment’s outlets in Khan Market in Nehru Place.
Kabir Suri, president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), says that December so far has been good after a subdued October and November.
“Covid is well and truly behind us and business is back to normal. It looks like a strong December for the industry and the Fifa world cup has helped a lot,” said Suri, adding that in many cities authorities have allowed establishments to open beyond regular hours for the late-night matches that only start at 12.30 am.