World Cup soccer fever leads to Argentine embassy return after 45 years

DHAKA, 28 Feb 2023:

Argentine foreign minister Santiago Cafiero yesterday reopened his country’s embassy in Bangladesh – shut down during the military dictatorship of Jorge Videla over 45 years ago – with a screen showing soccer world cup footage in the backdrop, as Argentina’s team has a massive fan-following in the South Asian nation.

“Today we are fulfilling a moral, ethical and historic duty by reopening this embassy. It seemed like Argentina and Bangladesh had succumbed to forgetting each other,” Cafiero told reporters after raising the Argentinean flag in Dhaka.

It was soccer, an unexpected trigger, “that brought out Bangladesh’s love for Argentina for the world to see,” the minister added.

Cafiero landed in Bangladesh yesterday for a two-day official visit to boost trade and cultural ties, and said Bangladeshi fans who waved the Argentine flag during the Qatar 2022 World Cup were the true catalysts of the diplomatic mission being established.

Images of Bangladeshi fans celebrating Argentina’s victory had gone viral around the world, although the locals’ support for the South American teams dates back to the 1986 World Cup, when Diego Maradona had scored a historic brace to defeat England – Bangladesh’s former colonisers – in the quarterfinals.

The possibility of reopening the embassy took shape after Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated Argentine president Alberto Ángel Fernández after the world cup victory.

During his visit, Cafiero is set to meet his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen to sign several agreement, including one on cooperation in soccer.

The visiting top diplomat will meet the president of the Bangladesh Football Federation, although economic and bilateral ties are also in focus during the visit, with several Argentinean business executives accompanying Cafiero for the trip.

Argentina and Bangladesh established diplomatic ties in 1972 and months later in 1973, the president of the time – Juan Domingo Peron – decided to open a diplomatic mission in the South Asian country, which had gained independence recently.

In 1978, a military junta ruling Argentina shut down the embassy citing budget restrictions.

In 2021, Argentina’s exports to Bangladesh – mainly soy oil, flour and pellets or oil-cakes extracted from soy, corn and wheat oils – stood at $876 million, with Buenos Aires enjoying a trade surplus worth US$862 million.