Lionel Messi: Indian tea-maker creates shrine to Argentina star

(CNN) — In the cricket-obsessed country of India, who would expect to find a shrine to footballer Lionel Messi?

Shib Sankar Patra, a tea-seller in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, is a devout supporter of the Argentine football team. He has painted his entire three-storey house in the colors of the country’s flag. Posters of Messi paper the walls of his home.

Patra’s passion for football matches the history of his hometown, which hosts one of Asia’s oldest football clubs, Mohun Bagan.

His love for Argentina goes back to 1986, when football superstar Maradona captained the team. About two decades later, Patra was so enchanted by Messi’s skills that he decided to paint his home blue and white ahead of the superstar’s 2009 visit to India.

Ever since then, Patra has been painting his home in the same colors before the World Cup season begins.

Patra, 52, has been selling tea for the last 30 years. The tea stall is now a landmark in the neighborhood and is known as the “Argentina dokan” — the Argentina tea shop. With the TV set on the sports channel, his customers watch and discuss football with tea and snacks.

This year, Patra was planning to go to Russia to see the FIFA World Cup, but fell short of money. He had saved about Rs 70,000 ($1000) but was told that his trip would cost around Rs 150,000 ($2,200).

Even though he could not travel to Russia, Patra did not lose hope. He has used that money to re-paint and decorate his house.

“I’ll use the remaining money to hold a big celebration for Messi’s birthday, on June 24th,” Patra said.

His daughter Neha Patra added: “My father doesn’t smoke or drink.

“Messi is his only addiction.”

With Messi turning 31 this month, this World Cup could be his best chance of capturing the one major title that has evaded him.

He’ll be attacking with veteran marksmen Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain — both in their third World Cups — as well as emerging 24-year-old Paulo Dybala.

Argentina is ranked No. 5 in the world and will face Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in the group stages.

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