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June 26, 2017

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Soccer-mad Indian couple off to their 9th World Cup finals

KOLKATA--Their World Cup love affair began more than three decades ago in Spain. Now 81-year-old Pannalal Chatterjee and his wife Chaitali, 72, are once more heading from cricket-mad India to the ultimate soccer fiesta.

"This may be my last one, but I am so happy at getting the chance to watch a tournament in Brazil," Pannalal said during a stopover in Singapore on his way to what will be the couple's ninth World Cup.

"It's always been my dream to watch the World Cup in Brazil. It's the mecca of football," he told AFP by phone.

The Chatterjees, who live in the eastern city of Kolkata, are life-long soccer fans and Pannalal has been involved as a volunteer administrator for the sport in eastern India since the early 1970s.

They got their first taste of top-level soccer in 1982 when a friend whom they were staying with in London got them tickets for the tournament in Spain, when a young Diego Maradona first garnered global attention.

"Such was the excitement of the tournament that I was determined from then on not to miss any World Cups in the future," said Pannalal.

Four years later, the Chatterjees were in Mexico when Maradona captained Argentina to victory and lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at the Azteca stadium.

"The final between Argentina and West Germany was unforgettable. The Argentinians won 3-2 and there was so much excitement," he said.

While Maradona remains the ultimate hero of Chaitali, her husband is a staunch fan of Brazil and speaks proudly of the time Pele agreed to pose with them for a photo.

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