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Tuesday May 17, 2022

Rowdy fans create ugly scenes at Headingley

Even media persons covering the scene outside the stadium before and during the World Cup game between Pakistan and Afghanistan were harassed by Afghanistan fans.

June 29, 2019

LEEDS, England: It began with shouting and ended with scuffles. There were ugly scenes at the gates of Headingley as Pakistan and Afghanistan fans clashed with each other.

Even media persons covering the scene outside the stadium before and during the World Cup game between Pakistan and Afghanistan were harassed by Afghanistan fans.

There was a major incident inside the ground during the match when some Afghan supporters tried to switch stands. There were fist fights and later the scuffling Afghan fans were forcefully taken out of the stadium.

The rivalry between Pakistan and India fans is legendary. It is by far the fiercest of all rivalries in international cricket.

But what happened at Headingley on Wednesday underlined the fact that another one is growing. And not very quietly.

There was plenty of evidence that Afghan fans are emerging as major rivals for their Pakistani counterparts here at Headingley on Wednesday. Though outnumbered by the fans in green, the Afghans didn’t lack in intensity creating a Pakistan-India kind of atmosphere both outside and inside the stadium.

Fans had gathered in front of Headingley hours before the game. Though Leeds doesn’t have a big Pakistani population, its neighboring Bradford is a different story. Known as little Pakistan, Bradford has a huge desi population and it was from there that most Pakistani fans had come from to watch Wednesday’s game. Then, as usual, there were supporters who had come from all over the world to back their team, which has given a new lease of life to its World Cup campaign by winning back-to-back matches against South Africa and New Zealand.

While Pakistan had everything for play at Headingley, Afghanistan only had a point to prove. Though their team is already out of contention after seven losses in a row, the Afghan fans were as loud and vocal as the Pakistanis.

“There were a lot of them today,” said Waqar Younis, the former Pakistan captain, who is in England as a commentator and ICC ambassador.

“We are here to support our team. It might be losing here but it’s going to be a major team soon,” said Shehzad, a Kabul-born Afghan who lives in England.

But fans like Shehzad were fewer in numbers, as it later turned out.

Some of the Afghan fans became rowdy and were involved in altercations with Pakistani fans. The atmosphere became really tense and even journalists were targeted by some fans. “If it’s so tense now, imagine what it would be like once the match is over,” remarked a journalist.

Sources said that the World Cup organsires had taken serious notice of the untoward incidents and local authorities were informed about it. There is a possibility that more police officials could be deployed outside the stadium to keep the situation under control after the game.