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June 24, 2019

Pakistan fans stick by their team despite poor run


June 24, 2019

LONDON: “It seems we are in Pakistan,” Waqar Younis tells me as he walks in the Media Box at Lord’s on Sunday.

It certainly feels like it. Earlier, when I was walking towards Lord’s from the St John’s Wood tube station, I could see fans clad in green or carrying the Pakistan flag. They were everywhere. South African fans, in contrast, were hard to spot.

The fans have been there to support the Pakistan team since the start of the World Cup. The fans turned up in big numbers at Trent Bridge in Nottingham for Pakistan’s opening game against West Indies. Despite the crushing defeat, they were back at the same venue a few days later and were duly rewarded as Pakistan put their best foot forward to record a stunning victory against the hosts.

The picturesque County Ground in Taunton was filled mostly by Pakistan fans in the game against Australia. The match ended with a heartbreak. At Old Trafford, Pakistanis were outnumbered by Indians supporters but despite lacking in numbers, the fans in green were equally vocal in their support. Pakistan were outclassed by India.

That disappointing result was probably the reason why the fans were a bit quiet as they walked towards Lord’s on Sunday morning ahead of Pakistan’s must-win game against South Africa.

Some of them did chant slogans of “Pakistan zindabad” and “jeetay ga bhai jeetay ga Pakistan jeetay ga” but it lacked the intensity of Pakistan’s previous games. Perhaps Pakistan’s below-par showing in the World Cup has lowered the morale of the fans.

“I don’t think so,” said Abrar, who had come from south London to watch the game. “We are and will continue supporting Pakistan no matter what,” he said.

Abrar’s friends echoed his feelings. But Tariq, who had come for the game from Pakistan, didn’t agree. “I’m here because I had bought the tickets months ago. Otherwise the way Pakistan is playing I would have rather stayed at home,” he said. But Tariq was immediately scolded by one his friends, who stressed that the fans would never stop supporting Pakistan.

Others were deeply regretful of some rowdy fans’ behaviour, who have been really abusive towards the Pakistani players, and in some cases, towards their families. “I don’t think it’s fair,” said one youngster. “I mean it’s ok to criticize but you can’t be abusive. It’s the same players who won the Champions Trophy.”

Meanwhile inside Lord’s the stands were soon packed with Pakistani fans holding the lions share. Among the Pakistani fans was the country’s Army chief and many other dignitaries. “It’s a great atmosphere,” remarked Wasim Akram as we chatted during the first half of the Pakistani innings. “I hope they do well today.”

Inside the ground, Pakistani fans were back doing what they do best. They created an electric, homelike atmosphere. The Old Trafford disappointment against India seemed like a thing of the past.

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