Sports Hooliganism

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Pakistani cricket team rode on the shoulders of Naseem Shah on Wednesday, whose two telling sixes in the final over of a nerve-wracking contest of the Asia Cup. The quality of the game played in the thrilling one-wicket win over Afghanistan was spectacular beyond expectations, but the ugly scenes that followed soon afterwards had not been anticipated either. For, this was not a match between Pakistan and India, where stakes run high and unparalleled passion remains the keyword. The Afghan fairytale rise in international cricket hangs heavily on the shoulders of Pakistan’s assistance, which has very generously helped with the provision of coaches and training facilities. Such was its willingness to nurture the young cricketing talent in the neighbourhood that special arrangements were regularly made for an opening into the domestic cricket circuit. No one understands the tenacity of overwhelming emotions better than Pakistani fans, but the sheer unruliness that erupted in Sharjah spoke more to an overall culture of intolerance and hooliganism than the pangs of sore losers. From heated exchanges in the field to Afghan fans ripping off seats to throw them at those wearing Pakistani shirts in the stands, the visuals got as bad as they possibly could. This was probably what the UAE authorities had anticipated beforehand (given the dirty scuffle of 2019) as they issued warnings of strict action against disciplinary violations.
The resentment between the two fan bases stems from a string of foolhardy actions taken out of general spite. That Afghan nationals constantly feel the need to pull one over Pakistan, which in turn, does not bat an eyelid before reminding them of its long, long list of favours are all part of the problem. While people like parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar asking the people to hold their breath before “hurl(ing) racist abuses” are actually playing the hardest role of devil’s advocate, media outlets in nearby countries have been quick to plaster their responses on every noteworthy wall. Pakistan’s reaction is now being termed as not one part of the saga, but the entire problem itself. Unfortunately, the knife blade of prejudice loves to point in our direction only. Registering a protest with the International Cricket Council, as already pointed out by cricket chief Ramiz Raja, is the only viable solution because unless we beat our rivals with our side of the story, their vendetta will clearly become the order of the day. Politicking of a gentleman’s game aside, it would have been best to let the anticipation swirls force our men and women in national colours to present their best foot forward. However, like all things good in life, cricket, too, came with an expiration tag!