Saturday, March 5, 2011

Football – Cheering the national team for a change.

Whether you are strolling in the park or shopping at some mall, dining in a fancy restaurant or head banging to a concert, there would be scores of men (from kids to adults) spotted in football T-shirt. The impact of European leagues has mushroomed since the emergence of cable television. Now you have got guys cheering certain clubs as their own, eyeing their every move, sharing emotions and cursing any other team that might come in their way. I too have been a loyal supporter to one of them. But, when it comes to our national side, we hardly hear about them.

Thanks to social network that I got to know about a match scheduled today in Peoples Stadium Lyari, Karachi. Fearing the ever deteriorating law and order in the future I decided to finally pay witness to the spectacle before even teams like Palestine start voicing their concerns on security. So taking a friend along I took a taxi to the stadium an hour before the official start. The taxi driver, a voluble pathan kept on warning against going to the disturbed land of the gang mafias. Our mulishness finally got the better of him and we reached well before time. "Try to leave the place before dark", was his final advice.

The stadium was heavily guarded by rangers with banners welcoming the guest team hoisted around the walls. People, mostly locals and press were smarming in dressed in colourful tshirts. The first shock dawned upon us when we were told to go back because we did not have tickets and tickets were not to be sold on the match day. If it had been a game of cricket, I might have understood the logic, but starving the youth from a game that is already suffering from lack of promotion, is just plain stupid. You seriously don't expect people to buy tickets in advance for a football match from Lyari. Even cricket stadiums hold back general seats for the final day. Going back was totally out of the question. So, with a bit of persuasion and contacts, we were finally let in thanks to our Rangers.

The chance to see a football stadium with the national squads lined up against each other was totally charismatic. Pakistan were in light green while Palestine spotted a red kit. The crowd was full of local Balochs and Pathans. Media people, security guards and team officials made up for the rest of crowd. Not even a single family or lady was present on the occasion. The transporter's strike was one of the major factors that narrowed the crowd down to 3500.

The match was itself quite entertaining, with both sides fighting it out evenly and getting fair share of chances, before playing a nil nil draw. Palestine leads the series 1-0 after two matches. The next two matches will be held in Palestine on 24 and 27 May.

Coming back to the point we need to take our football seriously ,building a new ground on a secure land in Karachi can be a good start, for it may draw in the crowd that has reservations against places like Lyari. Secondly, the ground management needs to set policies that encourage people to come and watch, instead of sending them home ticketless. And lastly, we really need to show our support for the game by turning up, and getting behind our team. There's no reason why we can't support our own team, while we feel pride watching Man Utd battling it out on the big screen cafes, donning the red kit.

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