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Hearts on both sides of the border beat together

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Alison Mitchell | 12:07 UK time, Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Desperation to get tickets for the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan stepped up a level yesterday when there were skirmishes outside the ground in Mohali.

The newspapers here are awash with stories of the lengths fans will go to get tickets for this match - the first time Pakistan have played on Indian soil since 2007. One fan was pictured outside the stadium carrying a placard, which offered his kidney to anyone who could get him in.

India's biggest Bollywood stars and most famous business tycoons are expected to fly to Chandigarh but the airport is only small and there are already reports that it has run out of space to park all the private jets. Even the players are struggling to meet the demands of their friends and relations.

Shoaib Akhtar's family is making the journey by road from Islamabad but he was last seen at breakfast on the eve of the game, distraught that he might have mislaid their tickets.

The Pakistan-India border gate at Wagah.

The match is being depicted in various media outlets as 'war'. However, the vibe between India and Pakistan fans seems anything but acrimonious, and many of the players themselves get on well.

A player from each side happily chatted over a drink in the hotel cafe last night and there was a wonderful moment in the pre-match press conference when MS Dhoni came to the end of his duties and Shahid Afridi climbed onto the stage to take over.

As Dhoni stood up, the two men stopped to shake hands, causing photographers to surge forward, cameras whirring, making the two stop and pose as if it was a handshake of peace between two world leaders rather than two cricket captains simply wishing each other the best before a big match.

One Mohali family is reported to be preparing to welcome another family from Lahore to stay at their house, in order to reciprocate the hospitality shown to them when they visited Pakistan for India's historic tour of 2004, when bilateral cricketing ties resumed and India played in Pakistan for the first time since 1989. That particular tour was dubbed "The Friendship Series" and it was watched and cheered on in just such spirit.

Mohali is not too far from Wagah, which is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. Thousands of fans are entering the country from there and special buses are being laid on to transport people to Mohali.

Guards from both countries perform the elaborate border-closing ceremony. Photo: Getty

I visited Wagah when I was in Lahore during England's last tour of Pakistan in 2005. Six of us went to watch the elaborate border closing ceremony, which was a tremendous sight, full of pomp and posturing from the guards, who try to outdo each other in a semi-comical way on either side of the border.

The crowds sit in grandstands either side of a long, wide gangway in which the country's respective guards parade, with the border itself in the middle.

I was the only female in our group and I had to sit in a stand opposite my colleagues on my own, as men and women were segregated on the Pakistan side. Despite not knowing anyone and not speaking any Urdu I soon had a young local woman smiling shyly at me, and before long a small child sitting on my right knee.

What made the biggest impression on me though was the way people on either side of the border dashed down from the stands at the end of the ceremony to get as close as they could to the barrier, to crane their necks and wave at complete strangers on the other side, who were waving back just as frantically, with wide elated smiles on their faces. It gave the feeling of one huge family, separated only by a political tension of which they had no control.

A quote from a former Pakistani MP stood out to me in the paper yesterday. He said, "Hearts of people on both sides of the border beat together." It will be wonderful if, far from a bitter rivalry, the India-Pakistan match shows cricket fans at their most passionate but also their warmest... even if they end up on the losing side.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Alison,

    You are right. I am an Indian and I have lot of Pakistani Friends and they good friends of mine. We never think in the way that I am an Indian and they are Pakistanis. Like you said, the relationship still not eastablished due to political reasons.

    Whatever the result in today's match despite win or lose, I hope, "The relation will be same" and will not lead this to other problems. After all "Its just a Sport!"

  • Comment number 2.

    Well said Alison. I'm fairly well traveled and have generaly found "ordinary" people to be friendly.
    Let's hope cricket is the winner!
    By the way will you marry me ? I have every copy of Wisden from 1948 for you to peruse!!!
    Seriously, well done. Keep up the good work and knock Aggers into shape.

  • Comment number 3.

    I travel to India annually and am always amused how the Indian press propaganda changes from year to year. One year everything associated with "PAK" is a threat to the very existence of India and the next year stories about "Pakistan" (sic) are just like those about any other foreign nation! I am pretty sure that the people on the street have a rather more ambivalent attitude to their neighbours!

  • Comment number 4.

    I've been living and working in Kolkata for about a year now and I would have to agree with Susanna about the press - last year during the terrible floods in Pakistan there was almost no coverage here in India - I could catch details on BBC World and CNN but nothing was mentioned in the local press - neither papers nor TV. Until that is Pakistan finally accepted an offer of Indian aid - then suddenly it was alright to mention.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't necessarily think it is press propaganda. Indians themselves have changing feelings regarding Pakistan. Sure, now it seems like diplomatic ties are being re-established and all the fans are getting along - but all that is needed to change that is another terror attack in India. Most Indians will then look to blame Pakistan and the feeling of animosity will rise to the top again. Should speak to the average person in the street then....

  • Comment number 6.

    I went to a local chip shop yesterday and a few pakistanis were going on about some parrot that was killed by the indians because, like paul the octopus, it predicted that Pakistan would win the World Cup. I think its the British (or rather international) Pakistanis and Indians who make the match so much more volatile than the natives living in their respective countries.

  • Comment number 7.

    Alison, Thanks for a nice article. I hope the majority on both sides enjoy the game and realise that this is just a game. I hope there will be more of these matches and more people to people contact. When friendship between the people grows, the politicians may be more willing to compromise and resolve some of the disputes. I fully agree with the wise and noble Pakistani MP.

    Unfortunately many media organisations in India are not great and honorable. They seem increasingly prone to sensationalism and rubbish. It is a shame!

    And thankyou for being one of the bloggers! You are like the cool, fragrant and gentle rain after a hot and dreary summer's day in this world of cricket dominated by men.

  • Comment number 8.

    Very good match today
    India beat Pakistan 29 runs
    Its a India v Sri Lanka Final on Saturday

  • Comment number 9.

    Outside our respective countries, we are the best friends of each other. As long as the hypes and the right wingers are kept on the sidelines, anything could be worked out between the two!

  • Comment number 10.

    I am sick of this artificially created animosity between the two nations. I am at a loss to fully understand who is sustaining it but for the peace loving people of the two countries it will be a heaven on earth if the two could bury their stilted differences .

  • Comment number 11.

    Well Done.
    By that I mean well done for both the teams, their passionate fans.
    I am from Germany and was very impressed by the spectacle that I watched on Television. I seldom watch Cricket matches, but this one really caught it is all. When I was studying in Oxford, the long session spent waiting for something to happen, were so dreadfully boring. Not so, in this format. The colour of the Subcontinent, Punjab, and the festival atmosphere. I loved it all, only wish I was there physically and not just enjoying it through 'remote-control'. Yes, the simple 'Well Done' is just not enough to express the appreciation for it. Here is something that I wrote to trap some aspects of the game as I watched it;

    Thus ankle deep in grime and waste,
    Brown modern fabric of Earth,
    Dripping with soul and e-mails,
    Un digitised image of this madien.

    Sinking deep inside are thoughts,

    Thus slippered sliently into wet-marks of oil,
    Brown rusted sheets in bucket of Ferrite,
    Dropping plonking seeds solid with e-notes,
    Un disguised shades and hues of light.

    Sinking deep inside are thoughts,

    Thus are FAQ's queued for answers waiting,
    Hanging hand-bag black with dread,
    Passers-by unrelated moving silently on,
    Un moved by destruction so well evident.

    Sinking deep inside are thoughts,

    Thus are issues escalated without response,
    Mucked up messed up and spiralling waste,
    Leaky meaningless lies told without concern,
    Un heard unknown later remain un-serviced.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

    Thus unspoken babble in notes reside,
    Alone on these electrified highways,
    Gathering digitised dust and layered burdens,
    Un known and seldom told of lives - live on.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

    Thus coiling whirls and circles loop,
    Sucked by tornadoes and surface storms,
    Aftermath awaited in Managers Dashboard reports,
    Un controlled missed Human connections.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

    Thus are roads and paths blocked or hindered,
    Cared less by Authority or in charge,
    Daily on-slaught of disregared civil rules,
    Un heard pained moments of fear and anger.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

    Thus layers of front-faces out-sourced,
    Sub-continental accents in far off Sweat-houses,
    Attempting to sound out and resolve issues,
    Un resolved time passes for yet another layer.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

    Thus ankle deep in grime and waste,
    Brown rusted metallic fabric on Earth,
    Dripping with soul and e-mails,
    Un digitised image of this madien.

    Sunk in abyss and trapped are only thoughts.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Alison,
    Good to see that you are out covering this mother of all games.
    Just FANTASTIC for people on both sides. That gives us unity first as two seperate nation and then as one big region. Keep well and have a happy final

    We still cherish 2005 when you wre last here in Pakistan

  • Comment number 13.

    "Hearts of people on both sides of the border beat together" - Well said.

    In the last few years thrice have I been to the Attari-Wagah border Gate Closing celebrations and experienced the same sentiments on all three occasions. It's a sanctuary that could well turn out to be an international meeting point of fellow humans.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 14.

    @Katija (11) - really loved the poem - it so truly captures the underlying tension around the match. Having read quite a few cricket blog posts on this particular match, the predictions surrounding it, and of the tournmant overall, I have to say that it really was, for me, one of the unmentioned highlights of 2011 Cricket World Cup. There is so much passion in both countries for the game and I'm glad that it went off without incident - I can imagine if it were Shahid Afridi that got the 4 extra lives on the day, the crowd may not have been that easy to manage!


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