Dawn News

Fans or fanatics?

Photo Credit: Shoaib Tariq

Sports is a pretty decent profession, and not just because it is the most profitable cocktail of play and work. It pays well, keeps fit, doesn’t require any education, and offers plenty of opportunities to shine. Professionalism in sports is defined as ‘all play and no work’. Sounds like the ideal choice of profession for young people with ambition and vigour.  And yet, millions of children in Pakistan are wasting their time in school, running chores for the school master, or his wife, simply because our society has no sporting culture.

The early schooling system keeps churning out losers, year after year, because we have no education culture either, and also because we keep inducting losers as teachers, year after year. Kids who have it in them, prefer being out playing under a burning sun supervised by a mad street coach, over learning the 10 points of a pre-partition resolution, carefully separating them from the 14 points of an Indian leader, and comparing them with the 20 points of a viceroy. And then wondering if there is any point to it, since thousands of classrooms are searching for an answer everyone already knows: that we are good and others have been bad to us, that our struggles have been legitimate, our oppressors were in the wrong, and we are now in the right hands. Pak sar zameen shadbad.

The scrawny youth whose exposed skin has turned polished bronze, on the other hand, is learning the real life skills in the shabby grounds that double as neighbourhood waste dumps. He or she may not be able to solve a basic trigonometry problem but they are generally healthier and happier than those who can. And if they have hunger for reaching the next level, perseverance, eagerness to learn, and can persuade their parents that one day they’ll start earning and when they do, it’ll be quite a handful, they turn into the Hafeezes, Afridis and Razzaqs, as we know them. They are totally self-made.

Very few get into the top club at an early age, like Raza Hasan did. A majority has to rough it out for a long time before they get their chance, like Misbah and Ajmal did. Some get a big break and then squander it childishly, like Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir did. And some never make it big and instead take to criticising those who do, like Rameez Raja does.

The dashing men we see sporting Pakistan colours today are the little boys who begged older bhaijans to have a chance with the bat and ball while playing street cricket, they borrowed money and gear to play at club level, and they stole Sunday mornings and week day afternoons throughout their youth to practice and be good at the only thing they wanted to do in life: play. Unlike other boys their age, they missed out on unhealthy food, alcohol and drugs, hanging with friends and doing motorcycle stunts all night, being lazy, and being a good student, because they were consumed by sport.

But we – the passive sports watchers, the active critics, and the extremist fans – tend not to see the little boy in them when they put on the green jerseys and jog into the field to compete with another team. Instead, we turn them into mascots of our collective ego and demand the impossible of them – to play well every time and to win every game, particularly against India. There are things like playing conditions, the form of a player, morale of a team, administrative support or the lack of it, psychological strengths and weaknesses, personal circumstances, coaching issues … that we do not want to concern ourselves with.

The so-called fans set winning or losing as the yard stick, and care the least if every player put in the their best in a match they lost, or won a match on a fluke despite being mediocre. We, as a nation or community, do nothing to make or encourage sportsmen but we are always eager to break and discourage them when we have an opportunity. When the team loses we get angry, we feel hurt, and get personal in our attacks on players and the team management.

What we do not want to see or hear about is that the cricket board isn’t really trying to kill cricket; the selectors have their reasons to pick and drop players; the captains have to make decisions on the field, and their objective is not to lose the game; players go out to get runs and wickets not to be overrun by the opposition … that cricket is still largely a game of chance. Bad things happen, and they happen to the best of teams. Look at the way the mighty Australians were routed in the last two games in the World T20 in Colombo. And we may not remember that it was Pakistan that exposed Australia’s weaknesses and gave them their first beating in the Super Eights.

Maybe the biggest problem facing Pakistan cricket is not the cricket establishment and players but Pakistani cricket fans and their expectations. They have consistently preferred flair over competence, style over content, grandstanding over humility, and ghairat over strategy. And they always tend to see their team as outside and above our society and its peculiarities.

We have governance issues in every aspect of our society but we want the PCB to be professionally run. We loathe discipline in our daily lives but demand that the team be disciplined on and off the field. We have corruption running through our veins, yet we feign horror and disgust every time our players are caught red handed. We are people with few rights, little dignity and no resolve to fight with the oppressors within us, but we expect our team to fight bravely and prevail against all odds. We are confused and depressed as a nation and can’t see the way forward despite a crowd of political, religious and social leaders shining flashlights, but we expect our team to clearly see a turning ball in low-light conditions.

If you are not one of the above-mentioned fans, let’s join hands to let the Pakistan cricket team know we are proud of the fact they made it to the semifinals again. We are thankful for the pleasure of watching good cricket provided by them. We are mindful of the strains of always playing outside of Pakistan, away from their families, for the past five years or so and appreciate the spirit in which they’ve handled the pressure and still managed to thrive on several occasions. And we are saddened by the lack of form some players found themselves in throughout the tournament, and hope the team and management will work on the weaknesses before we step out for the next competition.


Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at masudalam@yahoo.com



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at masudalam@yahoo.com

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (18) Closed

Hassaan Arshad
Oct 12, 2012 03:40am
Cricket in the subcontinent is characterized by the very nature of the fan that you have criticized. I support my team, but that I doesn't mean I won't critique them. The manner in which it is done maybe unhealthy at times but the adoration bestowed upon them on their success is the matched by the disappointment in their failure. It's a double edged sword. Cricket and our team in it, for me as a Pakistani, serves as an escape from everything negative I see happening in this country everyday. We have our vices, corruption and whatever else you quoted, but is it too much to as for me not completely accept those same vices in them? They are Brand Pakistan. Our grandest export. OUR. Grandest. Export. The nature of the fan will not change. The fan is a fanatic.
Oct 11, 2012 03:14pm
Oct 12, 2012 10:35am
Oh my God, finally someone with sense writes something as good as this. I hope at least a handful may heed your advice and stop being rambunctious in our one way support!!
sell a junk car
Oct 13, 2012 03:57am
I agree.Very well said.
Muhammad Liaqat Ali
Oct 12, 2012 05:29am
That sir is very well written and I am glad that someone has mustered the courage to write about it on one of the main stream news resource. It was extremely disappointing the way our TV channels were acting after the Pakistani Team lost the semi final. The maturity level of our media for the coverage of Hafeez and Razzak fiasco could easily be compared with that of an 8 year old kid happening to know of a fight among his two friends.
Oct 12, 2012 05:24am
Well written. Agreed in general, Masub Saheb. We should own our team as they are..... highly talented, exceptionally brilliant,... and extremely unpredictable!
Oct 12, 2012 01:09pm
An excellent Article , really means alot if we think wisely. We Need this spirit not only in sports but all aspects of life
Oct 12, 2012 04:53am
This would apply equally to Indian fcricket ans !
Oct 11, 2012 04:38pm
Cannot add anymore
Fawad Khan
Oct 11, 2012 04:33pm
Now that's what you call an article coming from a real Cricket Fan.. I hope the article serves a great deal in bringing positivism and sense of recognition in people's minds.. Very well written..
Oct 11, 2012 03:16pm
NIcely written. Sums up my thoughts as well.
jd shami
Oct 11, 2012 06:03pm
Afridi should be taken out of this team. HE is useless
Ali Ghumman
Oct 11, 2012 03:23pm
a worh reading article , whole picture of our society is depicted in these lines that were reserved for cricket fans, superb blend of sport and society
Oct 11, 2012 06:51pm
Problem with our country is that they do all the wrong things and expect the thundering success. Time for introspection!
Oct 11, 2012 07:02pm
Best article i read this week. Totally agree. The authoritative way people talk about cricket in Pakistan is as if everyone has an experience of a 100 international test matches behind them. Worst are the sports journalists, most of whom probably were not even picked in their neighbourhood teams, yet have scathing criticism to write about every other player. Whatever be the faults of our cricketers, at last they are able to compete at world-class levels in their fields... not many others in Pakistan that can claim the same distinction...
Oct 11, 2012 05:17pm
Mighty Australians??You gotta be kidding
Oct 12, 2012 11:48am
The attitude of Pakistani fans is no different from that of all Asians. And in Europe foot ball fans behave as badly as Pakistani cricket fans do. I am reminded of the words of George Orwell who said opposing teams in sports are looked upon as armies engaged in war.
Oct 12, 2012 01:33pm
Don't blame the fans for putting pressure on the team. Handling pressure is what distinguishes between good and best. You think teams like Australia, India, Manchester United and individuals like Roger Federer, Phelps and many more are not under pressure of fans to perform? They are and what makes them great is their ability to perform in spite of all that.