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Pakistani cricket fans in England have often been accused to have diluted allegiance to the Kingdom. -Photo by AFP
Pakistani cricket fans in England have often been accused to have diluted allegiance to the Kingdom. -Photo by AFP

When wealthy aristocrats and merchants of London formed the East India Company, their initial aim was the same as almost any other commercial venture; profit maximisation. Cotton, silk, salt and opium had brought the English to the sub-continent, seeking its untapped wealth.

The greed of fortune hunters would soon have them build their private armies, wanting to control the country with more than just economic muscle. The land once ruled by the Mughal’s, gradually unfolded into becoming a dominion of the British Raj.

After over 65 years of the end of foreign occupation, the long term cultural, social and economic implications seem to be more lucid. Today, over a million Pakistanis are British citizens, half of whom are born in the Kingdom.

A lot of British-born ethnic Pakistanis have very little affiliation with Pakistan, if any. They are second or third generation children of immigrant parents and have never lived and in some cases even visited the country of their ancestral heritage. They celebrate the Queen’s birthday, hoist the British flag and fanatically follow their local football derby; they are as Brit as they come, or at least believe themselves to be.

However, when it comes to playing cricket against Pakistan there is a sudden surge of ethnic affinity that rushes through their veins searching for a certain sense of lost identity.

Pakistani cricket fans often storm the grounds of England, even if the game is against the Poms. Apart from the obvious bond of kinship, there are reasons for the support the Pakistani cricket team gets in the Island. They have historically achieved great success in England through some mesmerising performances on the field of play, even when they have had a few hiccups off it.

It all started with the enchanting flamboyance of Fazal Mahmood at the Oval in 1954 when Pakistan made the unrivalled record of becoming the only country to beat England on their first tour to the country. The English press reported the English team being “Fazalled” by the 12-wicket haul of the Pakistani fast bowling sensation. Pakistan drew the four-Test series at one a piece and immediately became a force to reckon with.

Genteel sport

To the Englishmen, cricket was always more than just a sport. A game played by the lords served as a form of social control, moralising the acceptance of status quo both at home and in the colonies. The English national and almost all county teams were captained by Gentlemen up until the 1960s, regarded as a position of utmost honour.

The first professional captain of England took charge 1962 and the doors to county cricket opened to foreign cricketers in 1968, by the mid-seventies Pakistan had five county captains.

The likes of Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammad, Majid Khan and Intikhab Alam became house old names in England and were looked upon as sport celebrities. They were amongst the many other Pakistani cricket stars who fed the relatively under nourished ego and esteem of the large Pakistani community settled in different parts of the Kingdom.

The Pakistan and England cricket rivalry escaladed during the 80s with the infamous Mike Gatting – Shakoor Rana incident and plenty of unpleasant banter that was exchanged between the two teams. Umpiring also hit a new low during the decade in which Pakistan won three out of the four Test series played between them. The “Pakis” in England now had a slur or two they could throw back at their adopted countrymen, they had traditionally always been on the receiving end.

Setting the tone

Then came the World Cup of 1992 and England faced off against Pakistan in the final. The premier cricketing trophy had narrowly eluded England’s grasp in two previous final appearances while it was Pakistan’s first. Pakistan’s win in Melbourne added another feather to their cap but the sweets distributed in the streets of Manchester and Bradford after England’s defeat, left a sour taste in the mouth of the natives in the neighbourhood. They would soon backlash with fury in West Yorkshire, some twenty miles from mini Pakistan in Bradford.

Pakistan’s tour to England that summer was marred by allegations of ball tampering, racial abuse and the stiff disciplinary penalties. The English tabloids had a field day and the crowds turned violent. At Headingley in Leeds, a bleeding pig’s head was tossed up by unruly English fans on the terrace occupied by Pakistani supporters. Pakistan won the series 2-1 but it was going to be the last time Pakistan played a five-match Test series, home or away.

In 1996, Pakistan again toured England to beat them and make it five consecutive Test series victories against their arch rivals. The divide between the British and the British-born Pakistani cricket fans only widened over time. On the tour in 2001, pitch invasions by Pakistani supporters became fiercer, especially at ODIs of Edgbaston and Headingley. Pakistan won both those games, though the latter had to be abandoned before the tourists hit the winning runs. It was as if the county borough of Leeds had been invaded by their neighbours from Bradford.

Future games featuring Pakistan often required guard dogs along the fence in order to confine their fans to the stands.

Controversy continued to be the focal point of Pakistan’s next visit in 2006. Though, with most of their talent of the previous decade gone, they succumbed to a 3-0 drubbing, including the forfeited match at the Oval. The ODIs that followed provided some respite with a 2-2 draw.

The 2010 spot-fixing fiasco arguably became the lowest point in Pakistan’s English cricket history and the showdown took place at the home of cricket in London. This became a major dent in the popularity of the boys in green after the streets of London were flooded with green and white flags following just a year earlier when Pakistan lifted the 2009 World T20 title at Lord’s. The fame of the Pakistani team has also diminished over the years due to the lack of stars that once took centre stage.

Pakistani cricket fans in England have often been accused to have diluted allegiance to the Kingdom. In a country where their identity has never been monolithic, there is an assimilation of pride that stems from the successes of the team of their ethnic belonging. It is further amplified when it comes on the soil of their birthplace and against the country they have made their own.

To add to the joy and misery of British-born Pakistani fans, one can only hope that Pakistan and England don’t find themselves playing against each other in the coming fortnight. On the other hand, every cricket follower wishes that they do.

In the last edition of the Champions Trophy, Pakistan will go in as one of the favourites. They will have a big contingent of support and if they perform to their potential, many streets of England will soon start resembling those of Lahore and Karachi. If there is one place Pakistan has felt at home away from home, it has always been England.

The British crown might have taken away the Koh-i-Noor but British imperialism has left the sub-continent with something far more precious. The beautiful game of cricket gives a shot at retribution, to a nation that now has inseparable roots with their former colonial rulers.

The East India Company shut down in 1874 but Lahori Charga Restaurant on High St and Karachi Karhai Restaurant on Barking Road will remain open for a little longer than the aristocrats of London might have initially anticipated.

Comments (34) Closed

Shaukat Jun 06, 2013 08:24pm

the new Pakistan government should take steps to not give these 2nd - 3rd generation of overseas Pakistanis dual nationality of Pakistan. They are not Pakistani by any means and are British, they want to visit Pakistan they need to get visa to do so. They are welcome to support their ancestral country on the field of cricket and practice whatever else Pakistani customs the wish to but that doesnt give them any right to a Pakistani passport. A lot of the readers might suggest that these expats send valuable foreign exchange to Pakistan, well mind you that its not these 2nd or 3rd generation so called Pakistanis, its only the first generation or mostly the illegal residents there. And also they do not send money to the government or funds or charities but to their own relatives and families and they will not stop sending that exchange. They went abroad to get a better livelihood and congrats to them but please do not think that you are one of us.

Ussi Jun 06, 2013 09:08pm

@Shaukat: I live in the UK. You ignorance is amazing! 2nd and 3rd generations will not accept a Pakistani nationality because they are British! And why would they? Pakistan is a backward third-world country.

I am a Pakistani but the news that comes out of Pakistan, it is embarrassing to tell any British that I am Pakistani!

Dr F Mahmood Jun 06, 2013 09:15pm

@Shaukat: Racist bigot. One of the most ungrateful people on this planet. This article has many mis-perceptions about 2nd / 3rd generation British Pakistanis, but you who live in Pakistan and have made it the mess that it is, have no right to question any ones loyalty.

Oh and please stop politicians and people like Imran Khan coming to collect our money. Thank you.

Jacko Jun 06, 2013 09:21pm

Great piece! I think the history cannot be removed whenever Pakistan or even India plays in England. Despite the spot-fixing scandal, I think fans will come out to support Pakistan in the Champions Trophy! I am surprised by @shaukat's comments though! Those are the type who'd be first in line if they were handing out the British passports!

Nadeem Khan Jun 06, 2013 09:33pm

I think the noise and atmosphere that British Pakistani fans create during Pakistan matches in England in unparalleled! I was there during the 1999 WC ...the scene was unbelievable! Hoping for a similar experience this year...if i get tickets for Pak-Ind hopefully ...somehow....PLEASE :)

Ali Jun 06, 2013 09:35pm

@Shaukat: Shakat, you are uttering total nonsense. I am second generation Pakistani, have half my family (cousins, uncles, aunties) in Pakistan, visit there every other year, send money back "home" (yes, this is what I call Pakistan, home away from home even if I never lived there permanently because my genes tell me instantly this is "home" as I step out of that PIA flight...). I follow politics there (and am aggrieved and sad after each suicide bombing, drone attacks as if I lost a relative). I send money to charities like Edhi or Muslim aid camplaigns in Pakistan every month. But according to you, I do not deserve that Pakistani ID I keep in my wallet in the hope that one day I could proudly say that I am a holder of that green card besides my purple passport as I am hoping Pakistan will have somehow come out of the darkness it has been in for the past decades and will be seen as a "lyon" of Asia at the same level as the BRIC countries? Think again and re-read what you wrote as hundreds of thousands of second or thrid generation Pakistanis like me care about their homeland...and more than you could ever do probably...

malik Jun 06, 2013 09:48pm

@Shaukat: I live in foreign country, and yes I am a US citizen. Mr. Shoukat: Please tell me, how many legislators who were kicked out from the Pakistani parliament who had double nationality and a foreign passport by the courts? Can you tell me the estimate? Why would the law did not stop them before contesting elections. And who are you sir, to define my patriotism, sitting in Pakistan, where 21 hours of load shedding is continued? Why can't you have a simple good governance, rule of law, basic citizen services, enough funds in the ministeries, so that you do not have to run with a begging bowl. As an American citizen, I had the chance to meet president, governors, mayors, senators, and in Pakistan, I never met anyone of any significance. I recall the ex embassador to Pakistan (yes the englightend so called Begum) collection huge funds in the name of floods victims, and then kept it for her personal use. Once American Ambassador told journilist that invariabley everone in Pakistan ask him for a US visa. Most of the recently relelected politicians recently returned back to Pakistan. Ask Ch. Nissar where his children are taking education, along with Imran Khan, Bhuttos, Zardaris, Mizaris, even the ex Chief Minister of Baluchistan, trying to get admission for his daughter when some 100 people died of a bomb blast. Tell me one thing more: why all of your fund raising always starts with raising funds from overseas Pakistani origin citizens and ends with them also. You guys are making a fool of yourself. You could not devise a simple parliamentary system into a functional one. You are electing again and again same moustachioed siasatdan, who had entered in the parliament again with all of their siblings.

Ahsan Ali Jun 06, 2013 09:48pm

Well said Shaan. I remember dancing on the streets outside Lord's in 2009, hoping for the Green machine to give us a reason to celebrate once again. But first thing is first, have a score to settle with a bigger arch rival on the 15th! Then we can hopefully look forward to a date with England in the knockouts.

zohaie Jun 06, 2013 10:03pm

@Jacko: im sure shaukat will be somewhere towards the front of that queue

Nadeem (US) Jun 06, 2013 11:35pm

@Shaukat: Shaukat Pai Jan, I think you should take Economics course to understand how foreign remittances benefiting Pakistani Economy. Money that we send to our family in Pakistan, they used that moeny to buy commodities, circulation of the remmitences in the market helps the economy to grow. Unfortunately Pakistani economy can't grow, reason being people like you elected curropt politicans, and those politicians eleted Zardari, Universal Docait, as the President of Pakistan.

Bradford Ranger Jun 07, 2013 12:38am

Nice work! Yes the support for Pakistan in England will live on despite the set backs. I think we were the first ones to have disturbed the somewhat genteel environment of the English grounds with our blow horns and add colour to the matches as well :) Pakistan vs England , Pakistan vs India and even Pakistan vs Australia in England is unmatched atmosphere. I think next to the Test match feel in Australia, Pakistani ODIs in England are right up there as far as vibe is concerned!

ashraf agha Jun 07, 2013 01:09am

In a post match presentation after having lost against India in England, Paul Collingwood, the England captain said " It appeared there was much more support in the crowd for India than for the English team, which is very discouraging for a home side. We were hooted and booed by the Indian supporters."

Omar Salman Jun 07, 2013 01:24am

Guys, with great difficulty I was able to get 6 balcony tickets to the Pak vs Ind game. Yayyyyy! Don't ask me how much they cost but still its worth it to see their encouter in a 3rd country after so long. Right now, I am 50-50 if all 6 tickets will be utilized or I will end up selling 2-3 to recoup the cost. Enjoy the tournament (all) guys!

Master Jun 07, 2013 02:26am

Why only Pakistanis are accused of split loyalties. We all have seen Scottish living in England for generations but whenever England plays football match against Scotland, Scottish living in England will always support Scottish team. Also when English football or rugby team plays against any other team in the world, Scottish living in England always want to see England to loose. Same goes for other nationalities living in the UK, such as Spanish, German, Indian and Chinese etc.., each support own player or team against UK players or team.

debater Jun 07, 2013 03:33am

If anyone in Pakistan would support in such offence manner any other country they would be subject to penalty under blasphemy law.

Mustafa Jun 07, 2013 03:33am

@Ussi: Shaukat was right to say that people like you, who feel ashamed to acknowledge being a Pakistani, should not be allowed to hold Pakistan passport.

Syed Jun 07, 2013 06:02am

@Shaukat I am sorry for you that you are living in a country where hypocrisy is the rule of the day. These overseas Pakistanis have their homes in Pakistan, How can they forget it?

Khan Jun 07, 2013 06:59am

How is the relationship between Indian and Pakistani 2nd or 3rd Generations in UK?

samrat Jun 07, 2013 08:58am

Nice Article wih some Factual errors.

  1. This Mughal ~ Brtitish Transition is grossly wrong as Britishers fought 3 Anglo Maratha War and other major wars with Rajputs and Sikhs to Win over India. Mughals had limited power during British onset in India as they lost 90% of the Kingdom to Marathas after War of 27 years.

  2. Second Generation & Third Generation Pakistani Muslim are more radical and orthodox than their parents and there are plenty of videos online where 3rd generation British Pakistanis are quoting that London will become Islamabad in 20 years and Islam will rule UK.


zaheer Jun 07, 2013 11:26am

@Shaukat: As if third generation ethnic Pakistanis are desperate to get the citizenship of their ancestors country. The way your argument appears as if the right to having a Pakistani passport is some thing world is queuing up for. To the contrary, I personally know a guy who let go his membership in provincial assembly to retain his US passport.

Ahmad Jun 07, 2013 12:57pm

Finger pointing, varying allegiances, 'Pakistanis' whether overseas or in Pakistan bashing each other.. That is all I see in the comments section. sigh

uchak Jun 07, 2013 03:04pm

The funny part is, most Pakistani's in Pakistan consider themselves Arab, and now, as you say, most Pakistani British consider themselves Pakistani. I guess, not supporting the country you are born in is the common characteristic :).

IMRAN Jun 07, 2013 03:27pm

@malik: Shaukat is more Pakistani than you Malik, yes there is 21 hours load shedding in Pakistan, corruptions is every where but still he is here in Pakistan. I don't understand why all the "B" class citizens of the west criticize our mother land. You are not the ones to face these problems, if you say it is the mess created by people in Pakistan then let it be, it is our mess we will clean it. We are proud to be PAKIS and you are not. You guys cannot change the color of your skin else you guys or your grandfathers would have done it. ABCD "AMERICAN BORN CONFUSED DESI"

Fahim Jun 07, 2013 05:54pm

All big cricket names are in the article expect Imran Khan. Wonder why!

Fan Jun 07, 2013 06:49pm

good one

Desi from Lahore Jun 07, 2013 07:06pm

@Shaukat: Sounds to me that you are simply jealous because maybe you didn't get a chance to leave Pakistan for one reason or another.For you to sit there and tell the hard working Pakistan loving folks that we don't have the right to basically be a Pakistani is flat out poop.I moved to the U S in 1980 when I was 16 or 17 years of age,I made it my home,had kids here,became a citizen in 1981 and proud of it,but as my father would say,its not where you are born or where you live that makes you who you are,its whats in your blood.No matter how proud I am of being an American,I always will be a proud Pakistani first and foremost.I have been to Pakistan 6 times and each time I stepped out of the plane in Lahore and breathed the air while I kissed the ground(every time) I felt nothing but a Pakistani and loved it.So,feel how you feel about yourself and let us be,if you plan to move forward in life,may want to think about changing the way you think,you seem to be more worried about others,give up the shallow thinking,its only hurting you and slowing down your progress.

ailly Jun 07, 2013 09:36pm

@Ussi: if its embarrassing for you to identify yourself as Pakistani, then why don't you simply that you are of Chinese origin. you are a bigot like Shaukat. Shaukat needs mental attention in ICU and you be his companion on next bed..

K G Surendran Jun 07, 2013 10:25pm

If you are born in a country, live and work there, allegiance should be to your country of birth irrespective of your ethnicity.

Faysal Jun 07, 2013 10:51pm

@Shaukat: I think you need some rest. I don't know you, but they way you wrote your comments, give me an impression that you are in a stress of some kind.

@Pakistani generations (2nd or 3rd): Why do you people always redy quarrel with each other, when there is a matter about some stupid people around? If you were born in USA/UK, why don't you have been able change such pathetic attitude of our so called society? All of you have forgotten the basic subject of the article written by Shaan Agha and just become a pure Paki. Grow up 2nd or 3rd generation and try to eliminate our so called society instinct, which is clearly shown from your comments.

Bharat Jun 08, 2013 04:09am

Your biggest problem in such things as loyalty comes from telling yourself lies. This together with the fact that you cannot criticism yourselves has made you delusionary about your abilities.

Consider this- you hardly ever dissect the fact of Pakistani cricke losses. In fact you hardly ever talk about it. And when you take it back to Pakistan, you have taught your children that you have all your wars.... When you have lost all of them. This self delusions has caused many problems for you including the fact that you have sponsored your army and your terrorist camps with no thought about your economy. When you delude, you are really deluding yourselves only, no one else.

Bharat Jun 08, 2013 04:13am

@Khan: Relationship? A little tense. Listen to the Indian comedian Russell peters. He does not like being called a Paki.

Sandip Jun 08, 2013 11:44am

@Ali: An obvious question, why don't you leave in pakistan? At lease, Mr. Shaukat is leaving in pakistan, facing day to day hassle of leaving in pakistan (or rather in south asia). Your are dreaming to see "Your" country transforming into a greater nation. But who will do it? Absolutely not you. It has to be people like Shaukat who are actually leaving there.

AJay Jun 08, 2013 01:04pm

Pakistanis are best when they cant be faithful to their own nation how can they be faithful to UK..

moosa Jun 08, 2013 01:41pm

@K G Surendran: You are perfectly correct, we in South Africa do not identify ourselves as Indians, we are South Africans of Indian origin. I do not intend to visit India or Pakistan I have no ties there, India i may but never Pakistan though I am muslim they are all corrupt and fanatics, who wants to go to a country where you are not safe from bombs and abd human animals, they can keep it.