KARACHI: “We switch on the lights here as usual and play the Pakistan Super League [PSL] songs every day, but it was not the same when the matches moved to Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan from here,” said Shabbir Khan, in charge of the lighting at the decorated traffic island opposite the FTC building on Sharea Faisal on Wednesday. “Now that the matches are returning to the city, they will bring back the brilliance, glamour and festivity and more people will be coming here as well,” he added.
Tauqeer Ahmed and Ali Raza, in charge of the sound system at the other little island across the road, said that usually they see people coming there after Isha prayers. “We also have a masjid nearby so we only play music after prayers here,” said Mr Raza.
About the people who come there, he said that he feels that they are only attracted to the lights and music and all don’t look like they are following the PSL matches. “They are more attracted to the decorations and want to take pictures with their families. Some also request different music but sponsors have only allowed PSL songs,” Ali Raza added.
Asked if they would be putting up a big screen at the place ahead of the big matches, he only shook his head. “There was some talk about it but we decided against it because putting up a big screen on the side of the road can lead to traffic accidents. As it is we have seen near mishaps when some families tried to cross Sharea Faisal to get to the other lawn to take pictures near the stands,” he said.
“These two lawns were also decorated for the teams to notice the festivity as they passed on this route to the stadium. But quite frankly, I don’t think they have noticed because they are moved very fast on roads that have been closed while they are being transported. You don’t enjoy the view while moving at 120km/h,” he laughed.
Cricket fans welcome their favourite teams to the city of lights
At another little decorated lawn with a dummy stand and few mannequins in orange kits near Teen Talwar in Clifton, some families who come to take pictures and enjoy the music sometimes ask if any of the PSL players would pay the place a visit. “We tell them no, but that doesn’t dim their enthusiasm. They are still happy,” said Abdul Hameed, the guard there.
The much-awaited Karachi matches will be returning to the National Stadium Karachi from Thursday with the local team Karachi Kings taking on Lahore Qalandars and the people gathering at the roadside green patches and traffic islands decorated with lights with the dummy stands were already making predictions about who they thought had the upper hand and would be winning the match.
Cousins Zoheb, Talha, Sharaz, Obaid, Noman and Ruman Gujjar said their families happen to hail from Punjab, but were all Kings’ fans because they were born in Karachi and “there is also a thing such as loyalty,” pointed out Ruman.
Meanwhile, the six boys had one opponent in their seventh companion Junaid, who said that Qalandars would take the 26th match. “Don’t forget, they have Ben Dunk, don’t forget his 99 off 40 deliveries against the same team, don’t forget his 12 sixes, too, also against the same team,” said Junaid as the other six gathered around him to argue with one of them not missing the chance to capture the moment with a selfie.
Nearby were brothers Anis Ahmed, Imran Khan and Zulfiqar Ali stepping on to the lawn with Anis’s three little boys — Ahmed, Faizan and Shayan — with the children’s mother Rahila. There was a split between them all when it came to the teams. Anis Ahmed and his son Ahmed Jan were Qaladars’ fans, his other son Faizan was a Peshawar Zalmi fan while Shayan was a Kings’ fan. Anis’s brother Imran was a Multan Sultan fan while Zulfiqar Ali didn’t like cricket at all like his sister-in-law. “It is good that some people within the family don’t follow cricket and step in to make peace when there is a big argument among the cricket-crazy fans at home,” smiled Rahila.
Asked what she thought about holding matches in stadiums during the coronavirus scare, she shrugged and said the brilliance and glamour would kill the virus, as everyone laughed.
But Mohammad Bakhsh, another PSL fan there who was wearing a disposable mask, said that he would be watching the matches on television only. “It won’t be wise to buy a ticket and then go to the stadium and also catch a virus,” he said seriously.
The office of the Karachi commissioner has advised spectators who will be attending matches at the NSK to wash their hands with soap or alcoholic sanitisers after coughing or sneezing, before and after eating food and after using the toilet. They have also been asked to use tissue paper or a handkerchief to cover the nose and mouth while sneezing, and to properly dispose of them in dustbins later. Spitting, throwing water, food, empty bottles and wrappers in the open in the stadium is also to be avoided.
It was also said that everyone should avoid touching chairs, railings and steel bars in the stadium unnecessarily.
In case of any symptoms of flu or cough, they have been advised to avoid coming into the stadium altogether and avoid handshakes, hugs and any kind of close contact with anyone.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020