April 01, 2011

Cricket Brings Pakistan And India Closer - A View From Pakistan

To Afridi, with LoveBlog Shlog, Other Voices | Maheen Sadiq | March
31, 2011 at 2:51 pm

There’s a lot to be said about the cricket tournament, especially our
match against India. And it has a lot more to do with Misbah-ul-Haq
and Umar Gul’s bad luck, and Sachin Tendulkar’s good fortune.

Cricket speaks to our nation in a way our government never has.

And Shahid Afridi addressed the nation in a way our president never
has – unselfish, genuine, modest. So when Afridi apologized to
Pakistan, millions listened and were humbled by the gesture. Our eyes
filled with tears and our hearts with love and strange kind of sorrow.
Shahid Afridi, you need not apologize to the nation. We are proud of
you and our entire cricket team! You didn’t bring back the cup, but
any excitement, any happiness, any hope that Pakistanis have felt in
the past few months is because of your brilliance. We’ve been hearing
a lot of “Pakistan needs something to celebrate,” but what Pakistanis
really needed was something to look forward to, and the green team
gave us that with the anticipation of each game played.

The funny thing about cricket is that it can unite the nation through
a victory or a loss. It would have been wonderful to go out on the
streets and celebrate with dhols, etc, as we did when we won the 20/20
Cricket World Cup in 2009. But even after our loss yesterday, the
people of Pakistan, in their state of disbelief, came out and shared
their sorrow. Misery loves company. Cars on streets, people driving
around slowly, quietly, patiently. No honking, no cursing, no where to
go, no where to escape. It was surreal. This only goes to show what
cricket means to us and the massive void it fills for our nation.

Cricketers, you made us patriotic. You made us passionate. You made us proud.

And these precious adjectives are some that Pakistan rarely gets the
chance to associate itself with.

So again, Afridi, your apology is appreciated but not needed. You
conducted yourself with patience, grace and dignity, encouraging your
own with a smile, and congratulating the opponents with an even bigger
smile. You didn’t win the semi-finals, but you won our hearts. Thank
you for showing the world we are not an aggressive nation.

To Pakistan, I propose this: if there’s anyone who needs to apologize it’s us.

So to Afridi and the team, I apologize for the pressure I put on you
to win the World Cup. It comes from my own shortcomings. So lazy and
so cowardly am I that I am incapable of creating for myself a reason
to celebrate Pakistan. Since as far as I can remember, my patriotism
has tenaciously clung to cricket. It is unfair. I know.

To those Pakistanis who thought this was a match between Hindus and
Muslims, I’m glad India won. This was never a battle between nations,
or a jehad against Hindus. It was a semi-final cricket match, and if a
loss is what it took to be reminded of this then I’m glad we lost.
Victory would have only made you gloat over something you had wrong
all along anyway.

However, if there was one thing I was relieved to discover it was that
we don’t hate India. We may hate America, but we don’t hate India. No
burning of the Indian flag, no bitter remarks, no threatening
reaction. Phew! Just healthy competition and a pure love for the game.

So we don’t hate India. In fact, we hate Zardari. What pleased me even
more were the numerous text messages and facebook statuses I came
across that poked fun at Zardari. My personal favourite is, “We
congratulate India on winning the semi-finals. As a good-will gesture,
India can keep Pakistan’s prime minister. And if it wins the finals,
we will give our president too.”

Ahhh, Zardari jokes. They never get old. He’s our scapegoat now. It’s
his fault we lost. Somehow.

That being said, think. It’s time we stop asking of our cricketers
something we should have been asking of ourselves. Or our government.
Lets find ourselves a reason to be patriotic and celebrate Pakistan,
and let cricket be a sport, not an identity. If we all just took a
little responsibility, maybe our beloved team can finally approach the
pitch as cricketers, not as soldiers entering the battlefield. We owe
it to them.

Welcome back, boys!

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