KARACHI: The cricket craze doesn’t compare to anything else in Pakistan, and it was never more evident as when the men’s national team arrived back home in the wee hours of Tuesday.
As soon as the flight details and its expected time of arrival were made public, Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport got inundated with cricket fans eager to receive their Champions Trophy-winning captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Rumman Raees.
The plane wouldn’t land until four in the morning but fans had started flocking the place as early as midnight even though they also had to take their pre-dawn meals (sehri) for the fast that awaited them the next day.
For those few hours, the airport stopped being an airport and seemed as if it was hosting a carnival.
The streets were decorated, patriotic songs were on cue, faces were painted green and white, throats were cleared to scream Pakistan Zindabad chants — all in anticipation of Sarfraz’s arrival.
And despite airport security only allowing one member of a family to enter their premises, the lure of Sarfraz and the new Champions Trophy proved too strong for any security protocols.
By the time the captain touched down, thousands had tricked the security staff and seeped into the airport. If they had their way, they might have invaded the terminal and even the aircraft itself to get a glimpse of their hero.
For Karachi’s 18-year-old cricket fan Hassan Latif, it was a lifelong dream to welcome his beloved cricket team like others, much to his dismay, so often get to do.
“I have seen people of different countries going to the airport to welcome their teams after winning some silverware,” Latif told The Express Tribune. “I always had this wish to come here one day and welcome my heroes. After watching them win the trophy it was like my dream came true. Finally, I had something to cheer for my cricketing heroes.”
Another cricket lover Abdullah Nasim, 24, was so ecstatic at the possibility of seeing his hero, he termed it as the best day of his life. “In my entire life I haven’t experienced anything like this ever,” he said while getting a Pakistani flag painted on his face. “The feeling after coming here and waiting for our winning captain and seeing his face, there’s nothing like it. I feel very lucky to be here.”
Rehanul Haq, a father of an eight-year-old, put his son on his shoulders to let him catch a better view of Sarfraz. “We want to see him coming out and cheer for him,” he said. “Sarfraz has won the hearts of each and every Pakistani.”
If it was crazy at the airport, the scenes at Sarfraz’s residence in Buffer Zone were almost indescribable. The crowd there had grown so big and so enthusiastic, many were invited by the cricketer’s neighbours into their houses and onto their balconies just so they could see the man of the hour.
“We couldn’t refuse them after watching their love for Sarfraz,” said one welcoming neighbour. “They were all here just for the man who had made the country proud and gave us a moment to cheer before Eid.”
Soon, their long wait was over. Sarfraz, with the shiny trophy in his hands, emerged amid loud cheers. He joined in during the Pakistan Zindabad chants and didn’t shy away even when the fans tore into the famous mauka mauka taunt.
In all, Sarfraz spent half an hour with his fans, but that half an hour became a memory his fans will cherish for the rest of their lives.
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