03/04/2017, 09.51
PAKISTAN
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Lahore, defies terrorism: Cricket final electrifies Christian and Muslim fans

by Kamran Chaudhry

Tomorrow is the final of the Pakistan Super League. Five local teams will take part in the league. Tickets cost over 100 Euros. Sports, key to overcoming divisions among the population, in defiance of terrorism.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Christians and Muslim cricket fans are gearing up tp the final of the Pakistan Super League T20. The long expected match will be played tomorrow at the Qadhafi Stadium in Lahore between the "Quetta Gladiators" and that of "Peshawar Zalmi". The cricket match, one of the most popular sports in the whole of South Asia, comes amid one the worst periods in the nation’s history plagued by terrorist attacks. The Anglican Bishop of Peshawar, the Rev. Manu Romal Shah, comments: "People are frustrated and desperately need to relax. Cricket has the power to unite Pakistanis, regardless of their faith."

In recent weeks in Pakistan there have been eight Islamist attacks. The most violent was against a Sufi temple in the province of Sindh, which killed more than 80 people gathered in prayer. For this reason the organizers of the competition have waited until the last moment before deciding to give the go ahead for the final in Lahore, the first place targeted in this latest wave of violence. The other matches were played in the UAE.

“It may take several years - adds the Rev. Shah - to improve the image of Pakistan. But we have died hard cricket fans who deserve enjoyment. There are no entertainment channels, we are exhausted seeing fighting politicians and bombings footages. People are now frustrated and in dire need of relaxation. Cricket has the power to unit Pakistanis of all faith".

Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world. Since 2007, the professional league created a version called Twenty20, or T20, which also includes the Pakistan Super League. The matches are shorter than usual, about 3-4 hours unlike the 5 consecutive days of a test match, or the whole day provided in the One Day International.

Competitions have not been held in Pakistan since 2009 because of security concerns after a grenade thrown at the Sri Lanka team killed six policemen and two civilians, in addition to injuring six players. The final is such a rare event that ticket offices have been swamped by endless queues of supporters, waiting to buy tickets, which sold out almost immediately.

One lucky fan, who managed to grab the last ticket was mobile phone seller Muhammad Ahsan Ali (see photos). "I had come tomorrow but all tickets were sold out, more than a thousand people were waiting for whole day outside the bank", he said proudly showing his 12,000 rupee (108 euro) ticket. We have stadiums where world cup matches have been played. People used to come to our city from all over the country. Everything, even defeating terrorism, is possible if we make sincere efforts".

Samson Salamat, the Christian head of the Rwadari Tehreek Movement (Movement for tolerance) also urged authorities to do more.  "It is a welcome step. All cultural activities including sports should go on with continuity. However an action to end extremists, terrorist organizations and their favoring facilitators is indispensable as per national action plan in order to insure the return of international cricket in Pakistan". 

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