Exclusive: When police had to control crowd over ticket frenzy for India-Pakistan match in Sharjah

Despite the fierce battles between the two bitter rivals, the India-Pakistan clashes did manage to do something magical for the South Asian community in the UAE


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Ali Anwar Jafri (right) with Abdul Rahman Bukhatir. (Facebook)
Ali Anwar Jafri (right) with Abdul Rahman Bukhatir. (Facebook)

Published: Wed 24 Aug 2022, 12:30 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Aug 2022, 12:51 PM

Tickets for Sunday’s Asia Cup 2022 clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in Dubai were selling like hot cakes last week.

Thousands of cricket-crazy fans were waiting in online queues for hours to purchase a ticket after it went on sale, but not all of them could end their wait with smiles on their faces.

Whether an India-Pakistan match happens in the UAE or any other part of the world, the frenzy over online tickets almost breaks the internet.

But the scene was quite different back in 1984 when Sharjah hosted its first-ever India-Pakistan match at the inaugural Asia Cup in 1984.

Ali Anwar Jafri, a former local cricketer in the UAE, recalled how people stood in queues at the sun-baked Sharjah Cricket Stadium to get a ticket.

“You know there was no internet back then. The India-Pakistan match, even on the working days when we were selling tickets from different outlets and our stadium, the scene was crazy,” Jafri, who was the head of the ticket sales department in Sharjah, told the Khaleej Times over the phone from London.

“The demand was such that sometimes we had to call the police to control the crowd at the ticket counters. That was the kind of response the India-Pakistan matches in Sharjah had,” Jafri recalled.

Despite the fierce on-field battles between the two bitter rivals, the India-Pakistan clashes did manage to do something magical for the South Asian community in the UAE.

“Those matches brought people from two countries closer in the UAE,” said Anwar who had also played cricket for the Karachi University team in his home country, Pakistan.

“I made many friends in the Indian team those days. Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, you know, the big names.

“They still remember me and they still call me AJ, my initials.

“In fact, I can tell you that I have more Indian friends than Pakistani friends in the UAE and it’s all thanks to those India-Pakistan matches in Sharjah.”

Sharjah, according to Jafri, also played its part in making India-Pakistan encounters the most-watched matches in world cricket.

“The first match in Sharjah was an exhibition game in 1981 between Gavaskar XI and Miandad XI. It was a huge success, I remember people gate-crashed and we had only temporary stands,” Jafri reminisced.

“Then when Mr Abdul Rahman Bukhatir built the proper stadium and official matches started, our Sharjah tournament became the most popular in cricket, especially because of the India-Pakistan matches.

“You know cricket became even bigger in India and Pakistan after the Sharjah tournaments. The popularity of cricket in the sub-continent now, the contribution of Sharjah is second to none.”

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