Uncle Twenty20 drives cricket fans in UAE

Zaman Khan is fast becoming the face of cricket in the UAE during international matches as he waves a green and white Pakistan flag to make his country’s players feel at home away from home.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 19 Jan 2012, 11:07 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:51 PM

The 54-year-old from Hafizabad in the central Punjab province in Pakistan is a chauffeur in Dubai and has not missed a single match ever since Pakistan was forced to play here due to security fears back home.

On grounds, Zaman drives the fans crazy, chanting slogans for his players. His big moustaches he grows every time a match approaches make him recognizable in every stand he sits.

“It is great fun,” Zaman told AFP. “I love watching cricket and people around me love my attire, the flag, my moustache and my slogans, so I am happy to have this double enjoyment — watching cricket and getting popular.”

Cricket had been a childhood interest for Zaman. His native town, in the Gujranwala district, was known for its export quality rice but the sprawling fields were mainly used for a game of village cricket by youth.

“I used to play a lot of cricket,” remembers Zaman. “Once television came to my village I used to watch cricket for hours and then I got a chance to attend a few games in Lahore before I came here for a living.”

Once Pakistan was forced to play its home series on neutral venues, Zaman along with his friends started to take time off to watch his team play.

“It is deplorable that we can’t hold our cricket in our homeland and problems in Pakistan also make us expatriates sad, but the plus point is that a lot of people here who have nothing for entertainment got the chance of their lives,” said Zaman.

And Zaman relishes the prospect of sitting besides Pakistan’s most popular fan Sufi Abdul Jalil, famous as Uncle Cricket — or Chacha Cricket in Urdu — who is also touring here for Pakistan-England Tests and limited over matches.

“I would love to sit with Chacha Cricket,” said Zaman. “In fact the fans have named me Chacha Twenty20 cricket to differentiate me from Jalil who is the doyen of cricket fans in the world.”

Jalil, always dressed in the green Pakistan colour, also permanently holds a green and white Pakistani flag in hand, and was to be found in every match played in Pakistan.

But global recession and lack of sponsors have kept Jalil away from touring along with the Pakistan team. The 62-year-old has toured India, England, Sri Lanka and the West Indies in support of his team.

Like Jalil, Zaman is also getting popular among the players as well.

“He wanted to meet me so I got permission and met him during Pakistan’s practice at the Global cricket academy in Dubai and he seems to be a very passionate fan of our cricket,” said batsman Umar Akmal.

Zaman hopes he watches a game of cricket between Pakistan and India, a dream he has yet to fulfil.

“Maybe in the near future I will get a chance to watch Pakistan play India, because that is what the crowd enjoys the most and slogans come from the core of the heart,” said Zaman, who didn’t get holiday time to attend the World Cup semi-final between the arch-rivals last year.

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