Ahmedabad turns into a sea of blue for India-Pakistan World Cup clash

Crowds decked in India jerseys flocked to the 132,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium


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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Published: Sat 14 Oct 2023, 5:44 PM

Traffic around the world's biggest cricket stadium came to a standstill on Saturday as tens of thousands of jubilant Indian fans spilled onto the roads in their march to the Cricket World Cup clash against arch-rivals Pakistan.

With only a handful of Pakistan fans permitted to attend the tournament's most anticipated fixture, the roads of Ahmedabad were a sea of blue as crowds decked in India jerseys flocked to the 132,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium.

Hawkers took up strategic positions to peddle Indian merchandise or paint the faces of supporters with the saffron, green and white of the national flag.

Periodic chants of "India will win" boomed through the air as they spread through the immense crowd like wildfire.

Special feeling

"This already feels so special," said Sunil K., who travelled into Ahmedabad for the match from the other side of the country with eight friends, all wearing identical jerseys of beloved batting superstar Virat Kohli.

"I can't imagine what it's going to feel like inside."

Software engineer Sunil Yadav flew into India on Friday night with a return booked in time to have him back at his desk in London on Monday morning.

"I never miss any India-Pakistan game and I flew to India specially for this. I really wanted to experience this game at the biggest possible venue," the 42-year-old told AFP.

India and Pakistan are bitter adversaries and only play against each other in international tournaments due to longstanding political tensions.

Any meeting between them always raises fan interest with millions watching around the globe in a bonanza for broadcasters and sponsors.

Pakistan fans are conspicuously absent after being unable to secure visas from Indian authorities.

Ticketing problems and late schedule changes have restricted attendances in other matches of the World Cup, especially those not featuring India.

But by the toss on Saturday the stadium was packed nearly to the brim, with some fans paying scalpers up to seven times the original sale price to net their seats on the eve of the match.

"We were lucky with the tickets, so we are here," said Ajay Thakker, 65, who came to the stadium with his son and two grandchildren.

A lifelong Ahmedabad resident, Thakker's first visit to the stadium coincides with one of the most high-profile matches staged there to date.

"We wanted to see this stadium and there won't be a bigger, better occasion than this," he said. "I'm happy that we can all enjoy the game together".


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