Sports have the potential to bring people together in peace, thereby building a better world. Sports are supposed to promote friendship, solidarity and brotherhood. They create heroes who are expected to serve as role models for the team and the society at large. Unfortunately though, team sports in particular – cricket, football, rugby, etc – are getting more and more prone to hooliganism both on and off the field. Where passions run high among contestants on the ground, at times leading to unwanted mix-ups; tempers flare among the fans in the stands, with code of ethics governing the games failing to prevent unsportsmanlike attitudes and undesirable tendencies.
Such hooliganism was in full display during the recent Pakistan-Afghanistan match of the Asia Cup cricket tournament that culminated in the Afghan team being sent packing. While the heat of the moment did take its toll on the players during the match played in the UAE, with Pakistan’s Asif Ali and Afghanistan’s Fareed Ahmed coming close to exchanging blows; the scene was particularly unpleasant off the field. Angry Afghan fans vandalised the Sharjah cricket stadium, hurled chairs at Pakistani fans and even inflicted physical attacks on them outside the stadium premises.
No one minds healthy rivalry among contestants and high spirited fans, as they serve to lift the performance bar and add to the charm of the game. But stooping to the extent of hooliganism and violence is not what sports stand for. Unfortunately, policing remains the only option to keep undue emotions in check: the ICC has imposed penalties on Asif and Fareed worth a fourth of the match fees; and the Sharjah police has slapped a 3,000 dirhams fine on each of the Afghan fans involved in vandalism at the stadium.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2022.