Ikram Arif, 21, construction worker, from Mandawali, Pakistan
‘It’s been about six months since I came to Dubai. I really like it so far, but today is the highlight of my time here. I never thought I would have a chance to see something like this in my life. To be able to see a live match with my country playing is incredible for me. I plan on staying all the way until 11pm, I want to stay and support my team until the very end no matter what the outcome.
Usually, on Friday’s we spend our time relaxing in our rooms and getting general chores done, or playing cricket. I love the game, it’s a part of my blood as a Pakistani, and so I play it myself as well. We all play together, my colleagues and me, by the grounds near our camp. We finish work around 4pm, and then we’re back at our camps by about 5:30pm or so at which time two of us head off to get dinner ready and the others all play cricket. This is really how we spend our spare time, playing the game we love and it’s what reminds us of home.
I’m so happy that Pakistan won that first match on Wednesday [April 22]; it made my day. Shahid Afridi saved that match, he made it happen and that’s why he’s my favourite player. I’m praying that Pakistan will win today as well. If I ever get to meet Afridi I will tell him to play better, and work harder, and make our country proud. With him we know that if the match is going poorly he can fix it, and so I would say whatever I could to encourage him to play even better than he already does.’
Mansoor Ali, 24, driver from Peshawar, Pakistan
‘I didn’t always love cricket, but once I started to watch it on TV I realised what I was missing out on. Cricket gives people a thrill that you can’t find through anything else. I’ve always wanted to watch a live match, especially to see my team live, and now I have the chance, it’s an amazing feeling.
I used to play cricket all of the time when I was at home. Unfortunately, out here work takes up quite a bit of my time. Friday’s are off of course, but honestly, we’re so tired by that time that we want a day of rest. Sometimes I’ll go and watch some of these guys play, even that’s enough to give me that much wanted feeling of being home.
I told my parents and siblings in Pakistan that I was coming to the match today and at first they didn’t believe me. My brother is most excited for me, he’s just as big of a fan as I am. We were both tremendously proud of Pakistan on Wednesday; that win was incredible, and one that we really needed right now. We’re going to win today as well, I’m sure of it.
In my opinion, cricket is not a game that’s ever going to disappear or die down. Yes, in recent years it hasn’t been as popular, but it’s still played by the people who love it, by the people who truly understand the game, and it’s through them that it will live on.’
Adil Mahmood, 24, driver from Peshawar, Pakistan
‘We had hoped that these matches would be played in Pakistan, but the team couldn’t come to us, so we came to the team. I saved money and have made my way out here to support my team. They make us proud in so many ways – the least we can do is be there for them, to cheer them on, and to remind us that we support them 100 per cent.
When Dubai International Airport was built, one of the first airlines to land here was Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and now Dubai’s Cricket Stadium has been completed and the first match played here was won by Pakistan. These are really big things for us as Pakistanis.
For us, the most important thing about these matches and this team is that they make our country proud, that they present us in a positive light and prove to everyone that Pakistan is, and can be, a great nation. There are so many Pakistanis here and they’re all here to support their team. We want to provide our team with a home ground feel. We’re adamant to make sure that our players feel as comfortable as possible.’
Rajindir, 28, from Andhra Pradesh, India
‘I have a wife and two kids at home in India; one five-year-old son and one four-month-old daughter. I didn’t tell them I was coming to the game today but I’m going to call my wife from the stadium, so she can hear the crowd, otherwise she might not believe me when I say that I’m here. My son loves the game as much as I do and he’s going to be so pleased when he finds out where I am. I miss them all very much; I had come out here in the hopes of finding a better way to support them. I’ve got that chance but sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it, since I don’t get to see them every day.
I’m indifferent to who wins this game as neither team represents me. Anything can happen, and it’s that suspense that makes sports so great, specifically cricket. Of course, if India had been playing then I would support them.
My favourite player on the Indian team is Sachin Tendulkar. These people are iconic in our nations. We’re labour class: for us, politicians do nothing. Instead it’s these men, who started from humble beginnings like us, and became somebody by playing a game that we love; these are the people that we can relate to.’