For Haider Israr, born and brought up in Gojra in Pakistani province of Punjab, cricket is his first love. His wife Shahzira’s dislike for cricket did not dither him and slowly and gradually she followed her husband.
Now the couple travels as and when Pakistan plays international event.
The 51-year-old travels the world supporting Pakistan, leaving his fast food business in Bradford in the hands of his cousins and brothers.
“I was born and educated in Pakistan, so my identity is Pakistani and I feel that we can only project our country as a civilised nation through cricket,” Haider told ARY News as he watched Monday’s Champions Trophy clash against Sri Lanka in Cardiff.
“I have travelled the world over as cricket is the only thing we can be proud of and all my hopes are with cricket to promote my country.”
Haider migrated to the United Kingdom in 1989 after his fiancee sponsored his visit and they were soon married.
“I was married before, to cricket,” he joked. “I have been to many international matches but since my marriage I have taken my wife to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for the 2011 World Cup, 2012 World Twenty20 (Sri Lanka), 2014 World Twenty20 (Bangladesh) and to Australia in 2015 for the World Cup,” said Haider.
Haider hates Pakistan losing to India, a trait that has gone on since Pakistan’s last win at Centurion in the 2009 Champions Trophy.
“I couldn’t get a ticket for the all-important match against India and the defeat added to my disappointment,” said Haider, who went on to see Pakistan’s win over South Africa.
It takes four hours to drive from Bradford to Birmingham but its always a double joy for Haider and Shahzira.
“Because of the busioeness we don’t get much time to spend together,” said Shahzira. “Haier comes late in the night and I too remain busy in work so travelling for cricket gives us some good time to send together. This also gives me time to do some shopping.”
“I get texts from my friends in the UK to say I am wasting my time on this Pakistan team, but I am sure Pakistan will go to the final and I have a ticket for that match,” said Haider, of the June 18 title decider at The Oval.
Haider also hoped that Pakistan cricket becomes more stable — both on and off the field. He hates players who sell the name of the country in match fixing, most recently Sharjeel Khan’s loss hurts him.
“They sold themselves for peanuts. When I go to watch cricket at Lord’s or Leeds the locals chant ‘for how much will you sell this shirt?’ But I tell them that those players are out of cricket now,” said Haider.
“I hope my country gets over all its problems because it is a great country, full of nice people and places. We have lost several players and the most recent loss of Sharjeel is unbearable.”
Shazira said she has started to develop a deep interest in cricket.
“I didn’t like cricket initially but I have now developed a good interest and by going on tours it gives me an opportunity to see the world,” said Shazira.
“It’s two enjoyments in one ticket and above all, my husband is happy and we promote our country.”
When Haider waives the green and white Pakistan flag, others join him as they shout “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans to raise the spirits in the ground.
Haider hopes when he retires he will spend more time on cricket fields.