AUCKLAND: Green was the colour at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday as fans from Pakistan and South Africa created a festive mood while their teams locked horns in the World Cup.
The all-green clad Pakistani fans occupied the eastern stand as they sang Urdu songs to cheer on their players, matching the Afrikaans melodies from a nearby group of South Africa supporters.
“We are here to support Pakistan, they need that badly,” said Mohammad Umair who travelled from Sydney to watch this Pool B clash.
“We want our team to play the final,” he added, hoping for a repeat of Pakistan’s triumph at the 1992 World Cup when the tournament was last played in Australia and New Zealand.
His friend Rana Umer was busy colouring his face with the green Pakistan flag in one of the stalls outside the stadium.
“We are here to match the green and yellow colour kits of South Africans and the cacophony we can create no one can match in this world,” said Rana.
Sufiyan Cheema had travelled all the way from Seoul in South Korea after watching Pakistan win their last two games after starting the tournament with two defeats.
“I waited and waited,” said Cheema. “Since Pakistan lost the first two games I was reluctant to come this far, but once they won the next two I couldn’t wait any more.
“Now I hope Pakistan will win the title,” said Sufiyan.
“I don’t get to watch cricket either on television or at the ground, so I thought that I must travel to New Zealand and Australia and for this I have been saving money for two years.”
Meanwhile, many supporters had made the long journey from South Africa to Eden Park, a venue better known to Springbok rugby fans who would have visited for some titanic clashes against world champions New Zealand
“We will beat Pakistan on and off the field,” said Louis Pretorious, from Stellenbosch.
Wearing an AB de Villiers shirt in honour of the Proteas captain, he added: “De Villiers is more than enough for the struggling Pakistanis.”
On one side of the stadium a local music band, played Pakistani and South African songs in turn.
“This is a festive atmosphere,” said Logan Pilley, from Johannesburg. “This is our first game as we wanted to first do sight-seeing and went to Tapu before watching the World Cup.
“We are confident that South Africa will go to Melbourne to play the final on March 29.”
His friend Monty Ramratan echoed those feelings, with South Africa desperate to win a maiden World Cup title following a series of heart-breaking exits from previous editions.
“This is the best chance for South Africa to remove the tag of chokers and win the title,” said Ramratan. “This bunch of players is too talented not to win the title.”
Shaheen Khanum, who settled in Auckland 10 years ago, was accompanying her two sons and a daughter.
“We want to enjoy the match and the atmosphere,” said Khanum. “It’s a World Cup and I wanted my family to enjoy it because we have never been to a cricket match before.”
For India’s Suresh Kumar, it was a good game to watch, even though his country wasn’t involved.
“I am waiting for India to come here and play so before watching my team I thought I must gear up for that with the Pakistan-South Africa game.
“The atmosphere is great and highly enjoyable.” AFP