Scores of excited cricket fans are trickling into the heavily guarded Gaddafi Stadium for the historic Twenty20 between Pakistan and the World XI on Tuesday.
Fans had to show their national identification cards and go through at least four security checkpoints to enter the 25,000-seat stadium for the first big cricket international in Pakistan in eight years.
Thousands of guards, including army soldiers, are patrolling the stadium in Lahore, where a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team in 2009 caused major teams to shun touring Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board, along with the International Cricket Council, see the three T20s on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as a step to winning back the confidence of foreign teams over security concerns.
But the enthusiastic fans were not bothered about the extraordinary security in place as they waited in long queues outside the stadium.
“I simply want to see star players in action and these strict security arrangements do not bother me at all,” said Mohammad Sarwar, a local lawyer.
Big pictures of the World XI players were displayed outside the stadium. They include five from South Africa, three from Australia, two from the West Indies and one each from Bangladesh, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
“I am here to support the World XI because they are supporting our cause to revive international cricket,” said Ahsan Ali, a school student.
Most of the fans were decked out in the green and white of Pakistan, which has played all of its major home matches in the United Arab Emirates for eight years.
“It’s a dream come true for me to watch my favorite batsman Hashim Amla playing right in front of me today,” said Imtiaz Gul, who came from Islamabad for the game. “I don’t care which team wins because we want to prove to the cricketing world that it’s safe to play in Pakistan.”