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World Cup semifinal: Mohali citizens throw open homes to Pak fans

The Wagah-Attari border has been flooded by fans on either side of the border.

Written by Agencies | Chandigarh |
March 24, 2011 1:11:12 pm

Cricket mania has touched a crescendo in fortress Mohali as it gears up to stage the eagerly-awaited World Cup semifinal clash between India and Pakistan and even the ruckus over ticket sales has failed to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm.

The Wagah-Attari border has been flooded by fans on either side of the border who raised slogans in support of their nations while at Mohali,where the two teams will face each other on Wednesday,water-tight security has been put in place.

During the retreat ceremony at the Wagah (Pakistan)-Attari (India) border yesterday,a huge gathering of fans of the two countries was seen waving flags of their nations.

Fans raised slogans like “Hindustan Zindabad,Hindustan Jeetega,Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Pakistan Zindabad” as cricket took centerstage and everything else was pushed in the background.

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With the arch-rivals facing each other after a long gap as bilateral action between the two nations had been suspended in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks in 2008,cricket mania has been touching new heights with each passing day.

Fans from Pakistan have also started to trickle in. Pakistan Cricket Board official Tariq Haqim arrived here with his wife and son Ibrahim.

“Everybody wants to rush to Mohali to watch the match,such is the craze among the fans about this match,” Haqim said.

Haqim’s wife,whose grandfather came from Jalandhar and served in the police force during British rule,said it was her second visit to India but this time it was an altogether different experience.

Haqim’s wife said fans across the border were also very excited about the match.

“If the borders are thrown open,half of Pakistan will descend here to watch the semifinal,” she told PTI here.

She further said fans willing to come here should be granted visa “as it is not just about watching the match. They can just come here and be part of such a great cricketing atmosphere”.

With hotel rooms in Chandigarh and Mohali fully booked,some local residents in a noble gesture,have thrown open their houses for Pakistani guests.

Among those who will accommodate Pakistani guests include a few senior advocates of Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh and a Chandigarh-based NGO Yuvsatta’s coordinator,Pramod Sharma.

Sharma still remembers the time when the twin cities of Mohali and Chandigarh had welcomed scores of Pakistani fans when they had come to watch the Test match that was played between the two nations in March 2005.

“When the two governments have taken the peace initiative,I think we as citizens should also contribute to help normalise relations,” Sharma said.

Chandigarh has nearly 1,500 hotel rooms and all are booked,a travel agent said.

Leading hotels including the Taj,where the two teams are staying,have planned makeshift arrangements to accommodate the guests.

Possibility of some guests being shifted out elsewhere by leading hotels at Chandigarh to accommodate the ever-growing number of VVIPs expected to descend has not been ruled out,a hotel official told PTI.

Virtually all star and budget accommodations have been lapped up within a radius of 50 km from Mohali and Chandigarh.

Punjab Cricket Association Secretary M P Pandove said they had given tickets to the Pakistan Cricket Board in advance though he added that inquiries for tickets continued to pour in.

“The tickets available with us have already been sold,” Pandove said.

A Pakistani fan,Bashir Khan,who is settled in the United States,has reached here sans a ticket.

Khan,who says he watched the Pakistan match in Bangladesh and Colombo,had no idea that getting a ticket here would be next to impossible.

“Authorities should ensure that they allow a die-hard Pakistani fan like me to watch the match inside the stadium. If I cannot get a ticket or won’t be allowed entry,then I will sit on a dharna outside the PCA gates,” Khan,who remains adamant,said.

Police and paramilitary forces have already been deployed along the routes leading to the stadium,which is about 12 km from Chandigarh’s Hotel Taj.

Security personnel also positioned themselves on the rooftops in the adjoining buildings of the stadium to maintain strict vigil.

Anti-sabotage teams,police,150 CCTV cameras,Quick Reaction Teams,bomb disposal and sniffer dog squads would be in place as part of the foolproof security,which also included drawing up of contingency plans to meet any untoward situation.

In addition to the two premiers,a large number of top politicians from India and business magnates including Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya and other top dignitaries from the ICC,BCCI and the PCB besides Bollywood celebrities are expected to be present here on March 30.

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