Sports brings pride and recognition to a country and for Pakistan, cricket is one of the most celebrated games. It brings both joy and heartache to millions of Pakistanis. With Pakistan and Sri Lanka playing the final of Asia Cup 2022, we wish both teams luck but we obviously want Pakistan to win! Pakistanis all around the world will be rooting for our boys in green. Cricket and our men in green are a source of continuous pride for the country but what we witnessed from the audience stands in the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan was nothing but disappointing at so many levels. The Afghanistan-Pakistan cricket rivalry is fast crossing the acceptable margins, even surpassing the age-old rivalry between India and Pakistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan faced each other in an important Asia Cup fixture in the Super Four round, where the stakes were too high. Afghanistan needed a win to keep their chances alive, while Pakistan needed to clinch this win to be in the final. Afghanistan was close to victory but the Pakistani team bounced back at the last minute, stealing the game away. The event witnessed some heated moments between Afghan and Pakistani players, charging up the spectators on both sides. Afghan fans purportedly indulged in verbal abuse and later ended up throwing seats at the Pakistani fans, prompting many observers to say the spirit of the game has been ‘tainted’. Sports fabs across the world sometimes show uncouth behaviour, be it cricket or football or any other game. It is always difficult to see one’s own side lose but it does not mean that fans of the winning team should be subjected to violence.

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While the cricketing rivalry between Afghanistan and Pakistan may be in its infancy, it has got all the ingredients for a heated contest courtesy the political history both countries share. After the disappointing scenes between the fans, there was an immense backlash against the Afghans. But the reaction of many Pakistanis was quite disappointing and downright racist. Pakistanis calling Afghans ‘namak haram’ — racist term often used to address Afghan refugees living in Pakistan — was not just uncalled for but also wrong. No one should have to bear verbal abuses and being called ungrateful or other names. Refugees deserve to be treated with dignity. This is what we also demand from western nations when it comes to Muslim refugees so why display racism against refugees in our own country? Also, to taunt an entire nation and another country because of the shenanigans of a few fans is just wrong. It is a game and one needs to accept both win and defeat with grace.

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We just hope that the teams and supporters watching the Asia Cup final today show resolve and grace. May the best team win.