No matter where they play or what the situation of the tournament is, an India-Pakistan hockey or cricket match is always a high-octane clash. On Friday, Antwerp, joined a group of almost 15-odd countries where the neighbours have clashed in hockey. The tournament as such has not attracted huge crowds, even for hosts Belgium’s matches, but the India-Pakistan match saw the stands packed and virtually all other teams and players turned up for the match.
Then there were others from across the borders and they were all treated to a match that abounded in action, pace, passion and excitement.
It did not lack in goals either. Living almost the whole of the last quarter on a knife-edge, the teams finally retired for the day with equal honours at 2-2.
For India, Ramandeep Singh scored both the goals and in a flamboyant manner, the first in the 13th minute and then the last one in the 39th. In between Pak skipper Muhammed Imran scored the first equaliser with a penalty stroke in the 23rd minute and then he himself put his team ahead in the 37th minute before Ramandeep’s flick restored parity yet again.
With the public address system blasting Punjabi songs, the atmosphere was indeed electric and fans from both sides – numbering almost 1,500-2000 – sang along.
The spectators included a good number from neighbouring Amsterdam, which is less than an hour’s train ride away, and the Hague and German towns Cologne and Dusseldorf. It was not just the Indians but Pakistani fans too, who were in Antwerp for just this one game.
An Indian fan, Satwinder Singh, who drove down with a group of friends summed it up. “If India meets Pakistan anywhere in Europe where we can drive down, we do it. We booked our tickets on the internet and we are here just for a day. If the teams clash again, we will be back for sure.” He was standing next to another Indian from Gujarat, who was here to study gemolog y. “Not h ing beats an India-Pak clash in hockey, not even cricket.
Hockey is more our game than cricket and it has more action and our teams have a tradition in hockey more than cricket,” he argued. PI Minhas, a Pakistan businessman, who deals in hockey equipment, said, “I have been here to run a stall and my son joined in for a few days to catch this India-Pakistan match. We want to see Pakistan win for sure and see them at the Olympics, but we would like both India and Pakistan do well.” In the end, the draw perhaps was a fair result.