Kashmir Muslims prefer to support Pakistan team

Published: Monday, August 12, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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Srinagar: With India and Pakistan both involved in international cricket matches on Monday, there was no mistaking where the loyalties of cricket the Muslim fans in Srinagar lay. And it certainly wasn't with the heroics of Indian's master batsman Sachin Tendulkar and teammate Rahul Dravid against England at Nottingham. "When it comes to a choice, there is no choice. We will always support Pakistan," said Mohammad Amin, one of many people watching the match between Pakistan and South Africa being broadcast from Morocco. "We will never support India. Whenever India is playing, we will always support the opposing team. Whenever Pakistan is playing, we will always support Pakistan," Amin added.He went further, to murmurs of approval from other Muslims crowded into one of many stores screening the match in downtown Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian- administered Kashmir. "If India is playing Israel, we will even support Israel," he said emphatically. On the streets of Muslim-dominated Srinagar on Monday it was clear that most people at least support the Pakistan cricket team, even if their attitudes towards the state of Pakistan are not clear. "I always support them, they are from another Islamic country," said Shakeel Ahmed, speaking from under a prayer cap. Of about 30 shops surveyed where televisions were tuned into cricket on Monday afternoon, not one was showing the England-India match. In one store, the reception on the Ten Sports channel, which was screening the Pakistan match, was so snowy that proceedings were just a blur. The reception from Star Sports, the channel broadcasting from Nottingham, just happened at that time to be exceptionally clear, yet no one would hear of switching over. "Even if the reception is bad, we would rather watch the Pakistan match than a crystal clear game involving India," said Sajjad Ahmad. "And if we did watch the Indian game, we would support England," chimed in another cricket fan, Munner Hamad. Only one person, possibly a cricket purist, offered a sporting explanation for the overwhelming support in Srinagar for the Pakistan cricket team. "It's just that Pakistan plays more attractive cricket," said Mohammad Tahar. "And they usually win..."

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