Merriam-Webster, the Oxford dictionary, along with other sources, define "fan" as a shortened version of the word fanatic. Fans usually have a strong enough interest in a team, that some changes in their lifestyles are made to accommodate devotion to the focal object.
The Pakistan Cricket Team has some of the most dedicated & devoted supporters in the cricket world, travelling far and wide to ensure that the team feels that it is appreciated. Among their ranks is a hardcore group of “Characters” who have made it their mission to show unbridled support for Team Green at as many fixtures as possible, both in the UK and further afield.
This group of hardcore cricket fans have become a phenomenon all by themselves making innumerable appearances on TV both during & after matches and even organised a dedicated Pakistan Team Supporters bus, that has toured various playing venues during the 2016 Pakistan tour of England.
I caught up with these guys on their way to the T20 at Old Trafford, where they will face England in the last fixture on the 2016 tour of England.
JF: So how long have you guys been Pakistan Cricket Fans?
Mr Pakistan: We have been going the games as characters since 2010, but have been going to matches for a long time. We have watched the guys on TV since we were young, so there’s a longstanding affection & affiliation with Pakistan cricket.
JF: Can you remember the first game you saw live at a stadium?
Mr Pakistan: The Sheikh went to his first live cricket game in 1986, I saw my first game in 1987.
JF: How many games have you been to?
Mr Pakistan: Loads; far too many to remember all of them. I have been to at least one game (but usually more) on every Pakistan tour of England since 1987. I have been fortunate enough to have watched Pakistan play cricket in 8 countries worldwide.
JF: Who is your favourite player & why?
Mr Pakistan: Personally I try not to have favourite players, just as I try not to despise any particular player. I support whoever wears the shirt, because it’s the name on the front of the shirt that matters; not the one on the back. Having said that, I have great respect for Misbah, who took control during one of Pakistan Cricket’s darkest times, only to steer this often volatile ship to a global number one ranking in Test cricket, despite not playing a single Test in Pakistan. A huge achievement by an stretch of the imagination.
JF: What was the most exciting game you have been to?
Mr Pakistan: Pakistan v India games are always exciting no matter what the result and the 2004 Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston springs immediately to mind, along with the 2011 World Cup win over Australia in Colombo. But my all-time favourite match, for obvious reasons, was the 2009 T20 World Cup final at Lords.
JF: How long have you dressed as a character at the games ( & is there a back story behind your character?)
Mr Pakistan: We started dressing as characters in 2010, during the two friendship matches against Australia at Edgbaston. Initially it was just for the two games as we were not sure of the reactions we would get from other supporters. However, because of the overwhelmingly positive support and encouragement we received, we decided to continue doing it.
JF: We see you guys on TV a lot; what is the furthest you have ever travelled to watch Pakistan play?Mr Pakistan: Australia, Sri lanka, the West Indies and the UAE.
JF: How do your wives feel about you spending so much time at cricket?
Mr Pakistan: We are all very lucky and have understanding wives, and they enjoyed the novelty of seeing us on TV at the games. But as with all relationships, we have our differences but the secret is to balance our home life & our cricket life. Taking them on great holidays also helps!
JF: Some fans are sponsored to support their National Teams; are you guys sponsored?
Mr Pakistan: We have never been sponsored and we pay for all our trips ourselves. We work super hard to save up enough money to make sure we can support the guys at as many matches as possible. That said; factoring in the amount of television coverage we attract both inside and outside a stadium, any sponsor would definitely get their money’s worth.
JF: How do you cope with the teams Win / Loss record?
Mr Pakistan: Everyone has heard the saying “Winning & losing is part of the game” but few actually take comfort from that. I always say we should remain humble in victory & gracious in defeat. Winning is not the be all and end all of the day. Turning up, watching the team, showing our support is what really makes our day. Winning is the icing on the cake; but wholeheartedly supporting is the main body of it.
JF: If you cannot watch Pakistan play cricket, which other team (any sport) do you follow?
Mr Pakistan: I’ve been to a few Liverpool football matches and some of the guys support Manchester United. We love sports and will watch boxing, F1, snooker, hockey, the Olympics.
JF: Will we see you guys at the next cricket world cup?
Mr Pakistan: As long as we can afford it, we will travel to support the Pakistan cricket team
JF: Seems like there’s an opportunity here for a forward thinking corporate sponsor. I do hope that you get a sponsor to help out, because I can tell you from personal experience, it makes a real difference having familiar faces cheering the team on, when you are foreign soil.
Take care guys, have a safe journey & good luck today. We will be looking out for you on TV.
Julien Fountain was talking to Mr Pakistan, The Sheikh of Pakistan, The Doctor of Pakistan, Pilot of Pakistan.
You can follow @JulienFountain @MrPakistan1992 & @PakistanSheikh on Twitter & Instagram
(Footnote . . . . What an incredible game this turned out to be. Some fantastic cricket by Pakistan. A superb way to end the UK tour. Congratulations)