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A mix of Pakistani and Indian supporters at the Mafraq Workers Labour Camp, watch on during the World Cup semi-final match between the two sides yesterday, which ended in a win for India to see them reach the final.
A mix of Pakistani and Indian supporters at the Mafraq Workers Labour Camp, watch on during the World Cup semi-final match between the two sides yesterday, which ended in a win for India to see them reach the final.

When nothing matters except watching an India Pakistan game

For fans of India and Pakistan all over the world, everything else became unimportant as they sought to view proceedings in Mohali.

If by chance you roamed aimlessly like a mad dog around Abu Dhabi yesterday - urban hiking, really - you could have relearned some curious truths about life on Earth.

For one, male humans maintain an impressive capacity to stand upon concrete for hours outside store windows while craning necks to glimpse portions of television screens showing sports.

For another, some male humans standing far up the street either have superhuman vision or pretend that they do.

For another, male humans sometimes feel the need to whistle loudly and serially toward players who cannot hear them while watching sporting events indoors, creating annoyance plus irreversible inner ear damage.

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More on India v Pakistan

. Dhoni's relief at beating Pakistan after reading the wicket wrong
. Mohali is rocked by an emotional roller-coaster India Pakistan ride
. India hold nerve to beat arch rivals Pakistan and enter World Cup final
. Scenes of despair in Pakistan
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For yet another, some days you can feel a sporting event in the air as if it has stitched together the world somehow, even when it transpires way over there somewhere.

And for yet another, somehow after all this technology and all these television screens viewable from Venus and Mars, sporting events might remain at their most enchanting when transmitted through a radio in a taxi.

India versus Pakistan in the World Cup cricket semi-final did not swarm or deluge Abu Dhabi; in fact, many businesses persisted obliviously with business even through Pakistan's evening batting hours.

But if you wandered enough, you could locate passion pockets and practice the odd art of watching other people watch things.

The kind of night when you just might remember where you were when . included the kind of sights that just might prove memorable.

Off Hamdan Street with Pakistan on 100 for two at the last check, about 12 men stood gazing through the window of a hair salon, staring toward the corner and a TV that seemed to be in commercial. The apparent commercial continued. And continued.

And as it continued, it grew clear that the apparent commercial had not been a commercial. It had been a programme, and the men looked in to gauge goings-on in Mohali by reading the ribbon scurrying along the bottom of the screen.

Here was a match so colossal that people stood around watching a ribbon.

"Four wickets gone," one said suddenly, relaying jolting news.

On one of the tiny streets between Hamdan and Electra around 7pm, a blue delivery truck carrying large boxes halted at a corner. Two men popped open the doors and hopped out to deliver. In their absence, the doors remained open and the radio blared a match broadcast.

Within moments, three men stood on the curb next to the open truck door, listening hungrily. Soon the delivery men returned, pulled closed the doors, revved the engine and churned off.

Here was a match so meaningful that people stood around listening to the radios of briefly parked trucks. Outside a large electronics trading store on Electra as Pakistan's hopes flickered at 163 needing 98 from 70 balls, men formed a veritable human peninsula gawking at the large television displayed inside.

Here was one of those screens so vivid that the image of Shahid Afridi might have stopped traffic were traffic coming the other way.

His boundary wrung a cheer, but otherwise here was a match so absorbing that people stood and watched in extended silence.

In store upon store, men watched quietly. For noise, you had to burrow into sports-viewing establishments.

In the one at Le Meridien, the ribbing between Pakistan and India fans proved so good-natured that it almost overcame the horrifying whistling from one corner, including the always-terrible moment when whistlers decide they like the sound of their own whistling.

At the Crowne Plaza, the television audio was drowned out by chatter, enough chatter that some males reasoned they needed to talk louder to be heard.

As they talked louder and louder, it could make you flee toward concrete and silence.

Outside a salon called Amer, they stood four-deep eyeballing a television in the back corner while men inside cut hair.

Outside a laundry called White House, they stood about 12 strong stretching necks to catch a little television kindly placed high and facing half-outward.

Outside a big appliance store on Electra, about 40 stood at an awkward angle not to watch the beautiful televisions facing forward - for those carried other programmes - but for that one TV in there on the side wall affording a sideways view of the semi-final.

A day and night on Earth, and so much of the world rapt, Mohali and all India and all Pakistan and much of Asia - including the 75 bunched just off Electra and just beneath an electronic service store with an ad of a microwave cooking a chicken.

When the fifth wicket fell and doom lurked for Pakistan, they remained silent and intent, save for a sole fan who stalked off with a muffled little noise of disgruntlement that sounded better than any shrill whistle.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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