Indian Hockey Fans in Seventh Heaven

By Richie Verma for The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Cricket is no longer the only sport that brings out the patriotic fervour of Indian fans. India’s victory against neighbouring country Pakistan in the hockey match at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday brought out a frenzy in the crowd with spectators going wild cheering for the country, dancing in the stalls and waving the Tricolour.

Hardly surprising, given that the India-Pakistan hockey match had been billed as the highest point of the Commonwealth Games and it lived up to that tag every bit. Tickets had been sold out days in advance and even after the match had begun, a few hopefuls were still walking around the stadium hoping to get inside by some miracle.

The celebrations spilled onto the streets and continued much after the match was over, with thrilled fans cheering loudly and screaming on top of their voice. Kids with their faces painted white, saffron and green, women with flags and loud men wearing team India shirts were all that could be seen in the streets around the National Stadium. Traffic cops had a tough time trying to ensure the crowd didn’t affect vehicular movement as crazy fans went dancing right on the middle of the road. The cheers could be heard from quite a distance away.

Nilesh, Samar, Ajay, Pradeep and Varun — a group of five friends from an engineering college in Ghaziabad — were too busy screaming about India’s victory to notice the glares of passersby. “It’s a great day for us and this match was worth every effort it took us to get here, the wait in the queue and going with the mob inside the stadium. We all feel so proud to be Indian,” said Samar. Sakshi Mittal from Rajouri Garden added: “It’s an ego massage for India. The applause every time India made a goal was mindblowing.” Her husband, Akhil, added: “Of course, this has a lot to do with this being an India-Pakistan match. Everyone wanted to be a part of it.”

The almost deafening silence in the field every time Pakistan scored, was a sharp contrast to the lusty cheering the contingent had received during the opening ceremony. In fact, the number of spectators who rooted for Pakistan were minimal and included mostly journalists and some Pakistani dignitaries though the last of the four goals that the subcontinental neighbours notched up was classified by many as “brilliant”. “I personally feel that the other team should have received more support from the audience. When India made a goal, the crowd would go mad but when it was Pakistan’s goal, there was silence,” said B R Pandey, a resident of Rohini, who had come to watch the match.

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