Ramiz Raja decries ‘hooliganism’ after latest unrest between Afghanistan and Pakistan

Brilliant Asia Cup match finishes with disturbances in the stands at Sharjah Cricket Stadium

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Ramiz Raja, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, denounced what he termed “hooliganism” after Pakistan’s match against Afghanistan in Sharjah.

Fans clashed in the North-West Stand at the end of Asia Cup match on Wednesday night, with some tearing seats up from their fixings and hurling them at rival supporters.

“Hooliganism is unacceptable in cricket,” said Raja, the former Pakistan player turned board chairman.

“This game doesn’t want such an environment where fans and players feel unsafe.

“This wasn't the first time such a thing happened. We care about our fans and we will take a strong stance in ICC.

“Initially, we will write a letter to ICC while highlighting the whole scenario.”

The trouble took place after Pakistan had sealed a thrilling win that sent them through to Sunday’s final and ended Afghanistan’s chances.

In the emotional conclusion to the match, which saw Pakistan tailender Naseem Shah hit sixes in successive balls to win it, tempers were frayed.

At one point Asif Ali, the Pakistan batter, had to be separated from Fareed Ahmad, the Afghanistan bowler who had just dismissed him.

The two players went head to head in the middle of the field, and Asif raised his bat towards Fareed before Afghan fielders interjected and Asif headed to the pavilion.

When Pakistan sealed the win shortly after, their players raced onto the field to celebrate with Naseem. The result then prompted angry scenes in the stands.

Until that point, the crowd had played their part in what had been regarded as one of the greatest matches played in the UAE.

Before the footage of the violence became apparent, Afghanistan’s captain Mohammed Nabi had commended his side’s supporters.

“It was really great here today, they really supported us and cheered a lot,” said Nabi, who is a resident of Ajman and whose son is a member of the Sharjah Cricket Academy.

“I was not expecting that much of a crowd. It was great and I hope it will be tomorrow as well [when Afghanistan face India at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday evening].”

On Thursday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board addressed the situation on social media.

"[Afghanistan] have always represented the Afghan values at its very best and have truly treated cricket as a gentleman's game," the ACB wrote.

"We hope others will also respect the passion and dedication for the game and try to spread love and devotion among nations.

"Cricket does not allow for us to show negative emotions on the field and turn the friendship atmosphere into violence."

When Afghanistan first started its rise in cricket, Abdulrahman Bukhatir, the founder of Sharjah Cricket Stadium, gave the ground to them to use as their home free of charge.

The Afghan national team have played more matches at the ground than any other, and it has been the scene of some of their finest triumphs.

Wednesday night was the third time in the past three years that fixtures between Afghanistan and Pakistan have provoked crowd disturbances at a major competition.

At the 50-over World Cup in the UK in 2019, fights broke out between rivals fans outside the ground at a match in Leeds.

Last year, at the T20 World Cup, some supporters holding valid tickets were shut out of the ground as a large number of ticketless Afghan fans poured into the Dubai International Stadium.

The incident included fans scaling the fences to try to gain entry to the fixture, and were dispersed by riot police.

The ICC ordered the Emirates Cricket Board to investigate the causes of the incident, “to learn any lessons” and “to ensure there is no repeat of this situation in the future”.

The ICC have opted not to comment on the latest incident, as the tournament is organised by the Asian Cricket Council.

Neither the ACC nor the Emirates Cricket Board, who are hosting the Asia Cup on behalf of Sri Lanka Cricket, have yet commented on the issue.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 12:32 PM
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