Sri Lankan home affair a happy one - until the end

A Deira building was filled with a chorus of loud cheers, as a Sri Lankan family vowed to celebrate, win or lose.

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DUBAI // For anyone arriving on the first floor of their Deira building yesterday afternoon, it was obvious where the Lantra family lived.

As well as the blaring TV, there was a chorus of loud cheers and a mix of 1980s music playing in the kitchen as curry and biryani made their presence known to any passing nose.

"We are going to celebrate whether we lose or win," said Niazudin Lantra, 49. The Sri Lankan worked an extra shift on Friday at a hotel he manages, to get yesterday off so he could watch his home country of Sri Lanka battle it out with India for the Cricket World Cup.

"I have watched and played cricket my whole life, I love it," he said.

Like many of the UAE's 240,000 or so Sri Lankans, the Lantra family stayed at home yesterday, turning their living room into a gathering place of loved ones.

Thirty-five people squeezed on to the three sofas and floor mat rolled out for the occasion. Some came draped in the national flag, others wore their team's T-shirt.

Mr Lantra's wife, Verena, was busy preparing the food and making sure everyone was comfortable. With her in the kitchen was her friend Astrid Lewis - the sole Indian at the gathering and a lone voice for her national side. "We are tougher on our teams than they are, we expect them to win," Ms Lewis said.

Mrs Verena concurred: "If our team loses, they can go home safely without us attacking them in anger."

But when defeat came, the mood changed. The room went silent, with only one voice heard.

"Yes! We won!" said Ms Lewis. She left immediately afterwards.

"We came so close," said the Lantras' 25-year old-son, Shefan. "We were all disappointed."