I will never forget this day, Sunday, June 21st of 2009 when the Pakistani cricket team defeated Sri Lanka to win the world cup in Twenty20 cricket. Throughout the tournament, teams like South Africa, Sri Lanka, and India were favored to be this year’s champions, but no one expected Pakistan — led by an unstoppable Shahid Afridi — to power their way through.
This morning, as I sat tensely and cheered Pakistan on, I was reminded when Pakistan went to the Cricket world cup final in 1999 and lost miserably to Australia. I remembered 2007’s Twenty20 tournament when India defeated Pakistan. This year, Pakistan had to win. A country that has been bombed, invaded, threatened, exploited, vilified, misgoverned, ignored, among many other things, can only take so much before the spirit of the people pull them out of the dark. Indeed, it is a cricket team that has lifted the hopes of so many Pakistanis all across the globe, giving them something to smile, cheer, and even cry in joy about. The exceptional teamwork and passion of their cricket team proved to the world that Pakistan deserved it.
I didn’t mention this in my previous post, but it bothers me when I see Pakistan and Pakistani people being so openly trashed and insulted around the blogosphere (one friend of mine reading this knows what I’m referring to *wink*). It hurts me that there are millions of displaced Pakistanis as result of the Taliban invasion of Swat. Recently, my parents and I watched some old footage that I video-taped in Swat when we visited in 2000. It isn’t easy for those who make a mockery out of places like Swat (simply to support their Islamophobic views) to understand what it’s like to watch old footage of a beautiful place that you once visited before and realize that there’s a strong chance you’ll never see it again. I was reminded of Swat while watching this cricket match and it wasn’t hard to tell that the team was winning it for them, as well as for all of Pakistan.
When I went out today, I looked at my Pakistani key chain and smiled at it. I let it dangle freely when I walked into the mall; I rolled down my windows and popped in a CD of Pakistani music and sang along. I smiled because I knew, today, my fellow Pakistanis were all happy. We called our relatives and said “Mubarak (congratulations)” like it was Eid, we posted ecstatic status messages on our Facebook (and Twitter, I’m sure) accounts, and we all knew how important this was for our country, whether we were cricket fans or not. Something also must be said about Sri Lanka, another country that has been facing challenges and difficulty. They had a terrific run in the tournament and their country should be proud of them. I especially liked the sportsmanship that both teams showed throughout the match, especially at the end.
I found a great article published on Pakistan Daily this morning almost immediately after Pakistan won the match. Very similar to my previous post here on Muslim Reverie, the author talks about how this victory was not just a win, but rather a reminder that there is hope. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the article: “It is crucial to remember why Pakistan’s win is so important. This win is not about winning at all. It is about showing the world that once again, Pakistan has performed in the face of difficulty; death of their coach, attack on their country, bombing of their cities, exploitation of their money. A nation who the whole world had given up on has turned around to come out with a lot more than they expected. But they earned it. These players were working under the pressure of not only the game, but the political games being played with their loved ones in their hometowns. Sometimes, Allah sends motivation from unusual sources.”
As they say, Allah — God — works in mysterious ways. There are still immense problems in Pakistan, but this win was something that the people needed a lot. It was beautiful to see the Pakistani players to make sajdah after the victory and then hear the commentators point out how important and special this world cup is to the people of Pakistan. When I look at the players of this wonderful team and then at the horrible images we see on CNN and Fox News, I see a mismatch. This is no surprise to me, as a Pakistani and Muslim, but I’m sure that there a lot of non-Muslims and non-Pakistanis in the west who are not familiar with these images. Surely, these images of remarkably talented and passionate cricketers don’t represent all of Pakistan. They just represent one incredible snapshot!
Here’s a clip of the winning moment! Watch it before they take it down (hopefully they won’t!):