World Cup fever catches Pakistan

Updated: Feb 26, 2011, 22:19 PM IST

Karachi: Pakistan seems to have put behind the disappointment of not hosting any World Cup match with some cricket fans expressing their enthusiasm by building world`s biggest and longest bat and converting schools into mini-theatres.

Pakistan, rated as the dark horse of the 2011 edition of the mega-event, lost their share of World Cup matches when the International Cricket Council moved away around 14 ties from the volatile country after the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March, 2009.

However, it has not dampened the enthusiasm and passion of the cricket fans here though many Pakistanis are feeling the pain of not being a host country for the quadrennial event.

"We are all Pakistanis and I don?t think our feeling of patriotism and nationalism is more evident than during the World Cup," a spokesman for the Pasban party said.

Pasban is the students wing of the politico-religious Jamaat-e-Islaami and they have got into the World Cup action by claiming to have built the longest and biggest bat in the world.

The bat built out of sheesham wood and iron was put on display in Karachi on the eve of Pakistan`s match against Sri Lanka for a signature drive.

"The bat is around 50 feet long and six feet in width and is easily enough the biggest cricket bat built in the world. It is our way of getting all Pakistanis to participate in wishing our team good luck," said pasban leader, Shakoor.

The bat which has become a major attraction is moved around with the help of a crane and has been placed in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area with hundreds of people including celebrities taking part in the signature drive.

The World Cup fever is not just limited to the urban cities. A group of enterprising youngsters in the remote Kohistan area in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province have taken control of a run-down school building to set up a mini theatre for the World Cup matches.

According to a report the youngsters decided to pool in money and buy a satellite dish and TV to set up the mini theatre as there is no cable service available in the remote Kohistan are.

And the youngsters are now charging 50 rupees from enthusiasts keen on watching the World Cup matches in the mini theatre.

Not unexpectedly the media and commercial brands are leaving no stone unturned to exploit the World Cup fever with every newspaper and channel having hired top former players and analysts to work for them during the tournament.

Every second commercial on television and in the newspapers now is somehow related to the World Cup with the telecom companies offering special packages to their customers for the World Cup.

"This is the best time for the media to make money as companies have special budgets for the World Cup and want to use it to sell their brands or advertise their products," Sarmad Ali, the marketing managing director in the country`s biggest media group, said.

The World Cup has also seen an all-out battle between the media group and the state-owned Pakistan television over the rights to broadcast the matches.

The Geo network has been pleading with the cable operators to only show its sports channel for the World Cup matches as they say they have exclusive rights to show the matches on cable.

Some blame has been laid on the government for not doing enough to make it mandatory for the cable operators to only show the Geo super channel during the World Cup.