This article originally appeared on VICE India
On June 16, as the India vs Pakistan World Cup match ended on a high note for India by beating Pakistan by 89 runs, fans from across the border reacted passionately on news channels and social media. While Indians rejoiced across the world, Pakistani fans decided to vent their anguish over the loss of their country through humour (or so we think).
One of the reactions included a bunch of Pakistani fans blaming the team’s diet of burgers and dessert as the culprit for the loss.
The viral video shows a young Pakistani man, apparently in tears, questioning why the team ate burgers before a huge game. “In a country where the economy is struggling and people have trouble finding food and water, in that country, small joys include cricket. And today, they have taken that also,” he tells a local reporter. “I’m telling you, last night they were eating burgers, they were eating pizza. Make them give up cricket, and take up wrestling.”
Other fans also uploaded what they claim are photographs of the Pakistani team at a shisha bar in London before the game. This drew sharp criticism from Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, who is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, and was seen in the photograph. Mirza claimed they went to a bar after, and not before the game.
Even the Pakistani cricket captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was not spared, as fans continued to search for reasons for the loss. He became a meme himself after a photograph of him yawning in the field during Sunday’s match went viral, with fans accusing him of low energy.
The social media reactions were a timely reminder of how heavily invested the subcontinent is when it comes to cricket.
In the two cricket-obsessed countries, these reactions are almost normal. Especially given that the June 16 match could potentially be the most-watched India vs Pakistan match in the cricket history. According to reports, some 8,00,000 people applied for tickets that were sold out within 48 hours of their release. More than a billion people were expected to tune in to yesterday’s match.
A whole economy revolves around the matches between just these two countries—from the crazy ad revenues for broadcasting channels, to the frenzied betting bazaars (illegal betting markets), to match tickets selling out at inflated prices. And in the middle of all this, the most frenzied fans on either side of the border cash in on one very simple thing: emotions of the citizens. It’s become the norm for both the countries to a series of hyper-nationalist ads against the opposing country.
In India, “cricket fever” has also led to fans performing havans and pujas (Hindu rituals) to ensure a win over Pakistan. In fact, our own cricket bodies are known to perform pujas before matches. This time around, holy men even offered prayers to Indra, the Hindu god of rain, because of a wet weather forecast. In the past, Indian fans were also joined by cricket bodies in blaming cricketers’ girlfriends or wives for “distractions” if they didn’t perform well.
At this point, it’s become hard to tell how much of the reactions are just fans joking… or if they truly believe their own reasoning. Something tells us it’s the latter.
Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.