New Delhi, Oct 14 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of followers of cricket, by far the most popular sport in South Asia, had begun to gather on Saturday morning at a stadium in India’s western city of Ahmedabad for the much-awaited World Cup match between hosts India and their traditional rivals and neighbors Pakistan.
The Pakistani team is playing on Indian soil for the first time in a decade, with bilateral matches being suspended for many years due to military and geopolitical tensions between the two countries.
Therefore, the hype around the rare encounter was at its highest outside the swanky Narendra Modi stadium – named after the current prime minister of India – in Ahmedabad, which has a capacity of around 132,000.
Indian broadcasters showed that thousands of fans – dressed in India’s blue colors and carrying whistles and national flags – had thronged at the stadium in large numbers from early morning on Saturday.
In contrast, the presence of Pakistan’s fans was negligible, as obtaining visas had proved to be nearly impossible, with the press in the neighboring country coming down hard on Indian authorities in this regard.
Even Pakistani players had been granted visas only at the last minute, after an official complaint was lodged over delays.
Prices of hotel rooms in the city have risen by up to 10 times for dates near the match, triggered by high demand, according to local media reports.
Saturday’s match is the first between the two sides at a non-neutral venue since Pakistan’s last India tour in 2012, and will be held in the 50-over each format known as One-Day International.
The biggest rivalry in cricket reflects bilateral ties outside the ground, as India and Pakistan have fought several wars since the subcontinent was divided into two nations upon its independence from the British empire in 1947.
The two neighboring countries are involved in a territorial dispute over the Kashmir region, and New Delhi has accused Islamabad of sponsoring cross-border terrorism, a charge that the latter denies. EFE