Anyone who has a passing interest in sport would tell you where Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win ranks as an accomplishment – and not just in sport, mind you.

The sheer impossibility of it should’ve been evident to everyone, including the majority that slugged it out with the team throughout the sinusoidal journey, and the minority that would’ve heard of it in the TV bulletin or read yesterday’s newspapers.

And so to credit that Herculean – maybe they should change it to Sarfrazian – feat to anything but the team itself is an insult to the triumph.

Every sportsperson is a believer. Every single man or woman who takes to the field has faith in their ability to win, regardless of their theological affiliations. They wouldn’t take to the field otherwise.

The source of faith, in turn, varies from person to person. Some take refuge in their version of the divine, some have their own rituals and superstitions. Others mightn’t rely on the irrational.

15-time tennis Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who won his tenth French Open title, earlier this month is inanely superstitious about things ranging from his socks, to the first step he puts on the court, to the direction his water bottles are facing. And yet he’s agnostic, despite being raised a Catholic.

French football legend Zinedine Zidane, who is replicating his success from the playing days as the manager of Real Madrid these days, winning the second successive Champions League in a season and a half, is a self-confessed non-practicing Muslim. And yet his open disregard for Islamic rituals didn’t stop him from winning the World Cup, the Champions League and being crowned the best player in the world, thrice in his career.

Moving over to cricket, West Indian skipper, and two-time World T20 champion, Darren Sammy is a proud Christian and has expressed his love for Jesus on multiple occasions – this actually makes Peshawar Zalmi owner Javed Afridi’s well publicised ‘encouragement’ for Sammy to embrace Islam, actually a major faux pas, bordering on bigotry.

Sammy himself has never asked his successful West Indian side to rely a specific religion for their accomplishments. Their belief in the divine, like many other successful athletes, isn’t discriminatory along religious lines.

Pakistan cricket’s affiliation with Islamism has mirrored the state’s collaboration with the same. In Pakistan athletes aren’t asked to rely on belief in God to seek inspiration for performances on the field. We ask Allah to reward us Muslims, at the expense of the kuffaar.

And so when cricket and Islam – two of Pakistan’s preferred belief-systems – combined with the Champions Trophy taking place in Ramzan, there was hope among the believers that their bottom ranked side would win a tournament that they had barely qualified for in the first place. That particular belief, of course, was redoubled by the fact that Pakistan had won the ODI World Cup in the Ramzan of 1992.

That the 1992 win was miraculous in that it relied on wash outs, upsets and improbable wins for the national team, which had been down and out in the first half of the group stages, also helped fuel the faithful’s firm belief in divine intervention. Let’s not forget we’re a nation that has been fed tales of angels winning wars for the Islamic armies 14 centuries ago, and Pakistan military as well.

If the 1992 World Cup win was improbable, the 2017 Champions Trophy win was as close to impossible as anything that the cricket world has ever seen. A turnaround in a matter of days that no one has ever so masterfully, and emphatically pulled off.

So, of course, it had to be the Ramzan factor. What else could it be when the greatest of sports analysts are struggling to explain the logic behind Pakistan’s win.

The belief God helped us achieve something can be positive in that it would reinforce the idea that we would get further aid in the future endeavours if we work hard enough. But that Allah helped us Muslims beat non-Muslims – especially at a time when children dying of hunger, or people being brutalised across the world might have been more pressing concerns – is not only counterproductive, it is also inherently built on an idea of supremacism and hatred.

Not to mention that India has more Muslims than Pakistan.

When this myth of a ‘Hindu’ India and ‘Muslim’ Pakistan gets buried – despite the constant efforts of the religious hardliners in both countries – peace in South Asia, including Kashmir, would become inevitable.

This doesn’t mean that Almighty Allah shouldn’t be thanked for boys playing well, or the sajdas automatically are a symbol of bigotry.

As long as the belief is in a God that rewards who strives the hardest, these exhibits of religiosity would remain inspirational – after all Muslims, have no monopoly over prostration. But as soon as Muslim supremacism and othering of other religions begins, these become demonstrations of animosity and antagonism.

Let’s hope Team Sarfraz steers clear of Islamist influx in the side and continues to seek divine inspiration from their religious beliefs, without enforcing it in the dressing room. Till then let’s give credit to the team for pulling off a miracle any deity would be proud of.


The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.