Pakistan partied all night after their 5-4 win over India in the Asian Champions Trophy final on Thursday. For Pakistan custodian Imran Butt, it was a quiet night. He spent the night with an Indian journalist.
“Bhai, kab miloge?” (Brother, when can we meet?) he asked me over the phone towards midnight. My first question to him was, “Aren’t you partying tonight? It’s your day.”
“No bro,” he said, “Let’s meet up.”
It took me a good one hour to meet him but an exhausted Imran was patiently waiting in the hotel lobby. I was surprised that even after such an absorbing match, he had not eaten. “I was waiting to eat with you,” he said.
I first met Imran as a cub player in 2007 when he came to Doha with the PIA team as a 19-year-old. Today, Imran is a name to reckon with. What touched me most was his humility. “I have never forgotten people whom I have come across over the years. It is not good to forget the past. You should always remember the road you have travelled,” said Imran.
These words of wisdom from a young player were indeed impressive. “So why aren’t you partying?” I asked him again.
“Simple, there is nothing to party. I have just survived. Had that stroke stood and India scored the fifth goal, I would have certainly been at the receiving end. It was Sreejesh’s (Indian custodian) turn. Sadly, our nations come hard on players, especially goalkeepers. These matches go beyond sports,” said Imran.
“It’s not just me; anyone who figures in an India-Pakistan match goes through similar pressure. I can completely relate to what Sreejesh must be going through at the moment,” he said.
Imran was quick to add that today’s youth are least interested in the political war between the two nations. “I have travelled a lot in India and I don’t find much difference between our countries. Everything is almost similar. People have welcomed me with open arms wherever I’ve travelled in India and trust me if you visit Pakistan, you will feel the same,” asserted Imran. He will travel to Mumbai in a week to play in the Hockey India League.