Never forget Lahore

In March last year, terrorists hit at cricket. One of those who was at the receiving end tells of a new initiative to take a stand against those who would destroy fans' love of the game

Paul Farbrace

July 13, 2010

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Sri Lankan players prepare to board a Pakistani military helicopter at the National Stadium in Lahore following the terrorist attack, Lahore, March 3, 2009
Sri Lankan players prepare to board a military helicopter at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, following the attack © PA Photos
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In 2009 I was doing what I love most, working as a cricket coach. I had been recruited two years earlier to serve as Trevor Bayliss' assistant with the Sri Lankan team, and on March 3 that year we were in Lahore, two days into a Test match that, thanks to Thilan Samaraweera's double-century, we had an excellent chance of winning.

On the bus to the ground that morning, I recall sitting three seats back on the left, behind our spinner Ajantha Mendis and just in front of our new opening batsman Tharanga Paranavitana. As we approached the Liberty Roundabout on the road from Gulberg, a sound like exploding popcorn rang through the air, immediately followed by Tillakaratne Dilshan yelling "Get down, get down!"

At that moment I had no reason to believe we were in the midst of a terrorist attack. I just thought we had encountered some disturbance on the street. But as I wrapped myself around the seat in front of me in an instinctive bid for cover, I felt a thud in my right arm, and saw a piece of shrapnel sticking out of it, with blood pouring everywhere.

From that moment onwards, time stood still, and the images of that day will remain with me forever. Six Pakistani police officers and two members of the public were killed in the attack, which was perpetrated by 12 gunmen. It was a tragedy for the families and friends of the people who lost their lives. It was also a terrible day for cricket.

Today, Pakistan play a "home" Test, but the match against Australia will take place at Lord's not in Lahore. As a result of the 2009 attack, Pakistan's fans have been robbed of the right to watch international cricket in their own country, even though it's a sport that unites people right across the continent.

I hope one day that the game can return, because Pakistan is one of the greatest cricket-playing nations on earth, and it is such a shame that the young people of the country will be unable to watch their heroes at close quarters. Sport is a means to bring strangers together, whether it's a local football team or an international cricket team, but sadly it is increasingly becoming a target of terror.

In January this year I watched the news with horror as Togo withdrew from the Africa Cup of Nations following an attack on the team. The goalkeeper, bus driver and two staff members were all killed when gunmen opened fire as the team crossed the border into Angola. My heart went out to the players, staff and their family and friends. It also went out to all those football fans who would no longer be able to see their country take part in the most important football competition in Africa.

Fans around the world are united by their love of sport. Whether it's cricket, football, hockey or athletics; Sri Lanka, England, South Africa, Pakistan or Australia. A love of the game unites us, irrespective of the team we support. The attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team shocked cricket fans around the world, just as the attacks at the Africa Cup of Nations did nearly one year later.


Sri Lanka's assistant coach Paul Farbrace speaks during a press conference in Colombo, 20 August, 2007
Farbrace: "The images of that day will remain with me forever" © AFP
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That's why I am supporting Not In My Game, which is being launched to take a stand against terrorism aimed at sport. Not In My Game is a way for fans everywhere, from every country, every faith and every sport, to come together and say that whether at a street cricket match or at the world's largest stadium, there is no place for terrorism in sport.

Over the summer Not In My Game is organising community cricket matches across the UK, ensuring cricket continues to be played wherever and whenever possible. Anyone can take part: community groups, businesses, schools, sports clubs, families and friends. The games are taking place in cricket clubs, parks and streets across the country. Through these matches we are hoping to bring communities and sports fans together to take a stand against terrorism. Google "not in my game" or visit www.notinmygame.com to find out how you can get involved.

I was lucky. I will always be extremely grateful to the police who risked everything to save our lives. The poor guy driving the minibus, Zafar Khan, was not lucky. He was killed just for doing his job. Terrorism is indiscriminate. It threatens all sports fans, irrespective of which team they support or what country they come from.

When people hear about a bomb going off in a mosque in Lahore or Karachi, it's all too easy to think, "Well, it's not in London, so I can gloss over it." But we all need to realise that terrorism has a massive impact on every one of us, and not just when people we know and care about are caught up in it.

The vast majority of people in Pakistan - including those good men and women who looked after us after the attack and made us feel safe - have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. They want international sport to return to their country, and in many cases, they crave the escape it provides to get them through the tough times.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The media spotlight fell on us that day because of our high profile as international sportsmen, but not enough attention was given to those people who died, and those who continue to be affected by such a terrible event. But when Pakistan take on Australia at Lord's, it will serve as a vivid reminder that terrorism has currently got the upper hand, and this cannot be allowed to continue.

Join Not In My Game to clearly say that we will not stand by and let terrorists destroy our love of the game. Terrorism is bad for cricket, bad for sport and bad for our communities. For more information, visit www.notinmygame.com

Paul Farbrace served as Sri Lanka's assistant coach between 2007 and 2009

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2010, 3:25 GMT)

Great effort , really appreciate your love for the game and above all humanity , good going Paul Farbrace

Posted by   on (July 15, 2010, 1:14 GMT)

Wonderful Article. Only a person who has gone through all this can write this article. Hope terrorism goes away. It will one day. NEVER EVER IN MY GAME!

Posted by passionforcricket420 on (July 14, 2010, 8:48 GMT)

I appreciate your comments Mr Paul,I wish that more people think like you and people want cricket to return to Pakistan.Pakistani want to watch cricket in Pakistan and I felt bad for SL team.

Posted by Roamer on (July 14, 2010, 8:29 GMT)

Very nicely articulated message you have conveyed through this article and the initiative that you have taken... good to know there are people like you who are willing to express their views and working for a noble cause.

Posted by kapilesh23 on (July 14, 2010, 8:09 GMT)

great article ,i would like to pray for the policeman and the driver who lay there lives for the safety of the team .the restraint shown by srilankan team after the attack was the real sportsman spirit .this article should be read by all the people, there is a great message coming out of this article .

Posted by Apolloniac on (July 13, 2010, 17:44 GMT)

Good one Paul. Your sentiments mirror those of the millions of sports fans around our tiny planet. Let us hope that together, we call kick this plague out of it for every. Thanks for voicing our thoughts so well. I shall join "not in my game"

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 17:34 GMT)

its quite a heart wrenching article almost made me cry very beautifully written thanks Paul

Posted by KMMalik on (July 13, 2010, 16:49 GMT)

Great article Paul Farbrace, I could not stop myself to give my comments on it. You are a true sportsman and understand the feelings of sports loving people of Pakistan and world. Being a Pakistani I am so grateful that you showed the world what a common Pakistani have in mind about the sports and respect for the guests. I hope this bad time will go away soon and peace will prevail again. Thanks again for your great article and support for Pakistan and world of sports.

Posted by ww113 on (July 13, 2010, 15:58 GMT)

And Paul,I'm touched by your acknowledgement of the deaths of the Pakistani policemen during that attack.The restraint exhibited by the Sri Lankan team in the aftermath of the attack really endeared them to me.And even though I watched the drama unfold on TV,the images of that day will also remain with me forever.Thanks for such a wonderful article.

Posted by pradeep_dealwis on (July 13, 2010, 15:33 GMT)

nice article....remember watching that match...great double from samaraweera....and all of that...hope cricket returns to Pakistan , and hope it inspires more Pakistani' kids to be the Wasims and Anwars and Waqars that we loved seeing. even playing against our teams...

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 13:05 GMT)

Sir i salute you for the love of cricket youve shown in your article and your humane understanding of the grotesque issue of terrorism.... its high time the world started thinking more like you and less the way, the terrorists want them to.....

Posted by ww113 on (July 13, 2010, 12:23 GMT)

I sat glued to the TV screen all day.It was a great relief when I heard that the Sri Lankans had survived.But I was very very disappointed the way the PCB reacted,absloving itself of all responsiblity.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 10:46 GMT)

Thanks u Paul,,,,,,u r real crcket lover,,,,,every Pakistani feels sorry on that incident to u and every body in SL squad.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 10:45 GMT)

Hey Paul , Great write . Thanks a lot for highlighting who gave their lives in that day.

Posted by ozmanuzman on (July 13, 2010, 9:48 GMT)

Paul, I agree with you totally, I am with you and taking a stand & will invite others as well.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 8:18 GMT)

That's the Sportsman Spirit, Paul .. Keep it Up .. (Y)

Posted by waseemsarwar on (July 13, 2010, 7:53 GMT)

it was terrible, simply terrible, feel sorry for Sri Lankans because they came here to play when no other country was ready and they got that. I pray that soon cricket gets back in country and we may see Sri Lankans again playing in Lahore. its makes me feel shame like every Pakistani but still hats off to policemen wo sacrificed their own life to protect Guests.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 6:37 GMT)

We need more people to echo the same sentiments .. the sport is bigger than terrorism!

The media spotlight fell on us that day because of our high profile as international sportsmen, but not enough attention was given to those people who died, and those who continue to be affected by such a terrible event. But when Pakistan take on Australia at Lord's, it will serve as a vivid reminder that terrorism has currently got the upper hand, and this cannot be allowed to continue.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2010, 6:15 GMT)

Hi Paul Farbrace,

It is a great and noble initiative taken by you..one of the best articles i have read in Cricinfo..Let us stay united in our fight against terrorism.. keep up the good work and all the best to you..

Posted by rana_raza on (July 13, 2010, 6:13 GMT)

The wounds of the attack on Sri Lankan team are still fresh in our memories especially given that our Lankan brothers took all the risk and came to play when no one else was ready to visit the country; they accused no one for the attack, and the relations between the two countries remained friendly despite the attack. I remember seeing the candles lit at the Liberty roundabout many days after the attack. The memorial marble plaque there gives a sad look.

Thanks, Mr. Farbrace for understanding that Pakistanis, like any other nation, are a civilized nation, and that "the vast majority of people in Pakistan [...] have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism." I appreciate your concern for a nation which is mad for cricket; for a country where this beautiful game of cricket unites people in a way that has no precedent. I have joined and backed Not In My Game, and I request others to do the same and tell the terrorists that we do not support their repressive tactics

Posted by formanite521 on (July 13, 2010, 6:11 GMT)

Truly a great article...! Its nice to see that someone "non-Pakistani" has such views... Thanks Paul...!

Posted by A_S_M on (July 13, 2010, 5:49 GMT)

A really touching article, indeed! I am a Pakistan born living in Singapore and was really touched by Paul's description of the 2009 events. A eyes watered a little as I saw the humanity he was sketching through his article. The ability of Paul to shift attention to those who died in the terrorist attack - away from the media spotlight on the Sri Lankan team - is indeed something very brave. My heart and prayers go all out for everyone - the people who died (God bless them!) and the Sri Lankan team who must have felt terrible and shocked to have gone through such an experience playing against a team whose government and Sri Lanka have always enjoyed close 'political', cultural and sporting ties. I say let the people in Pakistan reform their leadership and governance first before any team visit their country for playing cricket. I, too, had been a victim of gunpoint robbery in my own home in Karachi around 2007, and I firmly believe the people of Pakistan need to rediscover themselves.

Posted by Paki_Cheetah on (July 13, 2010, 5:39 GMT)

Great article Paul...as a Pakistani and a cricket fan, I really appreciate your love for the game and support for Pakistan cricket to eventually return home, which as you said, is a uniting force for all of us. Its important to be vocal about such issues. Thanks!

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