ANDHRA PRADESH

Indo-Pak battlefield shifts to Gachibowli stadium

HYDERABAD Oct. 26. It's time for the war of wits to give way to the battle of grit, temperament and character. For sure, diplomacy and peace moves will take a backseat for next 24 hours. The focus shifts from the Siachen Glacier to Gachibowli Hockey Complex.

The `war' is sure to have a captive audience in front of television sets of almost the entire population in both the countries. The stage is set for the biggest contest of the Afro-Asian Games when arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash in the men's hockey match here tomorrow at 8.00 p.m. True to occasion, the entire venue will get a new look as the mascot, Sheroo, will be placed all over in the vicinity.

"We will make optimum use of the big occasion to sell the Games through this encounter," says K.V. Ramana Chary, convenor of the media and publicity committee. Both teams have already qualified for the knockout phase and this league match has no bearing on the qualifiers but an India-Pakistan clash is always special.

Despite the best of efforts by the two captains, Dilip Tirkey and Nadeem Mohammad, to play down the importance of the match as one of those routine encounters, the strong undercurrent of the intense desire to settle some old scores is palpable in the two camps.

The intensity of the battle can well be gauged at the venue that is already drawing good crowds.

The organisers have decided to have tickets for Rs. 50 each to let in about 4,000 more spectators against the existing capacity of just 500. Team managements can always dismiss Indo-Pak battles as confined only to playing arenas. But, heads have rolled in the past, particularly across the border after a disastrous loss to India. Of course, vice-versa is also true.

It is now being acknowledged in private conversations that the players were told to behave decently, not to lose their temper or make any move that might trigger off a war of nerves. There is an advisory to sport smiling faces to ease the tension.

Apart from tensions on and off the field, the match could be high quality fare as the Pakistan coach, Tahir Zaman, pointed out: "People love to see the Asian teams display their graceful style. Let us play more frequently at least for that and this in a way will ease the tensions between us." Pakistan has a better record against the hosts in this part of the country, winning twice on the three occasions they have played.

Free admission

Our Staff Reporter writes: Meanwhile, the Games Commitee has decided to allow the public to watch all events at the stadia free of cost except the hockey match, according to a press release.

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