Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi said on Wednesday the arrest of an Indian student for wearing a shirt bearing his name was “shameful,” but would not deter the subcontinent’s cricket-mad fans from supporting rival players.
Ripon Chowdhury, 21, was arrested on Sunday in Hailakandi, a small town in Assam state, while watching a local cricket tournament after his shirt angered a Hindu nationalist group.
“A complaint was lodged against him by a local right-wing outfit. We arrested him based on the complaint but gave him bail immediately,” a source told AFP on condition of anonymity, refusing to confirm media reports that Chowdhury had been charged with obscenity in a public place.
Afridi, whose mighty sixes and all-or-nothing approach to batting earned him a huge following across the cricketing world, slammed the move. “It was shameful to arrest a fan for wearing my shirt,” the 36-year-old told AFP. “Such incidents don’t suit civilized people.”
He said fans in both India and Pakistan put the sport above the often-fraught relations between their countries and admired each others’ players. “You cannot stop fans from supporting a player by arresting them,” he said. “Sports and politics should be kept apart and such incidents go against the principles of sportsmanship.”
Afridi himself landed in hot water with home fans for saying he got “more love” in India than he did in Pakistan, ahead of a crucial clash in the World Twenty20 in March.
In January a Pakistani fan was arrested for waving the flag of India after his idol Virat Kohli struck a match-winning knock against Australia. Umar Daraz, 22, was charged with sedition and faced up to a decade in prison, but was later quietly released by officials in Okara.
Relations between the two nations have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants. Cricketing ties have also been on hold since Pakistan made a short tour in 2012, though the two teams do play against each other in tournaments involving other countries.