Daily Dispatch

The ultimate sport fanatic

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Desperate times call for desperate measures and colourful cricket superfan Shoyab Ali has had to deploy a full arsenal as he follows his beloved Bangladesh around the globe.

The 31-year-old Dhaka car mechanic, known at grounds worldwide for his tiger body and face paint, has injured himself, paid a bribe and spent his life-savings to pursue his passion for the game.

But Ali insists there has been more gain than pain, and he is determined to become a fixture at the World Cup in England, cheering on the South Asian nation, who begin their campaign against South Africa on Sunday.

Ali fixed the car of Bangladesh fast bowler Shahdat Hossain, who gave him a ticket to his first game, which turned out to be a landmark. Bangladesh defeated India by five wickets in Dhaka even though Sachin Tendulkar ended his long wait for his 100th internatio­nal century in the Asia Cup game.

“After Bangladesh won, I cried in the stand for a long time. I saw the famous Indian fan Sudhir Gautam,” he said, referring to the India superfan who also dons body paint in national colours. “I decided I will be like him and watch every game Bangladesh plays.”

Since then Ali, who left school at 13, has missed just one home game and not many abroad. It has brought an innings of adventures.

In his first match abroad in 2013, Ali saw Bangladesh avoid defeat for the first time in a Test in Sri Lanka when they claimed a creditable draw. Before that match, Bangladesh had lost eight Tests in Sri Lanka – seven by an innings margin.

He arrived in Sri Lanka with just $250 (R3,652) in his pocket and spent several nights sleeping in the garage of a Sri Lankan fan. Bangladesh players and officials gave him money for food throughout the tour.

Travelling to Zimbabwe the same year, Ali left his visa support documents at Dhaka airport. In Harare, the Zimbabwean immigratio­n authoritie­s decided to send him back. The tricks started. “I bribed an official $10 (R146) just to let me make a call. Then I called the Bangladesh team officials to explain my situation.

“They were at the training ground and promised to see if they could help,” he said.

“Then I realised no immigratio­n authority would send back a sick man.

“I hit a wall with my head to make myself collapse and acted as though I was unconsciou­s to buy some time.

“After spending a night in the airport, the Bangladesh officials brought my documents.”

Australia would not give him a visa to go to the 2015 World Cup, but now Bangladesh businesses are happy to sponsor his trips and Ali hopes his presence will help the team in England. –

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 ?? ZAMAN Picture: AFP/Munir UZ ?? IN HIGH SPIRITS: Bangladesh­i cricket fan Shoyab Ali gesturing while waving a Bangladesh­i flag atop a building in Dhaka.
ZAMAN Picture: AFP/Munir UZ IN HIGH SPIRITS: Bangladesh­i cricket fan Shoyab Ali gesturing while waving a Bangladesh­i flag atop a building in Dhaka.

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