While waiting in the long queues to enter the Dubai International Stadium under the scorching sun, both sets of fans were greeted with rhythmic beats from a group of Sri Lankans.
It was the famous Papare Band from the island nation, playing the trumpets and the drums two hours before the first ball was bowled in the DP World Asia Cup final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan on Sunday.
And their choice of music resonated with the fans.
Moving ahead as a group, the band members kept their heads down and belted out Ek, Do, Teen (One, two three) from Tezaab, the 1988 Bollywood blockbuster that made a young Madhuri Dixit an overnight star across South Asia.
The Papare Band is not new to the UAE.
This group of talented musicians has been entertaining cricket fans in almost all Sri Lankan matches in the UAE for many years.
Nalin De Silva, a UAE-based Sri Lankan expat, is among a group of cricket fans that raise money for the Papare Band’s cricket tours.
“This is the Papare Band, wherever we go to watch cricket, we take them. They are a unique band. We have this concept, whenever there is a Sri Lanka match, the Papare band has to be there,” De Silva, who is proud of sharing his second name with legendary Sri Lankan batsman Aravinda, told Khaleej Times.
“We travel a lot for cricket, we have our jobs here. So we sponsor their trips. They don’t live here. They live in Sri Lanka. We raise money for their trips. This time it was very expensive. For tickets alone, we had to spend more than three thousand dirhams per person.”
The Papare Band was a big hit with the fans during the T20 World Cup as well in the UAE last year.
“There are five of us who have coordinated to bring this band from Sri Lanka. We also got them to the UAE during the last World Cup,” De Silva said.
“We just wanted to entertain our Sri Lankan fans. If there is a cricket match, there needs to be entertainment. And if there is no Papare Band, then there is no entertainment.
“That’s why we always try to bring them to Sri Lankan matches.”
A couple of Pakistani fans then hugged the band members and posed for pictures with them.
De Silva says the band not only entertains fans in matches, but it also brings people together.
“We try to raise the money ourselves to bring them for Sri Lanka’s matches. Sometimes, when other people come to know about our plans to bring them, they also contribute. So we have received support from many other people as well,” said De Silva who is now planning to take the band to Australia for next month’s T20 World Cup.
“Yes, of course. Now we want to make it bigger and we want to make some more noise,” De Silva smiled.
“In Australia, we have a big number of Sri Lankan people. We hope to get more people to support us and take this talented bunch of musicians to Australia for the World Cup. That will be amazing.”