Expecting 15000 spectators for a hockey match is being over-optimistic. But, that's what happened in the opening match of the Hockey India League in Lucknow on Saturday.
Sporting colourful attire, sunglasses, holding placards, they started thronging the Dhyan Chand Stadium since morning. Many were seen waiting for the gates to open.
Succumbing to the demand for tickets, the counter at the main gate remained open till the final hooter of the match between hosts UP Wizards and Delhi Waveriders. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
"Almost all the tickets were sold out," said Rakesh Singh, the man in-charge of the counter.
If the organisers were expecting the crowds to leave after the star-spangled opening ceremony, they were in for a surprise as after the 45-minute show - which had the likes of Katrina Kaif and Nargis Fakhri performing - the spectators waited for the 'real action' to begin.
"After a gap of almost 15 years, I have got a chance to witness a quality hockey match here," said Olympian Syed Ali.
One of the great dribblers of his time, Ali and players like Sujit Kumar, Rajnish Mishra, Mukul Lal Shah, Ram Prakash Singh to name a few, were amazed by the spectator response.
"It reminds me of the golden days of the game when we had a match against Pakistan at this venue during the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup in 1996," said Md Shahid, another hockey great.
"This match reminds me of the days when the national team for the World Cup had 14 players from Lucknow Hostel," he added.
The crowd response had even Delhi Waveriders' skipper, Sardar Singh, surprised. "Since Lucknow is the land of hockey, I was expecting good support. But, such a huge turnout has left me amazed," he said after the match.
Meanwhile, the supporters of both teams went home satisfied after the match ended in a draw. The UP Wizards were happy to halt the Waveriders' two-match winning streak. The Waveriders' New Zealand recruit, Simon Child, beat the Wizards' custodian with a reverse hit to put the visitors ahead in the seventh minute of the first quarters before the home team skipper, VR Raghunath, restored parity in the 24th minute with his trademark drag-flick.
Scores: UP Wizards 1 (VR Raghunath 25) drew with Delhi Waveriders 1 (Simon Child 7).