So far, the hockey World Cup was largely about an India team split wide open by the issue of who should be captain. On Thursday, security fears ensured that the tournament continues to be in the news for the wrong reasons.
England have made participation optional for players and staff because they think India may not be safe. A top team official said pulling out of the tournament, where they play Australia on the opening day on February 28, is an option. Just like they did at the World Badminton championships in Hyderabad last year.
“We are going to be part of an event where security is an issue. Staff and players have been briefed and we have given individual choice to players and staff if they wish to attend the World Cup or not,” the team's high performance director David Faulkner said.
England Hockey (EH) has sought detailed information from FIH, hockey’s world body, on specific issues like security arrangements for the team on arrival and transportation plans at the team hotel and the venue.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Faulkner said they are waiting for details about security. “We would like to see what the finer details of the plans are, what would be there on the ground when it comes to the team’s security.”
Faulkner said they are in touch with the British High Commission in New Delhi for inputs. “We have ourselves put in place some processes. We have done lot of work in this regard.”
Faulkner said no deadline’s been set for a final decision. “We still have a week’s time before the team leaves for Doha for a final camp. There is some time and we are hopeful of getting the details soon.”
That England aren’t the only ones talking about security is apparent from FIH arranging for a ‘full security briefing” for all 11 participating teams.
“We are in constant contact with the teams and the authorities in New Delhi regarding security issues since we allocated the Hero Honda FIH World Cup to India in 2007. We also have planned a full security briefing to the participating teams in the next few days,” said Arjen Meijer, FIH’s communications manager.
Sports ministry officials too confirmed teams’ concerns. “We will soon reply to their concerns and I am confident they will be satisfied,” said an official who can’t be quoted be cause he isn’t authorised to speak to the media.
Should a team still pull out, the FIH said the show will go on.
“If a team unfortunately takes the decision to withdraw, the tournament regulations for FIH World Level Events will come into action,” said Meijer. That means the next highest ranked team in the FIH World Rankings will be invited to fill in.