Former Pakistan captain Rehan Butt made one thing clear when he was named captain of one of the eight World Series Hockey (WSH) teams last month - he would not take part in the league launched by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports unless it got the sanction from the international body.
Though International Hockey Federation (FIH) still considers WSH an "unsanctioned" event, Butt has firmed up his mind going by the agreement between the league and FIH that allows players signed before April 1, 2011 to participate if they don't have any commitment towards their national squad.
"It is a great opportunity for the players from the subcontinent to play in a world-class league. As bilateral series between India and Pakistan have not been held for a long time, this is a chance for the players to play together and promote the game in both the countries," Butt said on phone from Pakistan.
Asked how he considered the WSH, with a majority of Indians, good practice for an international event, Butt said, players in the subcontinent are very skilful and such matches help youngsters gain confidence. "That is why matches between India and Pakistan are still relevant. They are hard-fought and attract large crowds."
Though Butt was confident that the WSH would go ahead as scheduled, he admitted that he was yet to get clearance (NOC) from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). "When I raised the issue with them recently, they said 'don't want to talk about it now'. But there is a lot of time for the event. I am confident PHF will have no objection," Butt said.
The mercurial forward, who was named in the FIH All Star team, however, said playing for Pakistan in the Olympics was his priority. "London will be my last Olympics. So I can't allow anything to jeopardise my chances, as Pakistan has clinched a direct berth," he said.
Seven join league
Besides Butt, seven other Pakistan players - Zeeshan Ashraf, Mudassar Ali, Tariq Aziz, Adnan Maqsood, Waseem Ahmad, Syed Imran Warsi and Shakeel Abbasi - have signed up to play in the WSH. Though the list includes some of the top players in Pakistan, the name of drag-flicker Sohail Abbas - who was the star of the first edition of the Premier Hockey League in 2004 - is conspicuous by its absence.