Three senior Pakistani hockey players could face the axe from next month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup because of their apparent association with an unsanctioned league in India.
Sources in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) said on Sunday that its top brass has decided to take stern action against the players, who have signed contracts with the World Series Hockey (WSH) in India in spite of the federation’s repeated warnings to stay away from the event. The players have already been sent show-cause notices by the Federation.
“The PHF is unlikely to show any leniency to the players who are associated with WSH,” said a well-placed source.
Pakistan’s top hockey stars, meanwhile, are mulling over their future plans after receiving show-cause notices from the PHF Saturday.
Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed and Shakeel Abbasi have been instructed to explain their position following reports that they have entered into contract with WSH.
“We have issued show-cause notices to the three players for having contractual obligations with an unsanctioned league in India,” said Asif Bajwa, the PHF secretary.
“We have asked them to clear their position by April 28. The PHF will decide whether to take action against these players after receiving their explanation.”
The trio are a part of Pakistan’s preliminary squad for next month’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. They are three of the team’s most senior players but are unlikely to make the cut in the final squad because of their ties with WSH.
“Our message to any player who thinks he can flout rules is loud and clear,” stressed Bajwa, a former Olympian. “There is no place for anybody in Pakistan hockey who thinks that he is bigger than the game.”
Sources close to the players revealed that the players, who are in the twilight years of their international career, are in fix. “They want to continue their Pakistan career but the money being promised by WSH is really tempting, especially for hockey players who are quite under-paid,” said a source.
According to a report in ‘The News’ Sunday, Butt will be the highest paid player from Pakistan if he decides to stay on board with WSH. He has signed a contract of $25,000. Abbasi’s contract is worth $22,000 while Waseem will get $20,000.
The players with links to WSH are looking at making around six to eight million rupees by featuring in the inaugural season because they will also get shares from a prize purse of $3 million besides receiving other allowances.
“It might not sound very big if you compare it with what international cricketers earn these days but for hockey players it’s a huge amount,” said a source.
“That is why it will be really difficult for these players to make their choice."
Butt, Abbasi and Waseem are not the only Pakistani players with links to WSH. There are several more including Zeeshan Ashraf, the experienced fullback who led Pakistan to their first Asian Games title in 20 years in China last year. Another former captain
Muhammad Saqlain and Olympian Adnan Maqsood are also on the list.
Spurned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), WSH is a joint venture of a sports management firm and the unrecognised Indian Hockey Federation. It is trying to rope in 60 top international players besides local Indian talent.