There is a strong likelihood of the Pakistan hockey team competing in the Junior World Cup at Lucknow from December 8-18 after the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) go-ahead. But this is subject to the “political situation” and the governments of the two countries.
International hockey federation (FIH) president Narinder Batra said that the PHF had given its team the all-clear to compete in the World Cup but it all depends on the political situation.
Speaking to HT from Islamabad, PHF chief Khalid Mehmood said, once the Indian High Commission in Islamabad gives the green signal, the travel itinerary will be finalised. “The youngsters are training hard for the event,” he said.
The PHF is yet to decide on whether to travel by road from Amritsar or take a flight from Lahore to Lucknow via New Delhi. Clubbed in Pool B, Pakistan play the Netherlands in their opening match on December 9. Belgium and Egypt are the other teams in the pool.
After the Pathankot and Uri terror attacks, relations between the two countries deteriorated further. On providing security to Pak players during the FIH meet, Batra said, “It’s the job of the host nation to provide adequate security to all teams. Safety of competitors is paramount.”
Asked about a contingency plan in the event of Pakistan withdrawing, he said “If the team doesn’t come, there will be a backup… two replacement teams are always there,” he said, adding “It depends on the governments of India and Pakistan but most likely Pakistan will play here,” he said.
On the issue of the FIH ‘home-and-away’ league, involving 7-9 top hockey-playing nations, as planned by FIH, Batra said that the option of a neutral venue could be discussed with Pakistan “if they are willing, and they should decide upon the venue,” he said.
He said that all issues relating to the controversy arising out of the 2014 Champions Trophy semifinal at Bhubaneswar had been resolved with the PHF and “no issues remained”. “We met before the FIH elections in Dubai and resolved all the issues.”
Asked if Pakistan players would now be able to take part in the Hockey India League auction, Batra said, “It depends on the franchises. There is only a mini-auction involving 8-10 players tomorrow for the next edition of HIL, so no Pak players are there in it,” he said.