Hockey India (HI) has decided to withdraw its junior team from the prestigious Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia (Oct 22-29) for the second year in succession after Pakistan refused to tender an apology for the “lewd and unprofessional behavior” of its team during the FIH Champions Trophy 2014 in Bhubaneswar.
India has taken a firm stand that it will not play Pakistan in any tournament unless the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) apologises for the Bhubaneswar incident where its players took off their T-shirts, used obscene language and one of them even showed the middle finger to the spectators after their victory over India in the semifinals.
The Indian team had emerged runners-up in the 2015 edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup, and had won the title in 2013 and 2014.
Tensions between the two federations had flared up in December last year as well after the PHF alleged that it was denied entry to the 2016 Junior World Cup at Lucknow because of what had happened in Bhubaneswar. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) had categorically denied PHF’s allegations, saying that the Pakistan team was denied entry because it had failed to submit the travel documents by the official deadline. However, PHF stuck to its stand that its team had been denied participate because Hockey India continued to harbour grudge following the Bhubaneswar incident.
In fact, HI had also released documents clearly showing that the PHF had failed to adhere to the deadlines for the submission of their visas within the stipulated time frame given by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, which states that “citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and stateless persons must submit their visa applications 60 days prior to the tournament to avoid rejection”.
All these allegations and counter-allegations vitiated the atmosphere and India decided to pull out of the Malaysia event.
Hockey India spokesperson, RP Singh, said in a statement: “By not fielding the Indian team at the Sultan of Johor Cup, we have stood our ground to not take part in any series against Pakistan until they submit an unconditional apology for what happened in 2014.
“Since the Sultan of Johor Cup is not a mandatory tournament, Hockey India has decided that it will withdraw from the tournament. We had not brought up the bad behaviour on part of Pakistan during the FIH Champions Trophy in 2014 for a very long time. It is actually PHF who bring it up again and levy baseless allegations against Hockey India to hide their own incompetency. It is about time PHF takes responsibility for it’s (sic) incapability,” said Singh.
Singh, however, said that playing against the arch-rivals in competitions sanctioned by the FIH is a different matter. Pakistan is one the 10 teams who will battle for supremacy in the Hockey World League Semifinals in London, starting June 15. It is the qualifying event for the 2018 World Cup to be held in India.
India and Pakistan are clubbed in Pool B and will face each other on June 18. Scotland, Canada and the Netherlands are the other teams in Pool B. Pool A comprises of South Korea, Argentina, England and China, Malaysia.