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Has Pakistan started mind games over 2018 Hockey World Cup?

India will host the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Odisha. Pakistan’s participation may be in jeopardy given the current political bitterness between the neighbours.

other sports Updated: Sep 22, 2017 19:51 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
2018 Hockey World Cup,India vs Pakistan,Pakistan hockey team
The Pakistan hockey team has threatened to withdraw from Hockey World Cup due to security concerns.(Getty Images)

Though there is more than a year to go for the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar, mind games between all stakeholders seem to have already started with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) firing the first salvo over participation of its team in the quadrennial competition.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation President Khalid Khokar has claimed to have raised these issues during his recent meetings with India’s FIH President Narinder Batra in Dubai and threatened to withdraw its team unless FIH and Hockey India give specific assurances over security and visa.

READ | Pakistan demand visas, threaten to withdraw from 2018 Hockey World Cup in India

However, FIH has claimed, as late as Wednesday, that it has not received any communication from Pakistan, or any other member association, expressing concerns over security or seeking any assurances over their participation in the 2018 World Cup.

In response to a set of questions sent by Hindustan Times last week, FIH’s communications manager Daniel Parker said Pakistan has not raised any concerns and therefore there was no case for issuing any assurances to PHF regarding security and visas.

Excerpts:

Is it true that some FIH members have expressed concerns regarding the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar over security and other issues?

We have not received any concerns from any of our member associations.

Is it true that Pakistan has raised the issue since its team qualified for the 2018 World Cup considering that it does not have bilateral sporting relations with India?

We have not received any correspondence from Pakistan regarding this matter.

Has FIH given any assurances to Pakistan regarding its participation in the World Cup?

Without any concerns noted, there has not been any need to give any assurances. We expect that every nation which has qualified for the World Cup will complete all necessary paperwork ahead of our deadlines in order to confirm their participation in this event.

Has FIH sought any assurance from Hockey India and Government of India regarding teams participating in the 2018 World Cup, especially as FIH was forced to replace Pakistan for the FIH Junior World Cup for Men in Lucknow last year?

The reason Pakistan did not participate in the men’s Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup was because the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) failed to provide confirmation that they had the necessary arrangements in place to be able to participate in the event. To remind you, they had applied for visas for the event after the official deadline and no accommodation was confirmed within the set deadlines.

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Despite a number of correspondence and reminders, the PHF was not able to show that their team would be able to travel to Lucknow for the event. Like we do with all our events, we will be reminding all qualified teams to provide the necessary paperwork confirming their participation well in advance of the deadline for next year’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

It is clear from Parker’s response that Pakistan has not only not raised any issues regarding security and visas with FIH or Hockey India, but its president has gone to town over the issue, threatening to withdraw the team.

The FIH has also made it clear that PHF is to be blamed for its team being dropped from last year’s Junior World Cup in Lucknow and not the other way around.

By raising the issue of security and visas with more than a year to go, PHF seems to be building up a case for dumping the blame for any failure to send its team to Bhubaneswar at the doorstep of Hockey India and FIH.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 17:51 IST