Belgian hockey team leaves security baffled in superstitious midnight escapade
Hours after they lost to India in the quarter-final of the Hockey World League Final here on Thursday, some members of the Belgian team scaled the boundary wall of the team hotel past midnight and walked a kilometre looking to sneak into the Kalinga Stadium.
They had dabbed their faces with black paint and, according to eyewitnesses, would have scared the wits out of anyone who would have seen them in such a state.
Their mission, it was learned, was to get to the middle of the turf, where they had lost the match, and stare at the goalposts. This, they claimed, would bring them luck for the next match. But before they could enter the stadium, they were stopped by the stadium security guards. The police too reached in no time.
By doing this, not only did the players — Belgium are ranked third in the world — expose them to the risk of being targeted by miscreants, it also sent the security personnel into a tizzy.
Fortunately, the world hockey or team officials did not take any stern action and the players returned to their hotel after the police was convinced that it was nothing beyond an innocuous misadventure.
“About 12-13 Belgian players had dodged security at Sandy’s Towers hotel and walked up to Kalinga Stadium. We got information about it and rushed to the spot. We requested them to go back to their hotel,” Satyabrata Bhoi, DCP, Bhubaneswar told HT. The players were driven to the hotel under police security.
“I think the players wanted to hide their identity. They were stopped at the main gate of the stadium around 1.00am and denied entry by the stadium security till the police arrived,” said a security official.
“I was shocked to see the bunch with painted faces standing in front of me. They didn’t do anything, only requested me to allow them inside the stadium, but I didn’t. They kept requesting me… we called the police,” a security guard told HT.
An official of the Hockey World League Final organising committee said it was purely an issue of belief and superstition of the team. “The players hold a belief that if they revisit the venue of their loss unnoticed at night, they would win the next time they step on the field,” he said.
However, Belgium skipper Thomas Briels tried to downplay the incident. “Yes, we went out of the hotel for a walk and came to the stadium just for fun. There was no problem,” he said.
Former India captain Jagbir Singh said: “I never heard of such an act by any team. We used to go to a temple, mosque or gurdwara before major events but never had such superstitions.”
It appears that even though the Belgians could not enter the stadium and stare at the goalposts, the charm worked as they beat Spain 1-0 in the play-off match for the fifth place on Saturday evening.
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