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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Onus on FIH chief Narinder Batra to mend fences with Pakistan hockey

Pakistan hockey chief, Shahbaz Ahmad, blaming India for being kept out of last year’s junior World Cup shows frustration, but India’s FIH head, Narinder Batra, can reach out and settle issues.

other-sports Updated: Jan 30, 2017 19:11 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Narinder Batra, current FIH president, was earlier the head of Hockey India.
Narinder Batra, current FIH president, was earlier the head of Hockey India.(PTI)

What is it between the newly-elected international hockey federation (FIH) president, Narinder Batra (who previously headed Hockey India), and the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) that the two keep coming to ‘blows’ every now and then, as if they were in a boxing ring.

Much like the ‘blow-hot-blow-cold’ political relations between India and Pakistan, HI and PHF too pour out their litany of charges ever so often it seems they keep their list of grievances ready even before any difference of opinion emerges.

On Monday, Hockey India again raised its demand for an unconditional apology from the PHF for the unprofessional behaviour of its players during the 2014 Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar. Pakistani players had taken off their shirts and made obscene gestures at spectators after defeating India in the semifinals.

Knowing the limit

Players taking off their jerseys on a football ground is something we have seen countless times, not to forget Sourav Ganguly’s shirt-waving from the Lord’s balcony in 2002 to tell the world India can no longer be intimidated. However, offensive gestures are in bad taste, and should be condemned.

Pakistan hockey has already suffered a lot because of that.

Today, none of their players are allowed to play in the lucrative Hockey India League (HIL) and bilateral series between the two countries has remained discontinued for ages.

Sufferings give rise to outpourings but PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmad’s allegations his team was denied participation in the junior World Cup in Lucknow late last year because of the Bhubaneswar incident is more a knee-jerk reaction, giving vent to frustration.

Embracing differences

Batra may have quit as HI president to take up the global role, but he still has enough clout in the national body to dictate the dos and don’ts.

While it was unfortunate Shahbaz Ahmad chose to raise an issue that was ‘sorted’ at the FIH Congress at Dubai last November, where Batra was unanimously elected president in a three-horse race, the Indian administrator should also see the bigger picture --- of promoting and popularising the game --- than trying to ‘discipline’ a federation for its comments.

The PHF secretary’s remarks could have been more out of frustration as his players have been in hockey wilderness for a long time now. The Pakistan team has struggled with scant finances for a while now.

Shahbaz, before making such a sweeping statement, should have known it was the PHF that had erred in completing their visa formalities for the junior World Cup. Pakistan’s non-participation last year was a matter of rules and regulations “regarding visa applications and other formalities not being adhered to within the stipulated period of time”.

However, Batra, who now plays a far bigger role in hockey administration, should not push for an ‘unconditional apology’ and instead look at ways to integrate Pakistan hockey with the mainstream. It will not just be good for India but for world hockey as well, as we all have seen – and heard – about the wizardry of players from the two countries.

First Published: Jan 30, 2017 19:11 IST

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