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‘Give visas or Pakistan won’t play Hockey World Cup in India’

Pakistan Hockey Federation has told its Indian counterpart that visas and security must be guaranteed to enable its team participate in the FIH men’s Hockey World Cup in Odisha in November-December 2018

other sports Updated: Sep 22, 2017 22:11 IST
Soumitra Bose
Soumitra Bose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
hockey,FIH,Hockey World Cup 2018
India's Mandeep Singh, left, and Pakistan's Muhammad Umar Bhutta in action during the FIH Men's World Hockey League match at Lee Valley Hockey Centre, London, on June 24, 2017. Pakistan have threatened to withdraw from the 2018 Hockey World Cup to be held in India in 2018.(AP)

New Delhi In the wake of the current political scenario, Pakistan’s participation in the FIH men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 seems to be in jeopardy. Although the World Cup in Odisha is more than a year away, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has demanded that its team get Indian visas on time and guaranteed full security.

Just like cricket, India and Pakistan continue to play in multi-team international tournaments. India beat Pakistan twice in the FIH Hockey League semifinals in London in June and will clash once more in Dhaka during the Asia Cup in October. But Pakistan’s participation in the World Cup is still unclear.

In an interview with Hindustan Times in June this year, PHF secretary-general Shahbaz Ahmed said how the failure to play a bilateral series has hurt Asian hockey. Both India versus Pakistan matches in June drew full houses in London.

“It pains to see how the climate of politics has hurt sport. Look at the camaraderie between India and Pakistan cricketers. It can be the same in hockey,” said Shahbaz.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation president Khalid Khokar on Friday threatened not to send its national team to India next year without assurance of foolproof security and easy procurement of visas, reports PTI.

The PHF president told the media that during recent meetings with FIH president Narinder Batra in Dubai, he had made it clear that Pakistan team should be guaranteed top security during the World Cup in India.

“We had a very good meeting as we conveyed all our concerns to Batra and other FIH member boards. I have made it clear to them that we want assurances from FIH that we will face no problems with procurement of visa and will be given top security during the event,” Khokar claimed to have told Batra, who is also the boss of Hockey India.

In a communication to Hindustan Times, FIH communication manager Daniel Parker said Pakistan have not raised any concerns and therefore issuing any assurances to PHF regarding security and visas did not arise.

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

In the past, Batra has expressed his reluctance to play hockey with Pakistan. On June 18, when India clashed with Pakistan in London in the Hockey league semis, the Manpreet Singh-led team wore black armbands to show its protest against attack on Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s black armband protest did not go down well with the international teams and Batra apologised for comments made on India-Pakistan relationship on social media.

In recent times, the Indian high commission in Islamabad refused visas to the Pakistan team for the Junior World Cup in Lucknow last year.

The FIH has clarified that Pakistan did not fulfill official obligations to secure India visas.

“The reason Pakistan did not participate in the men’s Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup was because the Pakistan Hockey Federation failed to provide confirmation that it 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,” wrote Parker.

The FIH official added: “Despite a number of correspondence and reminders, the PHF was not able to show that its 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.”

(with inputs from B Shrikant)

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 13:37 IST