The simmering tension on the Indo-Pak border spilled over to the sporting arena with a rattled Hockey India (HI) deciding to send back all the nine Pakistani players taking part in the high-profile Hockey India League (HIL) following protests over the killing of Indian soldiers.
Following protests by Shiv Sena, which disrupted the training session in Mumbai, and invading of the turf by volunteers of a right-wing organisation of the inaugural match, Hockey India took the decision to send back the Pakistani players considering the “extra-ordinary circumstances.”
“After discussion with all the stakeholders, Hockey India and the Pakistan Hockey Federation have mutually decided to send them (Pakistan players) back due to an extra-ordinary situation which has arisen,” Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra told reporters on Tuesday.
“We took all on board before taking this decision. All have approved this decision. The contract money for 2013 will be paid in full to the Pakistani players and HI stands committed in guaranteeing the same. We and PHF have mutually decided to release the players so that they do not feel the mental stress and their performance are not affected,” Batra said.
Batra said the franchisees, who haved to release the Pakistani players, were free to seek their replacements.
“We will give the right to the franchisees, which own the Pakistani players, to ask for replacements. They can select from the reserve pool within their allocated budget,” he added.
HI had initially decided to send back the Pakistani players of Mumbai Magicians franchisee only but fearing that the league could be affected by disruptions, it took the decision to send back all the players.
The nine players who would be sent back are: Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and Imran Butt of Mumbai Magicians, Mohammed Rizwan Sr. and Mohammad Rizwan Jr. of Delhi Waveriders, Kashif Shah of Jaypee Punjab Warriors and Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool of Ranchi Rhinos.
The league ran into rough weather after the killing of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistan Army on January 8 in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mumbai Magicians, based in Mumbai, became the obvious target because of its large number of Pakistani players and the presence of right-wing outfit Shiv Sena’s stronghold on the city.
Over 100 Sena workers had protested against the participation of Pakistani players in the Mumbai franchisee and disrupted the scheduled practise session on Sunday. This prompted the team management to shift base to Delhi.
On the inaugural day on Monday, two supporters from Hindu Yuwak Sabha attempted to invade the turf at the National Stadium in New Delhi, the venue of the match between Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors.
The Mumbai team is scheduled to play its first match against Delhi in the capital on Wednesday. Their first home match in the tournament is scheduled for January 20, against the Punjab team.