Karachi: The Pakistan Hockey Federation is confident that their players won't face any security issues during the cash-rich Hockey India League that started in New Delhi on Monday.
"We are confident that there will be no security issues for our players as the organizers of the league have promised the top security arrangements for them," PHF secretary Asif Bajwa told PTI.
Trouble broke out on Sunday when some workers of the Shiv Sena party protested outside a hockey ground in Mumbai where Pakistani players signed on to play for the Mumbai Magicians team were practising. According to one of the players, the Indian goalkeeper of the team stood up to the protesters who were demanding that the players be handed over to them. "We had to exit the ground through the backdoor to avoid the protesters," the player who didn't want to be named said on telephone from New Delhi.
The players than flew to Delhi with the rest of the team which plays in Delhi. But Bajwa said that they had been in touch with Hockey India who had assured them things were under control. "We are not worried because our cricket team also went to India recently and faced no problems whatsoever. The security was very tight. A handful of people protesting against our players can be expected at anytime," Bajwa said.
The PHF has not only granted permission to nine players to take part in the officially sanctioned HIL but also to some other players for taking part in the unofficial World Series Hockey. The nine players in the IHL include Mohammad Irfan, Imran Butt, Rizwan Junior, Rashid Mehmood, Fareed Ahmed, Mohammad Tauseeq, Shafqat Rasool, Rashid Shah and Rizwan Senior.
Bajwa said that senior players like Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed and others who had taken part in the inaugural World Series hockey had also been given permission to go to India. "These players signed three-year contracts with their franchises before March, 30th 2012 when the FIH declared the WHS as a unofficial league so they can go," he said.
Bajwa conceded that the PHF was in touch with Hockey India and was waiting to see developments when the Mumbai team played its first home match in Mumbai on Sunday. "It is the responsibility of the organizers to decide whether it is safe for our players to play in Mumbai," he said.
Tensions have escalated between the two countries since cross-border firing incidents began last week leading to some strong statements emanating from both sides. Interestingly, the Indian Hockey Federation which organizes the WSH and is not recognized by the FIH has also issued a statement demanding that Hockey India which is recognized by the FIH stops participation of Pakistani players in the IHL to protest the cross border firing incidents.
While the IHL is scheduled to began from today no dates have been given for the WSH. Rehan Butt who is signed up for the WSH said the players would monitor the situation before deciding whether to travel to India or not. "Even if we don't go for no fault of ours we expect to be compensated by the organizers accordingly," he said.