January 14, 2013

Far Right Shiv Sena Thugs Out to Disrupt India Pakistan Sport Ties

From: The Times of India

HIL teams don't field Pakistan players in opener

HIL teams don't field Pakistan players in opener
Shiv Sena activists protesting against Pakistan during the Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors inaugural match. (PTI Photo)
NEW DELHI: The controversy surrounding the participation of Pakistani players threatened to engulf the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) with the Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors not fielding their Pakistani players in the opening encounter of the high-profile league at the Dhyanchand National Stadium on Monday.

Adding to the drama was an on-field protest during the game. Claiming to be members of a certain Hindu Sena and Hindu Yuva Sangathan, two men raised slogans and waved banners asking for the Pakistani players' to be sent back. They even threatened to smuggle in and use firearms if the Pakistani players were on the field.

The names of Mohammad Rizwan Sr. and Mohammad Rizwan Jr (Delhi) and Kashif Shah (Punjab) were missing from the team sheets for the HIL opener.

Monday evening's development added to the growing uncertainty over the Pakistan players as Mumbai Magicians team shifted base early this morning, after their four Pakistanis players were heckled by Shiv Sena supporters in Mumbai on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, Punjab coach Barry Dancer told TOI that the Pakistan players had arrived in India just three days ago and could be played later in the tournament.

While team officials also suggested that the coach would use them on a rotational basis as the league progressed, their absence on Monday raised quite a few eyebrows. Despite all the glitz and glam of the opening ceremony, the organizers were tight-lipped over the status of the Pakistani players in the wake of the Mumbai incident.

Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra, who is also the chairman of HIL governing body, declined to say anything, but a source in the know revealed that the organisers did not ask the teams to play it safe. "HIL can't ask teams to drop players. The selection of the squad is the prerogative of the team," the source told TOI.

Despite no official word on the issue, there was speculation that the Pakistan players may not be fielded at all in the month-long league.

Officials in the Delhi camp were first silent over the issue. "We will talk about it later," was their official's reply. But their coach AK Bansal said after the match: "If somebody reaches at 8 in the morning, how can I play him in the evening?"

The Mumbai players, here for the second encounter on Wednesday, were undecided about their future after they were not allowed to train in Mumbai on Sunday. "We have not been told anything yet, and nothing is decided yet," said a player on condition of anonymity, "We'll take a call (to return or stay on) after our opening match here."

Later, as the league kicked off, two protestors entered the field of play which took the organizers by surprise. The ease with which they entered the pitch and absence of adequate police force only highlighted the poor organization in the light of the day's controversial turn of events.

"We are not against hockey or any Indian player. We are protesting against the decision to take Pakistani players when they are killing our soldiers at the border," said one of the protestors who were joined by a small group outside the stadium gates.