KARACHI: The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has issued no written or verbal instructions to national sports federations whether their teams or players should play or avoid Israel if drawn in the same group in international events abroad, it emerged on Wednesday.
This came to light when Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif came across Israel’s Shachar Ruberg in his last Group ‘H’ encounter of the IBSF world snooker championship in Bulgarian capital Sofia on Wednesday.
Though the Pakistani cueist won 4-1, his match against an Israel player raised quite a few eyebrows back home.
Previously, tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi was threatened with a ban by the Pakistan Tennis Federation for partnering with Israeli Amir Hadad for the 2002 Wimbledon and US Open. However, no disciplinary action was taken.
It is pertinent to mention that during the past, even at the cost of losing points or the event, Pakistan often used to skip the match against Israel if drawn in the same group in global events.
“Pakistan stayed away at least twice in the men’s team events of the world table tennis championships held at Novisad in 1981 and at Tokyo in 1983,” veteran official of the Pakistan Table Tennis Federation (PTTF) S. M. Sibtain told Dawn when approached for comments.
Asked whether oral or written instructions were issued by the then PSB hierarchy regarding competing against the Israeli players, he replied in the affirmative.
“Yes, there are standing instructions of the government not to play Israel if drawn in same group,” he quoted the then PSB official who issued directives to him on a long distance telephone call from Islamabad when informed about the draws.
Recalling the repercussion of the 1983 event, he said the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was bent upon disqualifying Pakistan for awarding a walkover to Israel, terming it “unfair and against the rules” of the world governing body.
Sibtain said he handled the issue tactfully then, which saved Pakistan’s affiliation.
“Ask the Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU) why they have not given affiliation to Israel when it technically features in the Asian region and why has the nation come into the ITTF fold from Europe?” was the argument put forward by Sibtain to the ITTF.