LAHORE: Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary Asif Bajwa said on Monday that Hockey India has made fool-proof security arrangements for the Super Hockey League and all nine Pakistani players featuring in it are safe and will soon be seen in action.
Talking to reporters here on Monday, Bajwa said he had discussed the matter with Hockey India secretary Narinder Batra soon after reports about an Indian extremist political party staging a protest against Pakistani players came out from Mumbai.
“But the Indian secretary had assured that foolproof security arrangements have been made for all the players and there is no need of worry,” said Bajwa.
Giving details, Bajwa said a small number of protesters (from Shiv Sena) staged the protest but it did not have much impact. “In the past too such kinds of protests could not damage any sporting event,” he said.
He also dispelled the impression that the bilateral series between Pakistan and India, which is scheduled to be held in March and April, would be hit by such protests.
“The two countries have signed an agreement for the bilateral series and it will be organized according to its schedule in March and April,” he said.
It may be mentioned here that four Pakistani players namely Imran Butt, Rashid Mahmood, M Tousiq and Fareed Ahmad are part of the Mumbai Magicians team, which is taking part in the six-team Indian Hockey League, started on Monday.
Soon after the protest started in Mumbai, the officials of the Mumbai Magicians took the players away from the place of the training camp.
Overall, nine Pakistani players are in India playing for different teams in the league. The league will continue till Feb 10.
Reuters adds: A new franchise-based Indian Hockey League faces the prospect of being forced out of Mumbai after heightened regional political tensions led to protests against Pakistani players competing in the IPL-style event on Sunday.
Following the latest outbreak of violence in disputed Kashmir, around 100 workers of the hardline right-wing Shiv Sena party protested at a stadium where the Mumbai Magicians team, who have four Pakistani players in their squad, were practising.
The players had to be whisked away and the team subsequently left Mumbai on Monday for New Delhi, where the inaugural match of the five-team Hockey India League (HIL) will be held.
Local organisers are unsure if they will be able to hold the franchise’s home matches in Mumbai if Pakistani players remain in the side.
“It does not depend any longer on the HIL and the players. It will now depend on the government of India’s stand and the government of Maharashtra’s stand,” Ram Singh Rathor, the secretary of Mumbai Hockey Association, told Reuters.
“I think it will be a very difficult situation if we have to play with the Pakistani players in Mumbai.” The Mumbai police said they had beefed up security at the practice venue after they became aware of the protests.
“We will not allow Pakistani players or artists to perform here,” Rahul Narvekar, a spokesperson for Shiv Sena, said.
Mumbai is scheduled to hold its first HIL match on Sunday but Rathor said that the issue needed to be discussed at the highest level of administration before they could proceed.
“Yesterday was only a practice session, so we could manage it. But what will we do if such things happen when the whole stadium is packed with spectators?” Rathor added.
“It is not only a question for the players but it has to deal with the safety and security of the crowd also.
“It’s always a problem in Mumbai if you are holding matches which have Pakistan players. I was speaking to the police and they also have their own concerns.”