LAHORE, Jan 16: All nine Pakistan hockey players, who had to pull out from the ongoing Hockey India League due to security concerns in India, arrived here on Wednesday.
While Kashif Shah arrived through the Wagah Border, the remaining eight players arrived in Lahore from New Delhi by air; they were Imran Butt, Rizwan Senior, Rizwan Junior, Rashid Mahmood, Fareed Ahmed, Mohammad Tausiq, Shafqat Rasool and Mohammad Irfan.
Though all the players did not criticise the HI decision to send them back amid security concerns in India due to rising tensions between Pakistan and Indian armed forces along the Line of Control (LoC), they did express their disappointment over missing the league.
“We did not face any security problems in India, and [therefore] we are disappointed for not taking part in the league,” Imran Butt, Rashid Mahmood and others said while praising and terming HI’s role positive.
The Pakistan players hoped that they would feature in the next edition of the league, expecting the relations between the two countries would return to normal.
The tension owing to the intermittent skirmishes between Pakistan and Indian armed forces along the LoC in the disputed Kashmir region has been prevailing for the last one week or so, which also affected their bilateral political relations.
A group belonging to extremist party Shiv Sena along with some other political parties in India staged protests against the inclusion of Pakistan hockey players in the league in Mumbai, which eventually forced the organisers to shift the match to Delhi.
Finally, HI after mutual consultation with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Tuesday decided to release Pakistan players from the league amid continuing tensions between the two countries over the LoC clashes.
The defensive attitude of the Pakistan hockey players might well be the result of the policy adopted by the two federations to avoid further damaging the bilateral relations as both have recently agreed to hold the bilateral hockey series in March and April this year.