KOLKATA: The two Pakistani players signed up for an ongoing professional kabaddi league in India will not turn up for their team in any match held in Mumbai and Pune due to “security concerns”, tournament organisers have said.
“Franchises will not field players of Pakistani origin for matches held in Mumbai and Pune,” said Mashal Sports, the organisers of Pro Kabaddi 2015, in a written statement to Dawn.
“This is in light of security concerns for the safety and success of the tournament while being hosted in Mumbai and Pune,” the statement said. The organisers, however, did not clarify what the “security concerns” were.
Both the venues are located in the western state of Maharashtra.
Mashal said the decision was taken “in consultation with the AKFI and the IFK” – the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India and the International Kabaddi Federation.
The move comes after the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena party protested against the inclusion of Pakistani players. The Bharatiya Janata Party, often labelled as a “Hindu revivalist” party, is in power in the state.
Last year, too, three Pakistani players participating in the inaugural season were kept away from matches in the state by their teams on account of the threat to them.
This year, both the Pakistani players have been bought by the Patna franchisee, the Patna Pirates. Of the two, Waseem Sajjad made his debut in the inaugural season in 2014, also for Patna, and was a key member of the team.
The other Pakistani for Patna this season, Nasir Ali, is a debutant in the Pro League, having been signed up the franchise owners for a fee of INR 800,000 (PKR 1.23 million).
However, Ali will not debut in Patna’s first match on Monday, given that it is in Mumbai (against Mumbai). He will have to wait for his team’s second game, against Bengaluru Bulls, in Kolkata on Wednesday.
While the Patna franchisees could not be contacted for comments, Kailash Kandpal, Team Director of Pune team Puneri Paltan, said the two Pakistanis “must be very good” as they had been bought for the league.
“But even if they sit out, their [Patna’s] bench strength is very good,” he said.
If Patna reaches the semis, the two Pakistani stars will have to sit out as the two semis, the final, and the face-off for the third and fourth positions will be played in Mumbai.
Top international participants from Japan, South Korea, Poland, Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also competing in the Indian league, seen as kabaddi's answer to cricket's IPL.
The tournament kicked off its second season on Saturday with Mumbai franchisee U Mumba pulling off a thrilling 29-28 win over defending champions Jaipur Pink Panthers.