KARACHI: Insecurities stemming from advancing age and limited opportunities of playing competitive hockey have forced the disillusioned Pakistan hockey players to revolt against the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) decision to ban the World Series Hockey (WSH) starting in India.
The PHF’s stance was in accordance with the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) wishes that since the WSH was being organised by the unrecognised hockey body, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), it was illegal.
Only the FIH-recognised Hockey India (HI), being the sole national governing body for the sport in India, was really authorised to hold official tournaments there. The decision wasn’t changed even after the two rival hockey associations — IHF and HI — merged in July.
On Thursday, the disheartened former Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf, under whose leadership the green shirts won the Asian Games gold in Guangzhou, China, last year, met a few members of the media just ahead of his departure for India from the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport in Karachi.
Confirming all rumours about his participation in the league, Zeeshan said that hockey was a means of earning for him so he was going to India to explore better prospects there. He regretted that even winning the Asian Games hockey event last year couldn’t change things for him.
Zeeshan was accompanied by Adnan Maqsood while the other six players await Indian visas.
Speaking to Dawn on Thursday, Rehan Butt said playing in a banned league was no problem for players like him who already felt banned due to all kinds of restrictions imposed on them.
“You tell me, what do I have to look forward to here? I am not playing international hockey, I don’t have a central contract and as per the PHF’s new laws, I am also prevented from playing in domestic tournaments because I am over 30 years of age now. The walls have really been closing in on me.”
Rehan, who represents Wapda, added: “My department has no problem with my playing in the league since I am not playing any domestic matches for them anyway. They are willing to give me leave.”
About his date of departure, Rehan informed: “I was waiting to hear from the Indian embassy today. Now I think I have to go to Islamabad in order to request them to speed up the process.”
Two other senior players, Shakeel Abbasi and Waseem Ahmed, are also scheduled to join the WSH after representing Pakistan in the current Champions Trophy in Auckland, New Zealand.
The WSH featuring eight teams commences on December 17 and concludes on January 22.