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Pakistan hockey stars withdrawn from India League

January 15, 2013

Rashid Mehmiid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Touseeq, Imran Butt, Mohammed Rizwan senior, Mohammed Rizwan junior, Kashif Shah, Muhammed Irfan, Shafqat Rasool, hockey india league, pakistan hockey, pakistan hockey federation, phf, hockey, india hockey, mumbai hockey association
Fareed Ahmed (pictured) was among nine Pakistani players who were bought by various franchises in the Hockey India League. -Photo by Reuters

NEW DELHI: Nine Pakistani players were on Tuesday withdrawn from a new field hockey league in India and asked to return home in the wake of protests following border tension between the arch-rivals.

None of the Pakistanis featured in the opening match of the Hockey India League (HIL) in New Delhi on Monday and officials said they will not take part in the entire four-week event.

“Due to extraordinary circumstances, it has been decided to send the nine Pakistan players home,” Hockey India chief and the league's main organiser Narinder Batra told reporters in New Delhi.

“The interests of the players will be protected and they will be paid the full fees due to them. It was a mutual decision between us and the Pakistan Hockey Federation.”

The 34-match HIL, sanctioned by the sport's world governing body, features top stars from around the world playing for five city-based franchises till February 10.

The cities in the fray are New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Ranchi and Jalandhar.

Four Pakistanis, Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and Imran Butt, were hired by Mumbai. The others were Mohammed Rizwan senior and Mohammed Rizwan junior (Delhi), Kashif Shah (Jalandhar), and Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi).

Trouble began on Sunday in Mumbai when the city's franchise was forced to cancel its team's practice session after protests from the right-wing nationalist Shiv Sena party.

The entire squad, coached by Australian Ric Charlesworth, shifted base to New Delhi as league organisers speculated whether Mumbai could host the six matches allotted to it, the first one scheduled for January 20.

“I have no idea what will happen, but it will not be easy to play the matches in Mumbai if the Pakistanis are there,” Mumbai Hockey Association official Ram Singh told AFP earlier on Tuesday.

Tensions between India and Pakistan were heightened last week by a series of cross-border exchanges in disputed Kashmir in which four soldiers were killed.