Reacting strongly to Hockey India president Narinder Batra’s demand for an unconditional apology from Pakistan players for their boorish behaviour during last year’s Champions Trophy, former coach Shahnaz Sheikh termed it as an excuse to deny their players from playing in the HIL.
Batra issued a statement on Monday saying,”I would love to have Pakistan players but not with the kind of behaviour they displayed in the Champions Trophy. And they have shown no regret of that incident in writing or otherwise. I don’t want to politicise the issue but that kind of behaviour was unacceptable. Least we need an apology from them.”
“I am really disappointed at the statement given by Batra because I know him personally and he is a nice man. I think someone put these words in his mouth. I hope Pakistan players give India a befitting reply when we next meet them in a match,” an angry Sheikh told PTI on Monday.
“I don’t understand the need for this statement now perhaps it is one way for Hockey India to find another excuse for not allowing our players to appear in the Hockey India League, which is a letdown for them,” he said adding that may be Batra and Co are still finding it difficult to digest their defeat in the Champions Trophy semi-final.
Shahnaz was the coach of the Pakistan hockey team when the unsavoury incident happened in Bhubaneshwar with some of his players making obscene gestures at the spectators after defeating arch-rivals India in the semi-finals.
“I remember that after what happened post semi-finals of the Champions Trophy last December, the Pakistan Hockey Federation, myself and even the team expressed regret for the actions of some of our players. Two of our main players were also banned from the final by the FIH and it cost us the final,” Sheikh said questioning why do they need to apologising once again.
“We expressed our regrets and the PHF officials present there pulled up our players as well even though they had reacted to the boorish behaviour of a section of the crowd which kept on abusing them,” he made a counter-allegations.
Sheikh is also feeling bad as the vibes that they got from Indian players made him believe that Pakistan boys will be featuring in the cash-rich league.
“I met Indian players in Belgium and they were optimistic that Pakistani players will be invited to the HIL this year. They think that Pakistani players bring with themselves quality and it is good for commercial aspects too,” said Sheikh.
Sheikh, a former Olympian, who resigned as coach recently after Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games said he would expect Batra to review his statement and change his harsh stance.
“I don’t know who is dictating him to say such things. Pakistan and India can only solve the problems of hockey if they play a bilateral series,” he added.