A week after the newly-appointed International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Narinder Batra confirmed their participation, the world body said they had ‘withdrawn Pakistan’s invitation’ to the junior World Cup, which begins in Lucknow next week. Malaysia have been named as the replacement side for the 16-team event that will be held from December 8 to 18.
In a release, the FIH said they had held ‘considerable discussions’ with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), but did not receive necessary confirmations.
Interestingly, PHF’s executive secretary Zain Aman had told The Indian Express hours before the FIH decision on Monday that the team’s itinerary had been finalised.
“We have applied for the visas long back and are in touch with the Indian embassy. As soon as we receive our visas, the team will leave for India,” he said. He was unavailable for comment later.
FIH, on the other hand, said PHF were late to apply for visas and had not even completed the formalities for finalising of accomodation at the host city. “Visas had been applied for after the official deadline and no accommodation was confirmed within the set deadlines. Despite a number of correspondence and reminders, the PHF was not able to show that their team would be able to travel to Lucknow for the event which begins in only a few days’ time,” the FIH said in a statement.
Pakistan’s participation in the junior World Cup was always shrouded in doubt even though they had qualified for the event. PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed had earlier said the ongoing tensions between the two countries and the daily cross border incidents were a matter of concern.
The last time a Pakistani side in any sport travelled to India was in December 2014, when the hockey team took part in the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar. Their kabaddi team pulled out of the world cup in October due to security fears following a series of protests against Pakistani nationals by political groups after the Uri attacks.
The decision to remove Pakistan from the World Cup comes days after Batra was elected as the FIH president with an overwhelming majority. He had claimed to have received support from Pakistan.
Although he had said that the FIH had received confirmation from their Pakistani counterparts, Batra acknowledged they had ‘two or three’ back-up teams ready to replace them. “FIH has substantial contractual obligations to its partners to deliver a full number of matches at the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016. With the event starting in only a few days’ time, today was the last possibility for FIH to ensure the quality of the event, with a full complement of 16 teams playing in Lucknow,” the FIH said.