Shiv Sena protests against Pak players in Hockey India League

Shiv Sena protests against Pak players in Hockey India League

The IPL-style Hockey India League today hit a road block with Shiv Sena supporters protesting against the participation of four Pakistani players in a scheduled practise session of 'Mumbai Magicians' team here.

The Pak players, who arrived in the city early this morning, were in the dressing room at the Mumbai Hockey Association Stadium when over 100 Shiv Sena activists staged protests.

The officials soon got in the act and had the players leave the place through the adjacent Wankhede Stadium. Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut confirmed to PTI that it was Shiv Sena workers who staged the protest.

Hockey India Associate Joint Secretary Manoj Bhore said a committee headed by Hockey India secretary general and Hockey India League chairman Narinder Batra would meet to discuss the issue.

"The next course of action is that we will be having a meeting. We have informed the higher-ups in Delhi. Let them decide, because Pakistani players are not only in Mumbai team, but in some other teams as well. If this happens in Mumbai, it can happen at other places also," he told PTI.

"It's a concern. I doubt if they will be able to play. Even they are quite upset. Ric Charlesworth (coach of Mumbai Magicians), is disturbed. Let's see now what the decision will be," Bhore stated.

Asked if the four players contracted by the Mumbai franchise would leave tomorrow morning to Delhi where they are scheduled to play their first match on January 16, he said, "We haven't finalised that yet. We will see what happens in the meeting between the franchise owners and the committee." Mumbai Magicians, a franchise of Hockey India League, has signed up Pakistani players Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and Imran Butt. In all, nine Pak players including these four, were contracted to play in the league.

The Burman family, promoters of FMCG major Dabur India, is the owner of the Mumbai franchise. Dabur Group Director Mohit Burman was surprised by the protest and said he did not anticipate it.

"I didn't anticipate any protest. Hockey India League had assured us that all parties involved had been spoken to and clearances taken," he told PTI via an e-mail interaction.

"I am sure we will be able to sort out the things through dialogue," Burman, who is in Dubai, said. The inaugural edition of the six-team HIL will be played on home and away basis from January 14 to February 10.

This is not the first time when Shiv Sena has staged a protest, objecting to Pakistani sportsmen playing in India. In October 1991, Shiv Sena had dug up the pitch at Wankhede stadium to protest against an India-Pak match which was scheduled to be held there.

In 1999 too, protesters from the party dug up the pitch in Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in protest, though the match was not affected.

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