Charlesworth hits out at protests

Charlesworth hits out at protests

Charlesworth hits out at protests

The escalation of tension along the borders of India and Pakistan resonated in the hockey field with Hockey India League’s Mumbai Magicians forced to switch base to Delhi on Monday morning following the disruption caused by Shiv Sena workers because of the participation of the Pakistani players in the HIL.

 Sensing trouble, Hockey India (HI) chose to bring the entire Mumbai Magicians squad to the capital a day in advance. They are scheduled to take on Delhi Waveriders in their first match here on Wednesday. An infuriated Mumbai Magicians coach Ric Charlesworth wondered whether the protests are similar to the ‘apartheid’ that was practiced in South Africa and questioned how a few people could run the country.

Out of the nine Pakistani players in the HIL, four are in the Mumbai franchise, namely Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and goalkeeper Imran Butt.

“Our whole team got together for the first time yesterday and we could not even practice. They (Shiv Sena) started protesting and police asked us to leave the stadium. We had to come here earlier than schedule," the legendary Australian player and coach told Deccan Herald after his team’s practice in at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium stadium on Monday evening.

"As a youth I had protested against the South African team because of their apartheid policy. Are these protests not similar to those as you are opposing on the racial basis? If a handful of people are allowed to run the country, what can I say?”

Asked whether he had spoken to the Pakistani players in the team, Charlesworth said:  "Yes, it is very embarrassing for them. I would have felt the same had I been in their place. We were asked to pick the best team and that is what we did. These are among the best players in the world. If you had to do such things, then why hold an auction at the first place?”

The organisers are already in a fix over the sudden development. One of the options mulled by the HIL is to not to field the four Pakistan players during their first match in Mumbai on January 20, against the Jaypee Punjab Warriors.

“This is what we are thinking. We have been left with no choice. It is not easy to replace players at this juncture. It takes a lot of time. These players are central to our scheme of things,” said Charlesworth.

Meanwhile, Pakistani players have been barred from speaking to the media on the matter.  Sarvanjit Singh, a Mumbai player, however said there is apprehension among the Pakistan players after the incident. "Naturally there will be fear in the players. We would have felt the same if someone had held protests against us," Sarvanjit said.

The incident has also put the proposed bilateral hockey series between the two countries this year under a cloud.