CHENNAI: A day after media reports from Pakistan raised doubts over the country’s participation in the upcoming hockey World Cup in India citing lack of funds, the game’s world body’s (FIH) president Narinder Batra and Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary, former skipper Shahbaz Ahmed, allayed fears on Friday.
They told TOI that the Pakistani team will surely take part in the World Cup that will be held in Bhubaneswar from November 28 to December 16.
“I don’t know where did this imaginary report come from? I am the president of FIH but I have no information about any such development, PHF has never contacted me to inform about their inability to come to India for the World Cup. As far as FIH is concerned, Pakistan are going to play in the World Cup,” Batra told TOI on Friday.
The agency report from Karachi had said on Thursday that Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) refusal to come to the help of cash-strapped national hockey team had raised a question mark over their participation in the World Cup. It added that PHF was now hoping that Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan would release funds for the hockey team.
“I don’t deny that PHF has some issues related to funds but there is not one iota of truth in the story that we are not going to play in the World Cup due to financial problems. It’s an utterly false report and I, as the secretary of PHF, vehemently deny it. Do you believe that a four-time World Cup champion team will not participate in such a big event? I have never given such statement to the Pakistan media. You can be rest assured that Pakistan is coming to India,” said Shahbaz, who led Pakistan to 1994 World Cup gold and was also a member of the bronze-winning team in Barcelona Olympics.
According to Shahbaz, the matter is with the Prime Minister and the approval will come soon.
“You must understand that release of funds by the government takes time. The PMO is looking into the matter. We have a PM who himself is a legendary cricketer and regarded all over the world for his achievements. He understands our concerns better than anybody else in the country. Moreover, we have plenty of millionaires from Pakistan living across the world and I am sure they will come forward when the national hockey team needs their support.
“But we may not need that at the moment as PHF is confident that funds will be released shortly by the PM,” said Shahbaz, the only player in the history of hockey to win two consecutive ‘Player of the Tournament’ awards – in the 1990 World Cup in Lahore and the 1994 World Cup in Sydney.
When asked about visa issues, Shahbaz said the applications were sent more than a month ago to the Indian High Commission.
“There is no visa problem. We have completed all the formalities and hopefully we’ll receive the visas within next week,” Shahbaz said.