What’s the story?
The Indian hockey team, for the second year in a row, will not feature in the Sultan Johor Cup owing to the presence of the Pakistan side. The competition will be held in October in Malaysia and since it is an invitational tournament, Hockey India decided to withdraw the side in protest.
The ties between the hockey federations of the two neighbouring countries had been soured considerably due to events in the last few years and a statement from Hockey India spokesperson RP Singh clarified that India will pull out from the Sultan Johor Cup after it didn’t receive any apology from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).
He said, “By not fielding the Indian team at the Sultan of Johor Cup, we have stood our ground to not take part in any series against Pakistan until they submit an unconditional apology for what happened in 2014. Since it is not a mandatory tournament, Hockey India has decided it will withdraw from the tournament.”
In case you didn’t know...
The Sultan Johor Cup is an U-21 tournament, which is not held under the aegis of any regulatory body such as the Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH) or any continental association. India have won the tournament twice in 2013 and 2014, with Australia clinching victory last year after defeating Pakistan in the final.
The heart of the matter
The controversy began at the semifinals of the Champions Trophy in Bhubhaneshwar in 2015 where Pakistan defeated the hosts and their players took off their shirts and made obscene gestures at the spectators in the stadium.
The incident was raked up again earlier this year in January after the PHF’s allegations regarding the denial of visas to the Pakistani players for the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow in December 2016, which India won. The PHF had alleged that India did not want Pakistan to participate in the tournament, which was rejected outright by Hockey India.
It was after this claim that the Indian body refused to take part in any competition that featured Pakistan until they issue an unconditional apology for what happened three years ago. HI’s statement also said that it is the PHF who bring up the matter to hide their own incompetency and that it should take responsibility for its incapability.
For the second year running, the Sultan Johor Cup will not feature the Indian junior team. It remains to be seen how the PHF will respond to HI’s statement.
It is a step in the right direction taken by the Indian authorities and it has stood firm on the promise it had made previously. What happened in the Champions Trophy semi in 2014 was utterly disgraceful and a show of apology for it must be given by the PHF.