Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013
Last update 14 January 2013 10:24 pm
MUMBAI: A new franchise-based Indian hockey league faces the prospect of being forced out of Mumbai after heightened regional political tensions led to protests against Pakistani players competing in the IPL-style event on Sunday.
Following the latest outbreak of violence in disputed Kashmir, around 100 workers of the hard-line right-wing Shiv Sena party protested at a stadium where the Mumbai Magicians team, who have four Pakistani players in their squad, were practising.
The players had to be whisked away and the team subsequently left Mumbai on Monday for New Delhi, where the inaugural match of the five-team Hockey India League (HIL) will be held.
Local organizers are unsure if they will be able to hold the franchise’s home matches in Mumbai if Pakistani players remain in the side.
“It does not depend any longer on the HIL and the players. It will now depend on the government of India’s stand and the government of Maharashtra’s stand,” Ram Singh Rathor, the secretary of Mumbai Hockey Association, told Reuters.
“I think it will be a very difficult situation if we have to play with the Pakistani players in Mumbai.” The Mumbai police said they had beefed up security at the practice venue after they became aware of the protests.
“No players are there in Mumbai currently. We will hold discussions with the HIL and understand their plans and make arrangements accordingly,” Ravindra Shishve, the deputy commissioner of police (Zone-I), said by phone.
“It is too premature for me to speak about the details of the arrangements.” Mumbai is scheduled to hold its first HIL match on Sunday but Rathor said that the issue needed to be discussed at the highest level of administration before they could proceed.
“Yesterday was only a practice session, so we could manage it. But what will we do if such things happen when the whole stadium is packed with spectators?” Rathor added.
“It is not only a question for the players but it has to deal with the safety and security of the crowd also.
“It’s always a problem in Mumbai if you are holding matches which have Pakistan players. I was speaking to the police and they also have their own concerns.”