India hockey colts pull out of Johor Cup due to presence of Pakistan
Hockey India (HI) on Friday announced its decision to not send the junior men's squad for the 2017 Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia, maintaining its stand of not competing in a tournament that features arch-foes Pakistan until receiving an unconditional apology for the neighbouring players' misbehaviours in the 2014 Champions Trophy.
HI's stand on not playing in a tournament featuring Pakistan had in January come in the wake of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) blaming the Indian federation for taking revenge on it for the 2014 incident in Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium by not giving them visas to take part in the 2016 Junior World Cup in Lucknow in December.
HI maintained that the PHF failed to submit the visa applications for its team 60 days prior to the start of the tournament as per the required deadlines as stipulated by the Indian government.
"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," HI spokesperson R.P. Singh said.
"Since the Sultan of Johor Cup is not a mandatory tournament, HI has decided that it will withdraw from the tournament. We had not brought up the bad behaviour on part of Pakistan during the FIH Champions Trophy in 2014 for a very long time. It is actually PHF who bring it up again and levy baseless allegations against HI to hide their own incompetence. It is about time PHF takes responsibility for its incapability."
This will be the second successive year where India will not be taking part in the tournament. India had won the tournament in 2015. This year, the tournament will be held in October.
Earlier, HI had clarified that it had put the matter of the 2014 incident -- in which some of the Pakistani players displayed their elation by taking their jerseys off and flashing their middle fingers at the crowd after defeating the hosts in the semi-finals -- to an end after then HI President Narinder Batra had a "meaningful dialogue with PHF representatives in the presence of Asian Hockey Federation officials in Dubai in November 2016".