Shaqeel Abbasi loves scoring goals. “I love hockey,” the Pakistan forward says. To play the game he loves, Abbasi took a significant decision to defy the authorities back home and report at the Major Dhyan Chand National here on Thursday.
Here to play for Delhi Wizards in the World Series Hockey, Abbasi lost no time in familiarising himself with his team. He knows some of them. They too! “I am here to play hockey for Delhi. I am sure the crowd would encourage and appreciate,” said the Pakistan forward as he took a break to interact with the media.
It was not just the lure of money. It was the desire to play in India that forced Abbasi to ignore the national camp at home at the risk of being banned.
“I know that threat is there. There could be problems for us. But when we had signed up (for the WSH) there were no legal issues. The PHF (Pakistan Hockey Federation) has been nice to us. We hope the FIH (International Hockey Federation) encourages such events.”
Abbasi, who has led Pakistan, reiterated the “commitment” part. “I had accepted the advance payment and was committed to the WSH. By not coming I would have fallen in their esteem.
“Money was a factor, but it is also true that we don't have any events in Pakistan (to clash with WSH). This is a good event and we can use it for Olympics preparation.” Abbasi pleaded that the authorities keep the interests of the game in mind.
“Hockey should be spared all the legal wrangles. Such events are important for the betterment of not just Pakistan and India but world hockey too. Such events bring money, fame and dignity to a hockey player.”
At home in India
On the tournament, Abbasi noted, “It will bring players of many nationalities together. Money is not everything. Sport creates bonding among players. We have always loved playing in India. We feel at home in India. The crowds like the Asian style. India-Pakistan matches are pressure matches, but they also help a player grow in confidence. It will be nice to have the (top) Indian players in the WSH. They will bring in spectators and more quality to the competition.”
Missing from the Delhi practice were Gurbaj Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh, while Ignace Tirkey, S.K. Uthappa and Sandeep Singh did not turn up for Karnataka Lions.
Delhi plays Karnataka Lions at the National Stadium on Friday (7 p.m.) with the venue far from ready. The organisers could not even provide the players' list on the eve of the tournament and there was no information on the sale of tickets. “We should get the tickets tonight,” said an official. Tickets, hopefully, and spectators too!