Hockey

Veterans demand strict action against Pakistan players

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The need to educate young hockey players regarding on-field behaviour gained support from some veterans of the game following the incidents involving members of the Pakistan team that beat India in the Champions Trophy semifinal in Bhubaneshwar.

“I was stunnned,” said Mervyn Fernandes, member of the team which won the bronze at Amstelveen in 1982, the only time India has won a medal in the Champions Trophy. “Obviously, the emotions were high, hence such reactions. But they were unacceptable. They certainly harmed the image of the game.” said the famed striker.

For Aslam Sher Khan, the behaviour of the Pakistan players was “shocking” because it came after the team had won. “The gestures were obscene and shameful. I can't imagine a player reacting in such a disgusting manner on the field. What message did the Pakistan players give to the young minds in the audience? I can understand there was pressure. But this was no way to disrespect the public,” said Khan, who famously scored the equaliser in the 1975 World Cup against Pakistan.

Zafar Iqbal, proud member of the team that won the 1980 Olympic gold at Moscow, wanted strict action against the Pakistan players guilty of indecent behaviour. “The boorish players should have been banned for some period and not just one match. The coach (Shahnaz Sheikh) should have known well. He has past experience of having been punished for unsporting acts on the field,” said Zafar. At the Munich Olympics in 1972, Sheikh was one of the 11 Pakistan players banned for life for showing disrespect to the Garman Flag and also handling of the silver medals presented to them.

Former India great, Mohammad Shahid said, “I condemn this act by some of these Pakistan players. They are not a patch on some of the greats from their country like Hassan Sardar and Shahbaz (Ahmed). They played great hockey and remained grounded. What are we to gain from playing against this set of mediocre Pakistan players? We are better off not playing such teams. You learn nothing, really.”

Calling for at least a two-year ban on the guilty Pakistan players, Shahid observed: “Such indiscipline is not good for the image of the game and is unpardonable, because it was disrespect to our nation. We are known to respect our guests and this Pakistan team did not deserve it. I felt so sad when I saw the boorish Pakistanis on the field react after having won the match. How can you insult people who have come to watch you play? We beat them in the Asian Games (at Incheon) but showed such grace. There is no room for such despicable behaviour in sport.”

Zafar was livid too. “FIH should have taken a stronger action against the errant players. Punishment is necessary as a deterrent. Losing or winning is not everything. Can you call them sporting ambassadors? Removing your shirts and indulging in lewd gestures is unpardonable. Such players can never be role models even if they win the world.”

Khan expected the Pakistan team to show humility. “I don't remember a team reacting so indecently after winning a match. No one cheated against them or humiliated them. There was no provocation for them to react in such a manner. I think the fault also lies with their administrators who did not brief them on behaviour. I will not say we should not play hockey. We should play them and beat them on the field. That would be the best lesson to players who bring a bad name to the game.”

Fernandes agreed. “Players have to be educated in public behaviour. You do things in the heat of the moment and realise later you should not have. The players conducted themselves well until the final whistle was blown. Good behaviour must be insisted. It is a requirement now,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:22:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/veterans-demand-strict-action-against-pakistan-players/article6691453.ece

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