Sena protests against Pak hockey players

FP

Shiv Sena workers on Sunday protested against the inclusion of four Pakistani players in the Mumbai team of the Hockey India League (HIL), which is set to kick off tomorrow.

Around 100 Shiv Sainiks gathered at the Mumbai Hockey Association Limited (MHAL) Stadium here and disrupted the practice session of the 'Mumbai Magicians' team which includes 10 foreigners.

"Pakistan killed two of our Armymen at the LoC last week. How can their players be allowed in our country? We will not allow Pakistani players in Mumbai," said Pandurang Sakhpal, Shiv Sena shaka pramukh, who was leading the protests.

The four Pakistanis in the 'Mumbai Magicians' team — Mahmood Rasheed, Muhammad Tousiq, Fareed Ahmed and Imran Butt — were whisked away to their hotel through a back exit, escorted by the police.

When a couple of Sena leaders were taken to the dressing room to assure them that the Pakistani players had left, one of them walked up to India goalkeeper P R Sreejesh and asked him if he was a Pakistani.

"Remove your cap. Are you a Pakistani?" he reportedly asked Sreejesh, who was wearing a cap and sporting a beard.

Mumbai Hockey Association official Ram Singh Rathor intervened, informing the Sainiks that Sreejesh was in fact India's top goalkeeper. The Sainiks walked out of the dressing room without apologising to Sreejesh.

While coach Ric Charlesworth had to cancel the practice session, the team, owned by the Dabur Group, is scheduled to leave for Delhi tomorrow.

"We did not see this coming. We were assured by the HIL board that they have sought all the necessary permissions regarding the participation of Pakistani players and we bid for them only after that," said Dabur Group's Mohit Burman.

The issue is set to be discussed at a high-level meeting between Hockey India and the stakeholders in Delhi tomorrow.

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