Hockey New Zealand clears team for World Cup

February 21st, 2010 - 11:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Perth, Feb 21 (IANS) Hockey New Zealand, which raised security fears for the upcoming World Cup in India, has cleared the team’s participation in the event starting Feb 28.
The team will fly out of Perth Monday as originally planned.

Although some players have expressed concerns to management, Hockey New Zealand said they are trying to convince them that the safety of the players in Delhi will be taken care of.

After warning from a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda that athletes travelling to India are a potential target, Hockey New Zealand last week advised the squad to stay put in Perth, where they were playing warm-up matches against Australia.

New Zealand coach Shane McLeod told reporters Sunday that they would depart as scheduled and take their place in pool A when the tournament starts Sunday.

However, some unnamed players needed to be convinced it was safe to travel to New Delhi.

“We still have a couple (of players) we’ll talk to on a one-to-one basis just to make sure they’re in the right place and willing to go. To my knowledge there’s no one that’s not going,” McLeod was quoted as saying in media reports.

Hockey NZ has players on standby - in the event of injury - and if members of the 17-man squad opt against boarding the plane they can be replaced.

Sports psychologist Paul Smith, who has been in Perth in a managerial capacity, has been dealing with players worried about the trip.

“He’s got alongside what we consider `red flag’ players, the one’s that have concerns just to make sure they have an avenue to talk about and deal with it,” McLeod said.

McLeod was hopeful New Zealand, who open their campaign against Canada next Monday, would be able to stay focused despite an unsettling build-up.

“It has been a huge distraction. You want to concentrate solely on the hockey and to have that in the background is not ideal.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the focus on the hockey,” said McLeod, who felt the team would feel more comfortable once they arrived in the capital and realised the extent of security measures in place.

Earlier, Hockey Australia (HA) gave a go ahead to their team.

HA said they were told that there were “no credible threats” to the Feb 28-March 13 tournament and the hosts were taking “robust security measures” to ensure the security of the teams.

“The information from all sources is consistent. The advice states that there is a strong commitment and tangible evidence of the authorities’ ability to implement robust security measures to ensure our team’s safety at all times,” Australian news agency AAP quoted Hockey Australia (HA) in a statement Sunday.

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