World Series Hockey postponed to Feb 29

December 12th, 2011 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) Ending days of uncertainty, the World Series Hockey (WSH) was postponed Monday till after India’s Olympic qualifiers. It will now run Feb 29-April 1.

WSH was to take place Dec 17-Jan 22, but the dates clashed with the national camp for the Olympic qualifiers that began in Bangalore Sunday. The London Olympics qualification is from Feb 15-26 here.

All the national team players had signed up for WSH. HI had made it clear that the players who do not take part in the national camp would be not considered for the qualifiers.

IHF officials met top sports ministry officials Monday before firming up the postponement plan. The thinking in IHF as also the ministry is that the players should be allowed to play the qualifiers with a free mind. Both the government and WSH organisers did not want to be blamed if India did not qualify this time, having failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008.

The WSH organisers had showed willingness to tweak the dates, provided HI gave them an undertaking that it will not put any more hurdles in the players’ participation. This they had communicated to the sports ministry. The ministry is likely take it up with HI.

“The decision was taken keeping in mind the interest of the players, Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) president R.K.Shetty told IANS.

“We are in touch with the players and they all want to play in WSH. But we know how HI has gone about things. We do not want to put the players under any pressure before an important event like Olympics qualifiers and that’s why we have decided to hold the inaugural season of WSH after the qualifiers,” he said.

“We are extremely saddened by the intimidation tactics employed by HI to try and deprive Indian hockey players of an opportunity to earn a living by playing hockey.”

Shetty alleged that HI had deliberately shifted the dates of national camp. He said the camp for the Olympic qualifiers was to begin on Jan 24 and the WSH schedule was drawn on that basis. “This date was communicated by HI officials in writing to players as far back as March this year. Unfortunately, HI chose to reschedule the camp with the obvious intention of disturbing the players and their preparations for WSH.”

International players and coaches of the eight-city based franchise league have already started arriving. Shetty said that they will soon take a decision on whether to go ahead with the camp.

IHF officials had to convince the broadcasters, Nimbus, as also the franchises about the postponement.

“The primary objective of WSH is the reinvigoration of the sport of Hockey in India. The players are a very important stakeholder and post the request from IHF (on behalf of the players) we have had detailed consultation with our sponsors, franchises, team officials, match officials and other administers,” said Yannick Colaco, COO, Nimbus Sport.

“We are pleased to confirm the unanimous support of all our stakeholders to the adjustment of WSH dates.”

Indian ace Arjun Halappa said: “WSH is the best thing to have happened to Indian hockey. I am extremely grateful to the organisers for shifting the date after the Olympic qualifiers.”

“We were always committed to participate in WSH and the change in date ensures that there is no clash with our national duty,” he said.

The International Hockey Federation has labelled WSH an unsanctioned event. The Pakistan Hockey Federation has also asked its players not to participate in the league.

Rehan Butt, ace Pakistani player and captain of the Chandigarh team, said: “The fact that WSH has taken this decision to help solve a big quandary for the players makes me extremely happy and it augurs well for the future of the tournament.”

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