By B Shrikant
Mumbai, Oct 4 (IANS) When India hosted the FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup in Lucknow in 2016, Pakistan had to pull out of the event as the team did not get visas to travel to India allegedly because of a delay in applying to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
With Bhubaneswar set to host the 2021 edition from November 24-December 5, and Pakistan’s junior men’s team qualified for the event thanks to an invite by the Asian Hockey Federation after it was forced to cancel the Junior Asia Cup due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has already initiated the process to secure visas to its player with over six weeks to go for the event.
India and Pakistan have a chequered history when it comes to giving visas to their teams for the events they host. Relationships between India and Pakistan hockey federations have deteriorated since the controversy over the misbehaviour by Pakistan players during the Champions Trophy in 2014 at Bhubaneswar. Both teams have not played bilateral matches for more than a decade and only play each other in tournaments conducted by FIH.
Despite all this history behind them, PHF is hopeful that its team will get the visas to travel to Bhubaneswar for the World Cup.
“We have sent the relevant documents to both FIH and Hockey India for them to endorse them so that we can take the process forward. There are minor issues with the passports of two players which we will resolve in a couple of days,” Asif Bajwa, secretary, PHF, told IANS on Monday.
Bajwa said they will approach the Indian High Commission in Pakistan once they get the documents from FIH and Hockey India.
He said he is hoping that the team will get a chance to play in the Junior World Cup.
“We want to play and we are expecting that the Indian government will give us visas in time to participate in the Junior World Cup. The players are currently engaged in the KPK League and the camp will start in Karachi from October 15,” he said.
Asked what kind of problems the team will face as it has not got to play any exposure matches against international teams due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bajwa said that Covid-19 is a global problem and every team will be impacted by it. “It’s a challenge for everyone and we will tackle it like everyone else is doing. As a sportsperson you have to be ready for such challenges,” he said.
Another reason why PHF is feeling optimistic about getting visas to travel to India is the problems the country had with the international shooting federation (ISSF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) when two shooters from Pakistan were denied visas to participate in the 2018 ISSF World Cup and the Kosovo team was denied a chance to take part in women’s boxing world cup in New Delhi in 2019.
With Australia and New Zealand withdrawing from the event due to Covid-19 travel restrictions by their governments, losing Pakistan due to visa issues may not be a good advertisement for FIH and Hockey India.