Pakistani hockey stars leave for India to play in WSH

KARACHI: Defying Pakistan Hockey Federation’s directive, top players of the country has left for India on Wednesday to play in the unsanctioned but lucrative World Hockey Series.

Top players Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abassi, who were named in the probable list for the London Olympics camp that begins on Wednesday in Islamabad, have obtained visas to travel to India.

“We have decided to take part in the World Series Hockey after much thought because it is the future of our families that we have to put first,” Butt said.

The senior forward is to lead the Chandigarh franchise in the USD 2 million WSH that begins in Chandigarh later tonight.

Besides, Rehan and Shakeel, other Pakistani players who have decided to play in the league include seniors Zeeshan Ashraf, Mohammad Imran, Waseem Ahmed and Imran Warsi.

Butt, who was a member of Pakistan’s Beijing Asian Games gold medal-winning team, said playing for the country always comes first for him, but WSH offers hockey players an opportunity to strengthen their financial stability.

Butt requested the PHF to reconsider its decision of not allowing players to participate in the month-long league to be held in different cities of India.

“Look this is the most we can earn in our long careers and I think we deserve this chance because we have to keep in mind the welfare of our family,” he said.

“I have played international hockey for over a decade but I will earn more in this one league,” Butt added.

Butt is guaranteed a payment of 10 million rupees if his team wins the league title, but he will still get five million rupees even his team does not do well.

“I have not earned that kind of money in my entire career,” he said.

A PHF official, however, said that the federation’s stance remained the same and any Pakistani player participating in the league would be banned immediately.

“We can’t recognize this league until the International Hockey Federation (FIH) sanctions it. Our hands are tied being a member of the FIH,” the official said.