Pakistan Hockey Federation’s newly elected Secretary Shahbaz Ahmed says he will look to repair “strained relations” with Hockey India when he visits the neighbouring country during the South Asian Games next month.
The former Pakistan captain and Olympian told PTI in an interview that he had avoided contact with HI since taking over three months back because of the freeze on cricketing ties between the two countries.
“I didn’t feel it was the right time to touch the Indian hockey officials. Their top official Narendra Batra also didn’t come for the Asian hockey federation meeting recently,” he said.
“But our priority remains to improve relations with India and I am planning to now go for the SAF Games where our hockey team will be present,” Shahbaz said.
Batra made it clear few months back that Hockey India would not entertain bilateral ties with Pakistan until the PHF apologised for the unsavoury incident that took place after the semi-final of the Champions Trophy in India in December 2014.
Some of the Pakistani players came under fire when their celebrations went overboard after the team beat India in the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
“I read Batra’s statement and I think maybe there is still something that happened there that we don’t know about and when I go to India and meet Batra, I plan to find out the reason for his strong stance,” the former forward said.
Shahbaz took over as secretary and Brigadier (retd) Khalid Khokar came in as President in the PHF after Pakistan failed to qualify for the Olympic Games at the World Hockey League in Belgium last year.
“There is no doubt that India is now a powerhouse of world hockey in terms of money and I also intend to see how their Indian hockey league works as we are also planning to launch our own small professional league this year,” he said.
Shahbaz said that it was unfortunate that Pakistani players were not part of the HIL but noted nothing could be done until bilateral relations between the two countries improved.
“We are facing a financial crunch and we are doing our best to restore the credibility of the sport in Pakistan and we see India as an important part in our plan to revive and restore Pakistan hockey to its glory days,” he added.