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Jan. 24, 2019 — The Pakistan debacle

As we mentioned yesterday in Unfiltered, the story about the Pakistan men’s field hockey team dropping out of the FIH Pro League is actually the second change that has occurred in the lineup of the league since it was introduced last year.

And it’s led to a very, very unhealthy perception in hockey circles that the FIH has gone a bridge too far in moving a major qualification from a single-site tournament to the round-robin, home-and-home series which is seen in FIFA and many other international sports.

Pakistan was put in a difficult position even before the competition started, as security concerns surrounding the team and its opponents led to the FIH making Pakistan play its home fixtures in, of all places, Scotland. This means near-constant travel for the squad, which costs money.

Now, according to some media reports in the wake of the withdrawal, it’s been alleged that, depending on which account you read, there’s a pool of funding of anywhere from $720,000 to $4,200,000 that the Pakistani government was sitting on, but, because Pakistan Hockey Federation president Khalid Khokar was chosen for the post by the previous Pakistani government, the current regime was not willing to part with the funds.

This is the kind of political pressure that is frowned upon by world governing bodies of the sport; there have been times when FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has suspended entire nations such as Iraq, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone because of government interference in how soccer is run.

One of FIFA’s more recent suspensions? Yup, Pakistan.

It’s too bad the hockey powers that be in the country didn’t realize what they were in for; it’s now possible that the two-year suspension for withdrawal from the Pro League could also affect the team’s eligibility for the 2022 FIH World Cup.

But what this episode is also doing is putting a black mark on the Pro League so soon after its first game last weekend. The perception is going to be of an enterprise which may have been oversold and which may wind up draining the resources of the national governing bodies of field hockey in the participating countries.

I’m pretty sure Pakistan isn’t the only nation which will find it difficult to shuttle teams from nation to nation over the next seven months.

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