Monday, February 22, 2010

Pakistan travel to India

LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb 22, 2010 (AFP) - Pakistan’s hockey team left for New Delhi on Monday for the tenth World Cup starting next week, with the one-time world champions hopeful of a comeback after years of disappointment.
An 18-man squad led by full-back Zeeshan Ashraf will play arch-rivals and hosts India on Sunday in the opening game, amid diplomatic tensions between the neighbours.
“It is a tough test for us, but we have prepared extensively and hope that by winning the World title we will revive our hockey,” said Ashraf.
Pakistan, who have won a record four world titles, have faded badly in the last decade.
Their last major title was in 1994 at the World Cup in Australia and they finished eighth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, their worst-ever placing.
The tournament hosts are hardly faring any better and have not won a major title since the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
“We are hoping that this World Cup revives Asian glory,” said Pakistan Hockey Federation secretary and team manager Asif Bajwa before the team’s departure.
“Pakistan and India are two important countries in Asian hockey and must do well to lift the standard.” Pakistan boast the services of penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas, who has a world record tally of 306 goals.
This will be the Pakistan hockey team’s first visit to India since 2006, and Bajwa said the players will be heading to India as “ambassadors of peace.” “Players have always been ambassadors of peace and we hope to play hockey without any fears and hope that Indo-Pak sporting ties are revived,” said Bajwa.
“When Pakistan plays India it always sparks interest and I hope it’s a very good match which gives a kick start to the event.” Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals have simmered since a November 2008 attack on the Indian financial capital Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
The two nations suspended slow-moving peace talks, but the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries are due to meet on Thursday for the first official talks between the South Asian rivals for 14 months.
Reports of threats to sporting stars visiting India also sparked concerns, but Pakistan’s team was cleared to travel to New Delhi last week after a delegation visited the Indian capital and assessed security arrangements.
After facing India, Pakistan play Spain on March 2, England on March 4, South Africa on March 6 and Australia on March 8 in Group B.
Group A comprises defending champions Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Canada, Argentina and New Zealand.

Black Sticks minus Child

PULLING OUT: Simon Child said the heightened security did not create an ideal high performance environment. PHIL REID/Dominion Post

Hockey New Zealand has confirmed it will send the Black Sticks Men’s team to the Hero Honda FIH World Cup in Delhi, India.
Hockey New Zealand has assessed advice received from the New Zealand Government and an independent security advisor, with regard to the security arrangements that will be in place for the team for the entire time they are in India.
“The detail we have received has reassured us that the required level of security is in place, therefore we have kept the team in the tournament” says Hilary Poole, CEO, Hockey New Zealand.
The responsibility for security of the teams while they are in India is provided by the ISLG (International Services Liaison Group which are responsible for both Hockey World Cup and Commonwealth Games security arrangements).
Hockey New Zealand has been closely liaising with the other participating nations with regard to their own security assessment and travel arrangements, all of whom still plan to participate in the World Cup.
“We have been working diligently with the Black Sticks Team over the past few days to give each player enough information to make their own informed decision,” says Poole.
All players from the current World Cup Black Sticks Team will travel to Delhi, apart from Simon Child, who has made a personal decision to return to New Zealand, a decision that is fully respected by Hockey New Zealand. A replacement for Simon is being worked on, but cannot be confirmed yet.
Black Sticks Men’s Coach, Shane McLeod, says his focus is to keep the team on track for the World Cup.
“Our build up has been comprehensive, and we’ve tested our strengths and weaknesses against Australia in Perth. While the past few days have been trying for the players, they’ve come through it and they are hungry to take on the best in the world next week,” says McLeod.

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Australia off to World Cup

SYDNEY: Australia will press ahead with plans to compete in this month's Hockey World Cup in New Delhi after being advised there were no known credible security threats to the tournament, Hockey Australia said on Sunday.
The sporting body said it had been assured by security briefings from Indian government and security agencies, along with the Australian High Commission and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Security fears surfaced after a bombing last weekend at a restaurant in the western Indian city of Pune, which killed 12 people.
The Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online news website added to concerns when it said last week that it had received a warning from an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group about attacking sports events in India.
But Hockey Australia said it had continued to assess the security situation for the February 28-March 13 tournament through a number of government and independent sources to give the Kookaburras the best available information.
The Australian team was due to departed for India on Sunday.
The organisation said all the information on the security situation it had received was consistent.
"The advice states that there is a strong commitment and tangible evidence of the authorities' ability to implement robust security measures to ensure our team's safety at all times," it said in a statement.
"All threats have been assessed and there are no known credible World Cup threats at this time. DFAT's travel advice is consistent with these findings."
It said the findings had been passed on to team members prior to their departure to ensure they were able to decide whether or not to compete.
Some family members of the Australian team had called on Hockey Australia to boycott the event over terrorism fears.
Paul Kelly, from Sportslink International, the company responsible for booking most of the supporters' arrangements, said there had been late cancellations from Australians who had wanted to go to the World Cup.
"We're down to around eight to 10 people in our group now whereas we were looking at 20 to 25," Kelly said last week. "A lot of people have been scared off."

The Times of India

Seating nightmare for FIH

The stringent security measures to be followed during the Hero Honda FIH World Cup tournament, beginning here on February 28, have put the organizing committee in an embarrassing situation.
The panel has been told by the police that no one other than VVIPs and the media should be allowed to be seated on the pavilion side during the tournament.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has protested; the organizing committee has also protested. Both bodies are unaware of the VVIP list that the police could be talking of. Hockey India (HI) is also in the dark.
The FIH has in a letter pointed out that it would not budge from its protocols and the organizing committee would have to stick to the pre-arranged allocation of seats on the pavilion side that can accommodate 700 in the 19,000-capacity stadium.
The FIH, according to sources, had even held out a veiled threat that even at this late stage the World Cup could be taken away from India if its protocols were not respected.
A large number of tickets for the VVIP area (Rs 5000) and VIP enclosure (Rs 1000) have either been committed or distributed, but the police want the organizers to either withdraw them or refund the money to the ticket-holders if they have been sold.
Apart from the ‘FIH family’ the VVIP/VIP area will have to accommodate persons from diplomatic missions, invitees of the sponsors (200 tickets) and other VIPs who could be invited by the organizing committee.
General ticket sales are yet to start. The organising committee has held back the sales at city outlets in an effort to clarify the position with regard to pavilion seats with the police.
The police, however, explained on Saturday that whatever had been agreed upon in June this year was being implemented with regard to security arrangements within the stadium.
“We are sticking to our plans as agreed upon long ago”, said a police spokesman.

The Hindu