Pakistan's national hockey federation (PHF) has expressed confidence that it's players will stay away from the unsanctioned World Hockey Series in India in the wake of the organiser's claim that all those who have signed for the multi-million event will certainly play.
The WSH, a joint venture of Nimbus Sport and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), has not been given sanction by the world body (FIH) which recognises rival Hockey India as the sole governing body for the game in India.
But inspite of FIH and HI's opposition to the event, the orgainsers finalised all the eight city-based franchise teams through player draft on Monday, and said that Pakistani players Zeeshan Ashraf, Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi will feature in the tournament, a claim which PHF secretary Asif Bajwa has rejected.
"Apparently these players and some others had signed contracts with the organisers of WSH before the status of the event was known to all," Bajwa said.
"But now once it has become clear it is an unsanctioned series the players have given in writing to us they will not be part of the unsanctioned league," he added.
Interestingly, of all the Pakistani players reported to have signed up for the WSH, only Shakeel Abbasi is part of the national squad that will play in the upcoming Champions Trophy in New Zealand.
But Bajwa said Abbasi had informed PHF in writing that he was no longer associated with WSH.
"The PHF is an affiliated unit of the FIH and since the WSH has not been sanctioned by the world hockey body we can't recognise it ourselves," he said.
"Our stance is very clear any player who takes part in this unsanctioned league will be banned from playing in Pakistan.
"So the players who want to go and play in the WSH are well aware of the consequences of their actions," he added.
Bajwa said it was impossible for two federations to co-exist in one country.
"If and when the FIH does give recognition to this event then PHF will also have no problems allowing its players to go and play in the league."
However, some Olympians feel that despite PHF's warning, some of the senior players would be seen in action in WSH as many of them, including Rehan Butt, who has been named captain of the Chandigarh outfit, and Zeeshan Ashraf had been ousted from the national team in recent times.
"From what I know, Rehan is being paid around 4.5 million rupees, so I doubt it he will not go to India for such a big amount. Over that, the PHF selectors have made it clear they don't require his services any longer," former player Mohammad Irfan said.