Magicians move out of Mumbai

Calcutta/Mumbai: The Mumbai Magicians team, which is a part of the Hockey India League, were relocated to Delhi on Monday morning, following Shiv Sena's protest that had disrupted their practice session on Sunday. Sena had protested the inclusion of Pakistani players in the Magicians' team.

"We decided to shift the team to Delhi. They left by the early morning flight," Manoj Bhore, Hockey India's associate joint secretary, said.

Over a 100 Shiv Sena supporters on Sunday protested against the presence of four Pakistani players in the Mumbai franchise and had disrupted the scheduled practice session.

After the Sena protest, police had to escort the players out of the stadium from another exit back to the safety of their hotel rooms. Two of the protestors among the Sena members also demanded that they be taken to the dressing room to ensure that there were no Pakistani players.

In all, there are nine players from Pakistan contracted to play in the six-team Hockey India League. The Magicians have signed up four ' Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and Imran Butt .

The Mumbai team, set to be led by Sandeep Singh, are scheduled to play their first match against Delhi on Wednesday. Their first home match in the tournament is scheduled for January 20, against the Punjab team.

Asked if the Pakistan players will feature in the matches held in Mumbai, Bhore said: "The committee will have to decide. Pakistani players are there not just in the Mumbai team, they are there in other teams as well… So the committee will have to decide on that."

On the other hand, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said: "We have always said that Pakistani players will not be allowed to play in the city. We registered our protest and will continue to do so."

Sena has also lodged a protest with the Mumbai Cricket Association regarding the scheduled presence of the Pakistan women's cricket team in the city for the ICC Women's World Cup, which will begin later this month.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation, however, has expressed confidence that their players won't face any security issues during the League, which started in New Delhi on Monday.

"We are confident that there will be no security issues for our players as the organisers have promised top security arrangements for them," PHF secretary Asif Bajwa said.

"We are not worried because our cricket team also went to India recently and faced no problems whatsoever. The security was very tight. A handful of people protesting against our players can be expected anytime."

Meanwhile, on Monday two supporters from Hindu Yuwak Sena attempted to invade the turf at the National Stadium, the venue of the opening Hockey India League match between Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors.

However, the incident, which occurred in the 27th minute of the first half, failed to affect the status of the match.

The two activists of the youth wing of Hindu Sena were overpowered by the security officials and were dragged out of the venue.

The incident was a big embarrassment for the HIL organisers as no one was able to explain as to how the security breach happened.

Related reports: Pg 17

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