No place for boorish behaviour in sports

Hockey India (HI) on Sunday forced the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to review its leniency and suspend two Pakistani players from the Champions Trophy final against Germany for their obscene gestures at the crowd after the visitors beat India 4-3 in a high-voltage semifinal a day earlier.

This came only after a strident protest against FIH tournament director Wiert Doyer’s initial decision to let off the Pakistani team, after head coach Shahnaz Sheikh apologised for the players’ behaviour. HI threatened not to host any future FIH events in India.

It was after this that the FIH reviewed its decision and suspended goalkeeper Amjad Hussain and midfielder Tauseeq Ahmed for one match with immediate effect.

While this was at an official level, players must be cautioned to play in the best spirit of the game. Defeat has to be accepted, but there has to be grace in victory, too.

Traditionally, India-Pak clashes have always been high-voltage. The rivalry is intense, not just for sporting reasons. Both teams feel there is a lot at stake. While there is this factor, the sporting spirit must prevail.

Players from both countries must understand that fans are the lifeblood of hockey any game, in fact and the least they can do is show the fans some respect. If the fans had been provocative or disrespectful in some way, maybe a player’s reaction (though certainly not obscene gestures) may border on trying to quieten the crowd or show that he does not care. Yet, here there was no clear provocation and players still reacted in a disgusting manner.

Players are the ambassadors of the country; they are the most visible part of the game. With increased social media, more scrutiny and much more pressure than before, any action is picked up, dissected, debated, and discussed with greater fervour than before. There is virtually no place to hide now, with technology picking up every move and bringing it into the open.

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