Mumbai: Former Pakistan hockey captain Rehan Butt said India could have avoided finishing last at the London Olympics had they included seniors such as Arjun Halappa and Bharat Chikara, who took part in the rival World Series Hockey and were ignored by Hockey India for the Games.
"To the best of my knowledge, and as someone who has played hockey, India would not have finished 12th at the Olympics had Hockey India included players of quality like Arjun Halappa and Bharat Chikara and 2-3 more senior players in the Olympics squad," said Butt, a member of the Pakistan squad in London.
"India could never have finished 12th in the Olympics if they had not left out players who took part in WSH. If Pakistan players (featuring in WSH) could play in Olympics why could not the Indians?" asked Butt, who played for Chandigarh Comets, one of the eight city-based franchise teams that took part in the first season of WSH held earlier this year.
"Pakistan Hockey Federation thought we were needed and selected us for Olympics. The Indian federation (HI) could also have done so if they knew how to treat their players with dignity. The reason why India finished 12th is because of the management (failure) and not the players," said the player, who was fined one million Pakistan rupees by his country's federation before being selected for the Games where his country finished seventh.
"Hockey India officials are to be blamed for not considering WSH players for selection. You can call it a crime for making it a personal matter. They have spoiled the team," added the 31-year-old mercurial forward, who is preparing himself for WSH season 2 which commences on December 15.
The veteran of three Olympics, two World Cups and five Champions Trophy campaigns, said all Pakistani players, who were seen in WSH, will play in the second season of the league, a joint initiative of Nimbus Sport and Indian Hockey Federation.
"I want to make a point. All star Pakistan players like Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed, Imran Warsi are all going to play in WSH. All the Pak players who had signed up for season 1 will be seen in season 2," said Butt.
The senior Pakistan player said another star compatriot, veteran penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas, has refused to play in the proposed Hockey India League (HIL) after initially showing interest.
"I want to tell you that even (Sohail Abbas has refused to play there (in HIL). It has come in Pak newspapers," he said.
"Those (Pakistan) players who are going to play in HIL don't even know the details of their contract...such as the amount of money for which they have been signed for. Talks have been on between the two hockey federations only."
Butt is not concerned about likely punitive action by his country's apex hockey body PHF.
"We knew when we came to play in WSH that FIH (international hockey body) had decided that no restriction (of representing the country) will be imposed on players who had signed the WSH contract before 31 March, 2011. Even now we are not under any restriction which may apply for newly signing players.
"But I am confident even the cases of those players who have signed up later will be taken up by the event's organisers with FIH," he maintained.
Butt was confident he would not be debarred by PHF.
"If I was not bothered last time, why should I be bothered this time. I cannot be banned as it's written clearly by FIH that there are no restrictions on those players who had signed WSH contracts before 31st march, 2011."
Asked about his future, Butt said he was not sure how many years he would last but insisted that he was keen to play for a couple of years more.
"I made my debut in 2001 and now I have played in 2012 Olympics. I don't know and have not even thought about it. I will try to play for at least two more years," he said.
Butt said he has been playing hockey at home for his departmental team and maintaining his fitness to be ready when he comes to India 15-20 days ahead of the start of WSH in mid-December.
"There is no international tournament happening now. I am in Pakistan playing in my departmental tournament. I am concentrating on fitness so that I can put my best foot forward during WSH 2. I was to go to Malaysia with my club but could not do so as the club got banned for some reason.
"I am sure that this season would be better than season 1.
There were some minor glitches in season 1 as the tournament was new, but I am sure that second season would be 100 per cent perfect and I am eager to play. It (second season) will be a bigger fun than season 1," he added.
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