Hockey Series Finals under the scanner amid Pakistan tensions

India's hosting of the Hockey Series Finals 2019 between June 6-16 has come under a cloud of doubt in the aftermath of the country's denial of visas to Pakistani athletes.

The top-two teams from the Hockey Series Finals will advance to a 14 team, double-headed play-offs with seven qualifying for 2020 Olympics, making it crucial for India to host and participate in the eight-team June 6-16 competition.   -  Getty Images

As tensions continue to escalate with Pakistan and future international sporting events in India come under a cloud of doubt, the biggest and most immediate casualty in an Olympic qualification year is likely to be the Hockey Series Finals to be held in June, one of the qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

The top-two teams from the event would advance to a 14 team, double-headed play-offs with seven qualifying for 2020 Games, making it crucial for India to host and participate in the eight-team June 6-16 competition.

The issue has flared up after the International Olympic Council (IOC) directed all future international competitions and talks of hosting others in India be suspended in the light of recent denial of visas to Pakistani athletes. The Indian government denied visas to two Pakistani shooters post the Pulwama attack on February 14.

Last year a Kosovan boxer, Donjeta Sadiku, along with her two coaches, was also denied participation during the AIBA World Women's Championships. In a communication to Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) chief, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, had warned then that the incident could have far-reaching effects and India was likely to miss out on hosting major Games.

While Hockey India officials refused to comment on the issue, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) remained non-committal on India's hosting rights but did admit it was engaging with the IOC for details. “We have taken note of the IOC decision taken in full compliance with the principles of the Olympic Charter and we respect it.

“We will engage with the IOC to understand and get clarity on the concrete implications of this decision. Only then will we be able to provide any further comments on FIH events planned in India or for which India is bidding,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil told Sportstar.

Sources, however, said FIH President Narinder Batra was working behind the scenes to ensure there would be no fallout, specially given the fact that the teams scheduled to participate in the Bhubaneswar tournament are unlikely to face any issues.

Batra, also the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, was instrumental in ensuring all 16 quotas were not withdrawn from the ongoing shooting World Cup during hectic parleys with the IOC, the (International Shooting Sport Federation) ISSF, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the sports ministry.

The shooting World Cup though lost two qualification quotas in the 25m rapid fire pistol event while the Asian Tour 10 Reds Snooker next month has been postponed after the organisers were unable to confirm entries of six Pakistani or Pakistan-origin cueists.