Pak hockey coach lauds India’s sporting spirit

Relations between the hockey federations of India and Pakistan soured after the controversy-marred semi-final of the 2014 Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar.

Pakistan's Rehan Butt said it was satisfying to beat India twice in the same event   -  REUTERS (File Photo)

Coach-cum-player of the Pakistan hockey team, Rehan Butt, has lauded the sporting spirit of Indian players and spectators, a day after winning the gold in the ongoing South Asian Games in Guwahati.

“It was a high for us to beat India in a big final in India. But thankfully this time we kept our celebrations under control and also the crowd which came for the final was very sporting and appreciated our performance,” said Butt.

Relations between the hockey federations of India and Pakistan soured after the controversy-marred semi-final of the 2014 Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar.

Soon after winning the semi-final against India in the Champions Trophy, Pakistani players indulged in wild celebrations and some of its players made obscene gestures towards the spectators and the media, forcing the International Hockey Federation to intervene and control the situation.

Hockey India had demanded an apology from Pakistan for the incident and also wanted an assurance that it would reprimand its players if they repeat their antics in future.

Butt, who went to the SAF Games as coach of the team but ended up playing in the tournament, said it was satisfying to beat an improving India.

“Their standards have improved and it is a big victory for us. Both teams had some senior players and it was an intriguing experience to play as coach and player,” Butt, a decorated Pakistan forward said.

Butt had to don the jersey after a selected player Samiullah didn’t get accreditation for the SAF Games.

“I played after proper permission from the organisers. To me the best part of the final was that there was no bad blood and the way the crowd appreciated our performance,” he said.

Butt hoped after the SAG final, relations between the two hockey bodies would improve soon and the two countries will soon resume bilateral ties on the turf.

“The Pakistani players were on their best behavior and we had told them to avoid any unnecessary or over the top celebrations which could hurt sentiments of our hosts,” he said.

“But at the end it was satisfying to beat India twice in the same event,” he added.

Pakistan beat India 2-1 in the league stage and 1-0 in the final to win the gold.