Source: The Hitavada      Date: 20 Jun 2017 13:01:13

SOME miles away from the debacle the Indian cricketing team was experiencing in the Champions Trophy cricket final, a solid show was underway on the hockey turf. India were lording over arch-rivals Pakistan, eventually thrashing them 7-1 in the Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final to avenge a similar loss in the 1982 Asian Games. But more than the emphatic bashing of the Green Shirts the match would be remembered for the solid patriotic gesture by the Men in Blue. The Indian hockey team wore black arm bands during the match to condole the death of our soldiers during a recent militant attack in Kashmir. It was a telling gesture by our sportspersons towards the Armed forces.

The hockey team’s decision was backed by the support staff as well as Hockey India. “The team strongly felt the need to condole the recent attacks carried out in Jammu & Kashmir where Indian soldiers lost their lives,” stated Mohd Mustaque Ahmad, General Secretary, HI. The governing body’s strong backing to its players’ wish also holds great significance.

Hockey India has always backed the stand to condemn the attacks on Indian Army. Our hockey players have also come out openly in backing the Armed forces and criticising Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism on Indian soil. Captain Manpreet Singh once again underlined the hockey team’s strong patriotic message through sports when he said, in effect, “We wanted to win on the field on Sunday to show not only our proud nation but all the world that we will stand up and fight for what we believe in through sport.”
Last year skipper PR Sreejesh won hearts by dedicating the Asian Champions Trophy victory over Pakistan to the Indian soldiers. It was a great message by the Indian sportsmen for the Indian Jawans.

The hockey team had another grudge to settle. Pakistan players had crossed the line of decency when they won against India in the 2014 Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar. The players had taken off their shirts and made obscene gestures at the crowd after winning the semi-final. India and Pakistan’s hockey relations did not remain the same since then.

Agreed, sport transcends boundaries. But it is also a platform to make a statement. A sporting team’s patriotic gesture towards its soldiers is one such act of making a huge statement that they stand by them in their hour of grief. The Armed forces have always been on the forefront hailing our sportspersons with honourary titles. Such solid backing by the best in their field acts as a balm just as Indian victories over Pakistan give the soldiers a reason to rejoice.

Tension on the border consistently reflects in the sporting relations of India and Pakistan. The troubled contours have resulted in India’s refusal to play bilateral hockey as well as cricket series. It’s a steady policy by successive governments and the sports governing bodies are diligently adhering to it. And it is unlikely to change anytime soon given the rising conflict in the Valley. Under such circumstances when world events bring the two rivals against each other Indian sportspersons must wear their patriotism on the sleeve.

By wearing black arm bands the Indian hockey players precisely did the same. The Armed forces need backing, solid support from all quarters. And sports is definitely one of them. Time and again sportspersons, including a few cricketers, have shown their support for the Army.

It is time to show such patriotic gestures on every platform where Pakistan is involved, going beyond the social media, where a few sportspersons shed their politically correct stand and freely stand behind the soldiers.