Two Pakistani players who were signed up for India’s professional Kabaddi League will not play in Mumbai and Pune after threats by the hardline Hindu group Shiv Sena.
Waseem Sajjad and Nasir Ali are part of the Patna Pirates team.
“Franchises will not field players of Pakistani origin for matches held in Mumbai and Pune,” said Mashal Sports, the organisers of Pro Kabaddi 2015, in a statement.
“This is in light of security concerns for the safety and success of the tournament being hosted in Mumbai and Pune,” the statement said.
It comes after the Shiv Sena threatened India’s biggest sports channel Star Sports with “reprisals” if the Pakistani players were not removed from upcoming matches.
Ashish Chemburkar, Shiv Sena leader, warned the channel that his party will not allow Kabaddi matches to be held in Maharashtra state if Pakistani players were allowed to participate in the tournament.
“Yes we have told Star Sports clearly that we won’t allow the tournament to go ahead unless Pakistani players are excluded from the tournament. While our jawans are being killed by Pakistanis how can we allow them to play,” asked Chemburkar.
Patna Pirates CEO Pawan Rana appeared cowed at the news.
“If Shiv Sena has decided not to allow our players to play in the state, then we can’t do anything about it. They will play in the other states, but playing in the Mumbai and Pune legs won’t be possible”, he said.
This year’s tournament kicked off on 18 July and the two Pakistani players will play in Jaipur, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi and Patna.
The League is inspired by the multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League and is backed by some of the biggest names in Indian business and showbiz.
Actor Abhishek Bachchan is the owner of the Jaipur team.
The Shiv Sena’s threats and the players’ predicament has raised barely a murmur in the Indian media.