A payment of $15000 in the nick of time has allowed Pakistan to be part of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers later this year and possibly set up a clash with arch-rivals India for a spot in Tokyo. India will be up to second or third on the list of the team for the qualifiers while Pakistan would be 12th.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) had fined the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) approximately $50,000 for pulling out of the inaugural edition of the Pro League earlier this year. Pakistan was allowed to pay the amount in three instalments, the first of which was to be paid by August 20 for the team to be eligible for the qualifiers.
“We can confirm that Pakistan has paid the first instalment in accordance with the deadline given. Therefore, in case Pakistan qualifies for the FIH Hockey Olympic qualifiers, then yes, they will be included in the draw,” the FIH told Sportstar.
The draw process for the qualifiers is simple: the top-three ranked sides would be drawn against the bottom three from among the top-14 teams. While India is currently ranked fifth, Pakistan has slipped to 17th in the world. But, what makes it interesting for the two rival nations is the following: removing the continental champions – Belgium, Japan, South Africa, Argentina – and including Australia as the Oceania Cup champion, will push India up to the second place on the list of teams for the qualifiers while Pakistan would be up to 12th. A New Zealand victory would still keep India third and in line for a Pakistan face-off.
The FIH refused to comment on the political tension between the two nations at the moment, but rightly raised a concern given that the higher-ranked team would be hosting the tie. Hockey India has insisted there would be no bilateral ties, except if the context is an FIH event. Pakistan had travelled last December for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar. Although the qualifier, which is likely to be held in October, is an FIH event, it is practically just a bilateral tie.