New Delhi, May 16: India's hockey coach Harendra Singh on Friday clarified that his remark about India-Pakistan bilateral series were torn out of context by two Pakistani journalists who deliberately asked provocative questions.
Harendra's purported remarks that hit headlines in the Pakistani media sparked strong reactions from the Olympians across the border.
The Olympians took exception to Harendra's reported remark that "India would rather go to war with Paksitan than play hockey."
Harendra said that he only said it was not for him to take a call on the India-Pakistan bilateral hockey series and it is for the government to decide. He did not say that 'India should go to war' as attributed to him in the Pakistani media.
Harendra said the exchange between him and the two Pakistani journalists took place when he was on his way to the media room and not at the press conference, after defending champions India lost to Pakistan 2-3 in the pool game of the Asia Cup.
Harendra said he had heated exchanges with the two correspondents as they used abusive language.
"I will not stand anyone abusing my country. The two Pakistani journalists kept using foul language to provoke me," said a furious Harendra.
"I don't care what they write, all I said to silence them was this is not the time to play hockey with Pakistan. In any case, they should have confined themselves to the match and the game instead of provoking me to say something unpleasant. The way the two reporters accosted me it appeared they came with an ulterior motive.
"The two reporters kept asking whether Indo-Pak bilateral series should be resumed and I said that it is not my call, it is for the government decide. They kept needling me, asking irrelevant questions."
Harendra's team was out of medal contention after their loss to Pakistan in a crucial Group B match and the subsequent 2-2 draw with China.
The Pakistani Olympians said the Asian Hockey Federation and the International Hockey federation (FIH) should take action against the India coach.
Veteran Munir Dar said he was disappointed as Harendra's remarks were against the spirit of sport.
"Sports and politics should not be mixed," said Dar.
"I was really disappointed over the remarks as Pakistan-India matches are keenly watched on both sides of the border and they should continue," he added.
Another Olympian Khawaja Junaid, who is the coach of the Pakistan junior team, said Harendra's statement was irresponsible.
"I am surprised that a person in such a key position could be so careless," he said. "He (Harendra) made those remarks during an international tournament and I believe that the AHF and the FIH should take action against him."
Indo-Pak relations were strained in the wake of last November's Mumbai terror attacks. India then refused to send its cricket team to Pakistan while in a tit-for-tat reaction, Pakistan advised its cricketers not to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The two cricket teams have not played against each other since the Mumbai attack but Pakistani and Indian hockey teams have played each other twice in Malaysia in recent times. In the last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, India beat Pakistan and then went on to win the five-nation contest.