Glenn Turner Photo: Graham Tidy
Canberra hockey star Glenn Turner experienced the tensions of Pakistan-India relations when caught in the middle of a "pretty scary" mob protest that led to all the Pakistani players in the Hockey India League being sent home.
Turner's team for the one-month professional league, the Mumbai Magicians, has five Australian international players on the roster and is coached by Kookaburras mentor Ric Charlesworth.
Four Pakistani team members were targeted by a "gang" of protesters at training last week, before a game had been played.
"We were in the change room having a meeting and a mob of I guess anti-Pakistan guys were outside, so we had to get locked in the change room. We weren't allowed out," Turner said.
"They had to sneak the Pakistan guys out the back door to the buses, and they let the leader in of this gang or whatever … to check our room to see if there were any Pakistan guys there, it was pretty scary times.
"They said about 50 to 100 [protesters were outside], but they said within 10 minutes it could be 400, so we had to get out of there.''
The security scare was reported to be an escalation of protests over the killing of Indian soldiers on the border of the two countries, with Hockey India deciding to send home all nine Pakistani players in the league due to the "extraordinary circumstances".
"It's just a shame for the players and our team … they were good blokes … and they were obviously really, really good players, so it was a massive loss for us and I think for hockey in general," Turner said.
Without their Pakistani teammates, Turner's side has started the competition with three close losses.
To make matters worse, when their four international replacement players arrived, they played a Punjab Warriors side that fielded an extra player for the last five minutes, beating Mumbai 4-2 with a goal scored on the buzzer.
Turner labelled the resulting sanction a ''joke'', with no points deducted for Punjab's dubious win and a one-week suspension for their team manager. "It's not their coach, it's just their manager - maybe they'll have to find someone else to fill their drink bottles or something next game," he said.
He followed his public vent on Twitter with a "cheeky'' jab for the benefit of the seven Australians playing for the Warriors. "Good luck to Punjab next match without their manager and only being allowed to play with 11 :)" he tweeted.
Despite the ''tough start'', Turner insisted playing in the league in front of big crowds in the hockey-mad country has been a "great experience''.