New Delhi: Just days ahead of the start of the Hockey India League fourth season, Indian captain Sardar Singh on Thursday asked Pakistan players to apologise for their "unacceptable" behaviour during the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar in December 2014.
Sardar, 29, also backed Hockey India's stand of not allowing Pakistan players to take part in the lucrative tournament, which has become the ultimate league in the world with almost every top players taking part in it.
"Pakistani players are suffering a lot but what they did during the 2014 Champions Trophy was unacceptable. They still haven't apologised for their behaviour so I feel they shouldn't be allowed (to participate in HIL) ," a report in PTI qouted Sardar as saying on the sidelines of the unveiling of HIL today.
Two Pakistani players -- Muhammad Tousiq and Ali Amjad -- were handed a one-match ban while Shafqat Rasool was reprimanded by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) for making obscene gestures after their team's 4-3 win over hosts India in the Champions Trophy semi-final.
Following the final hooter, excited Pakistani players took off their shirts and made rude gestures towards the Indian fans and the media at the packed 7,000-capacity Kalinga Stadium.
Though then Pakistan chief coach Shahnaz Sheikh apologised for the incident, HI boss Narinder Batra has demanded an apology from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).
However, Kalinga Lancers' German captain Moritz Furste and Ranchi Rays' English skipper Ashley Jackson felt that, if possible, the organisers must find a way out so that all good players come and play in the league.
"HIL is a great event in the world of hockey. In my personal view, players from all over the world should be allowed to play, if possible. I am not much aware of the politics and other things. They (both parties) must find a solution for all players," said 31-year-old Furste was qouted as saying by IANS.
Jackson, who is playing for Ranchi-based teams since the first edition of HIL, echoed Furste's opinion.
Nine Pakistani players were part of the first edition of HIL in 2013 but were forced to leave the country before the start of the tournament following protests from a few political organisations. Since then no Pakistan player has been included in the last three three editions.
The coming edition of HIL also doesn't feature a single Pakistani player and HI made it clear that in future, too, they will not be considered until they apologise for their unruly behaviour in Bhubaneswar.
The 2016 edition of the tournament starts on January 18, with six teams vying for top prizes in franchise-based cricket.
(With inputs from agencies)