The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Saturday signed a major sponsorship deal with two-wheeler giant Hero MotoCorp for all events of the world body to be held in India in the next four years.
As part of the partnership, Hero MotoCorp will be the title sponsors of all FIH tournaments to be held in the country over the next four years, including the upcoming Hockey World League 2, the 2013 men's Junior World Cup, the 2014 men's Hockey World League final, the 2014 Champions Trophy and the 2015 Hockey World League final.
Announcing the deal, FIH president Leandro Negre said the world body considers India as a major hub for the game.
"FIH recognises India as a key country. FIH can't work alone, it needs a good support and partner," he said during a press conference ahead of the semifinal clashes of the inaugural Hockey India League in Ranchi on Saturday.
Negre reiterated the world body's stand on who is its working partner in India.
"The FIH is very clear about our commitment with Hockey India. I ask all of you to believe in HI because Hockey India is the future of Indian hockey and not IHF," Negre insisted.
Negre termed the exclusion of Pakistani players from the inaugural HIL as "unfortunate" and said the decision to send back the Pakistani players has been taken in the best interest of all.
"I really feel pity for the Pakistani players. The decision was taken under special circumstances. Mumbai is sensitive to these issues and HI decided to exclude them for this edition to prevent any untoward incident from taking place," he said.
All the nine Pakistani players -- Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq, Imran Butt (Mumbai Magicians), Mohammed Rizwan Jr, Mohammed Rizwan Sr (Delhi Waveriders), Kashif Shah (Punjab Warriors), Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos) -- were forced to return home without playing a single game in the wake of the tension between the two countries at the Line of Control.
Commenting on the partnership, managing director and chief operating officer of of Hero MotoCorp, Pawan Munjal said, "We have been committed to the promotion of hockey in India since the past several years. With this new partnership with FIH, our association with hockey now enters a new and exciting phase."
FIH Chief Executive Officer Kelly Fairweather termed the ongoing HIL as another milestone in the effort to bring India back on top of world hockey.
"The interest HIL has generated is amazing. It has captured the imaginations of hockey around the world," he said.