Four-time champions Usha KC will not be seen in the top-flight hockey league after eight years as the giants decided not to participate in the ongoing inter-club players' transfer in protest of the Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) not respecting their appeal to defer the transfers.
At a league committee meeting in February, all the Premier League clubs took a unanimous decision to participate in the players' transfer, which started on March 27 after a two-year hiatus. 11 of 13 clubs, including Abahani, Mohammedan and Mariner Youngs Club, have already completed their registration formalities ahead of tomorrow's deadline.
Four clubs, including Usha KC and Mohammedan, had earlier appealed to the league committee to defer the transfers by a few weeks but the game's governing body refused, citing busy schedules at international and domestic levels.
"Yes, the decision regarding transfers was taken unanimously at the league committee meeting and we even paid some money to some players in a bid to form a strong squad. But we faced financial problems later and thus requested the league committee to defer the transfers by a month.
"The league committee did not discuss the matter at the meeting and let us know about their inability to defer the transfers without taking any decision at the meeting. So, we feel Usha were not shown any respect and our executive committee decided not to play in the upcoming Premier Division Hockey League," Usha KC general secretary Abdur Rashid Shikdar told The Daily Star yesterday.
Meanwhile, league committee secretary Kazi Mainuzzaman Pila defended their decision not to defer the transfers.
"As there were instructions from the executive committee not to defer the players' transfers, the league committee did not sit at a meeting to discuss the matter," said Pila yesterday.
After starting their journey in hockey in 1975, Usha gradually became powerhouses, becoming champions four times in 11 editions of the Premier Hockey League and finishing as runners-up thrice. The Old Dhaka outfit also clinched the Club Cup title four times and became runners-up on three occasions. They finished as runners-up in both the Club Cup and Premier Hockey League in the previous season.
The country's hockey has been in a tumultuous state following conflicts among organisers, with the game's governing body able to hold the league only four times in the past eight years.
Four clubs -- Mohammedan, Dhaka Mariner Youngs Club, Wari Club and Bangladesh Sporting Club -- had skipped the Premier Hockey League for nearly two years, demanding the resignation of elected general secretary Khaza Rahmatullah but that impasse ended in 2015 with changes to the top posts of the hockey federation.
There are whispers in the hockey fraternity that Usha are being influenced to skip the league by its general secretary Abdur Rashid Shikdar, who had failed to fulfil a long-standing dream of becoming the BHF general secretary when the National Sports Council formed an ad-hoc committee last year instead of resuming the BHF polls. Shikdar was reportedly ahead in the polls before they were suspended due to floods across the country.
"It is not right because Usha is not anyone's property. Even I did not talk about the BHF polls after the ad-hoc committee was formed although a lot of councillors phoned me. Usha have been contributing to the country's hockey for a long time by producing a lot of national players. Usha even came forward to sponsor the Club Cup once," said Shikdar, who has been the club's general secretary for 17 years, before adding that Usha were ready to accept demotion as per the bylaws.
However, league committee secretary Mainuzzaman Pila said that Usha can still take part in the window even after the completion of the transfers.
"It can be a mutual transfer with players who are still free. They can even rope in their previous season's players but the clubs who have signed those players for this season have to allow them to play for Usha," added Pila.