No Delhi security fears for hockey star Mantell

By Ian Cole
England hockey players Richard Mantell and Crista Cullen have backed their governing body’s decision to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October ” despite the growing list of British competitors pulling out over security issues.
Mantell, the Reading defender who broke and dislocated his ankle at the World Cup in the Indian capital in March, would have no fears about returning to Delhi if he regains fitness in time.

Speaking at a special Sports Journalists’ Association working lunch staged in Fleet Street today, Mantell said, “We spent a lot of time thinking about security during the World Cup and it was unusual that we weren’t able to wander out of the hotel for a coffee.

“Three weeks locked in a hotel is not ideal and when I arrived at the hospital with my ankle smashed I found four armed guards around my bed. I felt very important. It was a surreal experience but I’d want to go again.”

Cullen, the Leicester defender, said: “All of us have to have the utmost belief in our administrators. A lot of places in the world aren’t safe, but we will travel in the belief that everything possible has been done to safeguard the players.”

Alongside the players was Sally Munday, the chief executive of GB Hockey, who said: “If at any point we thought there was a genuine risk to players or staff we would not want to be there. As administrators, we want to go to bed at night knowing you’ve done the very most you can do, that no stone has been unturned.

“We have made our decision that we’ll go in full consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the Metropolitan Police. We have kept our players informed at every step of the way and I would urge other governing bodies to have regular communication with their athletes.

“We were dominated by security at the World Cup, but at the Commonwealth Games our players will be in the Athletes’ Village, where they will have many interesting things to do. People say playing hockey in India is the most fantastic experience and we would not want to deprive them of that.”

Mantell faces a race against time to be fit after his horrific injury against Pakistan. “The prognosis is between six and nine months so, even looking on the bright side, six months would be pretty close to the Games.”

Cullen’s women’s team face stern challenges before the Games. They play in the Champions Trophy in Nottingham in July and then the World Cup in Argentina at the end of September. “These are three big tournaments,” she said. “But the priority is for the world ranking tournament, at home in Nottingham with the world’s top six coming to play.”

England Hockey is liaising with the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics to ensure that genuine hockey fans get the best seats for matches. Under a plan entitled Fans To The Front, the idea is that television cameras will focus on supporters ” members of clubs, perhaps – who are perceived to know something about the game, unlike in Beijing where cameras often showed hordes of over-excited Chinese who were clearly oblivious to what was happening on the pitch.

A decision on England’s bid to host the 2014 World Cup in London will be made by the end of the month. Chief executive Munday said: “We are working closely with UK Sport and with the Mayor’s Office and we have had conversations with a major event company. We understand that the International Hockey Federation is keen to return to India and there is also interest from the Netherlands, so we know we have serious competition.”

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