Ex-India hockey star attacks umpire

CHENNAI: Former India hockey player Sunil Ekka turned "attacker" with a difference on Sunday. Ekka, playing for Army XI, lashed out with his hockey stick at veteran umpire RS Suriya Prakash, leaving the latter seriously injured and the audience shell-shocked.

The incident took place when Army XI’s Preetinder Singh was shown a second green card after he got into a tiff with ONGC’s Mukesh Kumar and both were asked to leave the turf. Defending champions Army XI were playing ONGC for the All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup.

Defending Singh, Ekka got into an argument with Prakash, who was adjudged the best national umpire in 1993. Suddenly, Ekka hit Prakash on the back of the head.

Prakash was taken to hospital immediately, where he was treated for the head injury. "I’ve been officiating at the national level for the last 21 years and have never come across such behaviour," said Prakash. "Sunil has played for India and represents the Army but he obviously lacks discipline."

Assaulting an official is a Level-2 offence according to the International Hockey Federation’s code of conduct. "Sunil Ekka has been banned from the rest of the tournament. Once we get the report from the match officials, we will take a final decision," said tournament director Mohammad Muneer.

"I am also going to send my report to Hockey India. As this is an all-India tournament, we can’t ban him for six months, but HI has the right to impose the maximum (six-month) ban on him," Muneer said.

The MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup is one of the oldest hockey tournaments in India. "This is unacceptable behaviour. Our national game is already in a quagmire and such incidents can only hurt the sport," he added.

Pankaj Tyagi from New Delhi replaced Suriya Prakash on the field and ONGC went on to win the match 3-1.

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