'The game has been brought into disrepute. We will take all necessary steps to

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 1998, 12:00am

Dismayed officials of the Hong Kong Hockey Association (HKHA) will carry out an in-depth investigation to ferret out the culprits behind Tuesday night's assault on a leading umpire at a game between a visiting side from India and Pakistani-dominated local champions Shaheen at King's Park.

Jock Collaco, the chairman of the HKHA men's section, was assaulted by an angry mob immediately after the game which ended in a 5-5 draw with Shaheen levelling the match with a controversial goal.

Allegedly, supporters belonging to a local Second Division side known as the Bullets, incensed with Collaco for awarding the goal, approached him after the game and assaulted him.

'I went to watch the match as a spectator. One of the umpires failed to turn up and I was asked to step in. I did it in good faith and never thought a thing like this could happen,' said Collaco yesterday.

Collaco said he was hit by a beer bottle and kicked on the backside. A serious injury was averted thanks to some friends intervening and stopping the assault.

All umpires in local hockey are volunteers.

The local association reacted quickly yesterday and cancelled all the three remaining games of SMS International, the touring side from Punjab, India. Senior officials also promised a thorough inquiry and immediate action once the culprits were brought to justice.

'The game has been brought into disrepute and we will take all necessary steps to find out who was involved,' said Con Conway, president of the HKHA.

'We have to find out if these people were fans of hockey or of violence. In the event they are registered hockey players or officials, then we will take immediate action,' added Conway.

'When I heard what had happened I was shocked and dismayed. This is a very serious matter,' said Billy Dillon, HKHA vice-president.

It is understood that the supporters were affiliated to Bullets, a lower-division club, who were supporting the visitors from India.

Bullets convenor Bakhshish Singh said he had not heard of any problems at the match, when he was contacted yesterday.

Apparently, Tuesday night's game had taken on political overtones amongst a section of the crowd who were cheering against Shaheen - who are unbeaten this season in local competition.

'If we find that these supporters were affiliated to any club, that club could face a disciplinary hearing and a sanction,' said Dillon.

'The bylaws of the hockey association state that clubs are responsible for the behaviour of their supporters,' added Dillon.

Shaheen were trailing 4-5 into the final few minutes of the game when they scored. Collaco said he was unsighted and had conferred with fellow-umpire Bhupinder Parmar before confirming the goal.

When Collaco left the precincts of the ground he was assaulted.

'I don't know who attacked me. They all looked alike to me,' said Collaco yesterday.

'It is a shame. We are all involved in hockey for the love of the game. We are all volunteers and things like this should never happen,' he added.