Sunday, October 19, 2014

Malaysia finish fifth in SOJC

NATIONAL coach Arul Selvaraj let his team loose for 24 hours, and they dished out a much better performance to beat Pakistan 3-1 to finish fifth in the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium yesterday.
   After a 2-2 draw against Pakistan in the pool match on Saturday, the coach asked his players to hold their own discussions and formulate their own plans to face Pakistan again in the Fifth-Sixth classification.
   "Summing up the tournament, we had two draws (2-2 against Pakistan and 1-1 against New Zealand) and one win today (yesterday) and considering that we did not lose by big margins to finalists Britain (2-1) and India (4-2) I feel the it was not a bad outing," said Arul.
   If Malaysia had beaten Pakistan in the last pool match, just by a goal, they would have played in the Third-Fourth classification against Australia.
   "Considering how close we were to playing in the bronze medal playoff, I told the boys that they must now plan on their won on how to beat Pakistan and finish fifth. They held their own meeting, and even during the game, I let they loose and did not coach them much today (yesterday) they showed that they can play hockey," said Arul.
   Malaysia took a 3-0 lead against Pakistan with goals from skipper Haziq Samsul (sixth), Najmi Farizal (24th) and Shahril Saabah (32nd). The Pakistan goal was scored by Mohamed Naveed in the 45th minute.
   Skipper Haziq summed up the tournament: "We did not do as well as the coach and the public expected from us in the SOJC, but I believe if this team is also given as much exposure as the previous Junior World Cup team in overseas tournaments as well as training matches, we will also make the country proud in 2016.
   "I believe the coach must select more players from the MHL (Malaysia Hockey League) and inject into the 2016 training squad as this will be healthy competition for the present batch and nobody will take their positions for granted," said Haziq.
    Meanwhile, Malaysia will play in Round Two of the World Hockey League in Singapore in Jan 17-25 next year and must finish among the top three to qualify for the World League Semi-finals.
   The tournament in Singapore will see Malaysia battling against Bangladesh, Japan, Oman, Poland, Singapore, Ukraine and either Papua New Guinea or Fiji.
    RESULTS: Fifth-Sixth:  Malaysia 3 Pakistan 1; Third-Fourth: Australia x New Zealand x; Final: Great Britain x India x.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Arul: I expected too much...

MALAYSIA played their worst game of the Sultan of Johor Cup when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Pakistan at the Taman Daya Stadium yesterday.
   The draw will see last year's silver medallist playing Pakistan again in the Fifth-Sixth classification match today. The final will be between India and Great Britain.
  For the record, Pakistan coach Muhammad Ibrahim said his charges only had 12 days of training and he is very proud of their fighting spirit against Malaysia.
   "We selected the team a day before flying off to Malaysia, and played our first match as a team when we met Britain in the opening clash," said Ibrahim.
  As for Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj: "I expected too much from this team, and I am disappointed that their maturity, physical and tactical side was a letdown. So I blame myself for their failure as I expected too much from this set of players."
    Malaysia needed four goals to play against Australia in the third-fourth classification match, but a pathetic start saw them trail Pakistan by a goal in the 17th minute.
   Pakistan, who had let in 15 goals before the Malaysia match, scored only their fourth goal of the tournament when Ali Mubashar was on target off their second penalty corner.
   As for Malaysia, the cake went to Ashran Hamsani for losing the grip on his hockey stick and letting it fly high instead of the ball in the early minutes of the game.
   And with 40 seconds left, the cake went to Azril Misron for failing to connect a perfect across-the-goal-mouth cross.
   Malaysia had nine penalty corners in the first half, and only perfected number eight in the 31st minute when Shahril Saabah nailed the equaliser.
   And 10 minutes after the re-start, it was evident that Malaysia are not going to meet their target, and will play Pakistan again in the fifth-sixth classification today.
  12th pc 
   Fifty-two minutes into the match Malaysia finally took the lead for the first time, when Shahril scored his brace off Malaysia's 12th penalty corner.
   But even before one could savour the moment, Pakistan equalised in the 55th when Mohsin Sabir's reverse stick went sailing in.
   The heavens opened up with five minutes on the clock, but even after the restart, there was no change in the Malaysian attitude and the score remained.
   India, who had 10 players who came out of the country for the first time, thrashed Australia 6-2 to confirm a date with Great Britain in the final today.
   Coach Harendra Singh had always emphasised that: "I have 10 players who made their first passposts and came out of the country to play. But they have shown that they have what it takes to play good hockey and improve with every match to make the final."
   India, the defending champions, only lost to Britain 2-0 in the pool match.
   RESULTS: Australia 2 India 6; Pakistan 2 Malaysia 2; New Zealand x Great Britain x.
   TODAY: Fifth-Sixth:  Malaysia v Pakistan (3.30pm); Third-Fourth: Australia v New Zealand (6.05pm); Final: Great Britain v India (8.35pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts
G BRITAIN           4  4   0    0  15  3   12
INDIA                     5  4   0    1  18  7   12
AUSTRALIA        5  2   1    2  10  16   7
N ZEALAND        4  1   1    2  8  9    4
MALAYSIA          5 0   2    3  8  12   2
PAKISTAN           5  0   2    3  5  17   2

MALAYSIA: Ridzwan Azmi, Fitri Jasni, Ashran Hamsani, Luqman Nul Haqim, Azril Misron, Najib Hassan, Meor Azuan, Sufi Ismat, Haziq Samsul, Firdaus Omar, Norsyafiq Sumantri, Amirol Aideed, Shahril Saabah, Syed Shafiq, Ahmad Ashraf, Azwar Rahman, D. Selvanayagam, Najmi Farizal.

Products of a rotten system

THE Sultan of Johor Cup is such a popular tournament that Germany, Britain and Argentina have already made requests to play in the next edition.

   Malaysia won gold the first edition in 2011, and the very next year the hosts finished last. A comeback in 2013 saw them clinch silver, and today they will be fighting for their lives against Pakistan, who are again their possible opponents in the fifth-sixth classification on Sunday.

   Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj said he did not have enough time to prepare this side, as the team was only formed in March, but then, these set of players have been playing hockey in school, then 1Mas, and many other age group tournaments before they were spotted and included into national juniors training squad.

   Are these the best players that we have in the country right now? If yes, Malaysia's grassroots development is not working, as the best juniors in the country are not only weak in the basics, but also mentally not ready and possibly will never be ready.

   The senior team  is now dubbed as 'the almost there' players, after they missed the boat to Rio de Janeiro by dishing out an almost there performance in the Asian Games.

    And by the present trend, one can also judge that hockey is no longer played by the Punjabis, Indians, Chinese and Eurasians. At the Asian Games, goalkeeper S. Kumar was the sole representative of the lain-lain category, while in the juniors at the SOJC, we only have D. Selvanayagam.

    This is a worrying trend, as schools no longer have a sound development programme to cater for this team sport, and the task has beeen left in the hands of states, where 1Mas is the biggest shareholder, while a few clubs are also active in developing players, but it is still not enough.

   Overall it looks like there has been a drastic increase in the number of players since five years ago, but quality has been compromised as the present batch of players look like they have no mindset of their own, and are akin to robots who do not know what to do when faced with a new problem which they are not programmed for.

    Former national coach and K. Dharmaraj and his assistant K. Gobinathan are now in Europe and have been to Spain, Germany and Netherlands and are still moving from club to club looking at their development programmes, with an eye of forming a blueprint which will hopefully take Malaysia out of the doldrums in the next decade.

    Their travel jottings are posted on FB at Dharma Hockey Academy. And among the points which hit this scribe hard was that hockey is being played by five-year-olds who are taught the basics. They are also taught how  to run properly, by athletics coaches, so that they keep the good habit for the rest of their  hockey playing lives.

   These are just two examples of how great the developments are at club levels in Europe.  In Malaysia the planning and execution is still at a haphazard level, and that is why we have a rojak team in the Fourth SOJC.

   SATURDAY: Australia v India (4pm); Pakistan v Malaysia (6pm); New Zealand v Great Britain (8pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts

G BRITAIN           4  4   0    0  15  3   12

INDIA                     4  3   0    1  12  5   9

AUSTRALIA        4  2   1    1  8  10    7

N ZEALAND        4  1   1    2  8  9   4

MALAYSIA          4  0   1    3  6  10   1

PAKISTAN           4  0   1    3  3  15   1


Thursday, October 16, 2014

GB in final; Malaysia lose again

COACH Arul Selvaraj made a passionate call for a psychiatrist after Malaysia played to the same script and went down 4-2 to India in the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium yesterday.
   It was the same old story, as Malaysia let in two goals, before clawing back to 2-2, and then losing 4-2 and now it looks lile they will be playing Pakistan in the fifth-sixth classification match on Sunday.
   They played the same against Britain, going down two goals, clawing back, and then losing 3-2.
   Malaysia meet Pakistan in their last pool match on Saturday, and only have one point to show after four matches.
    Yesterday, India scored off three penalty corners and a penalty stroke while Malaysia scored field goals.
    The India goals were scored by Harmanpreet Singh (25th, 27th, 55th) and Varun Kumar (65th). The Malaysian goals came off Sufi Ismat (37th) and Azli Misron (42nd).
   "My players have shown their ability in every department and the only thing lacking is thinking players who can keep their emotions in check and make sound judgements. And for this I need the help of and ISN psychiatrist (National Sports Institute) to develop their mental side," said Arul.
   India coach Harendra Singh was elated as his team are poised to play in the final, provided they beat Australia, also had words of wisdom for Arul and his men: "Like I said before the India-Malaysia match (on Wednesday) the Malaysian players need to be allowed to play their own game and not be too regimental. I have noticed many grey areas in the Malaysian side after four matches and I am sure coach Arul also knows their weaknesses and will be working to rectify them after this tournament. After all, Arul is a capable coach and I am sure he has the ability to turn the boys around."
      Arul said his charges were only assembled eight months ago: "It is not an excuse, but this is a raw side, and have hardly trained as a unit as they also played in Razak Cup, MHL and Malaysia Games this year, and then, I was also not around for almost 40 days as I was training the national side during the Asian Games."
    The reality is that Malaysia can't afford to lose against whipping boys Pakistan, who have let in 15 goals thus far, as there is no excuse to stoop so low in our own backyard.
   Meanwhile, Britain checked into the final when they beat Australia 5-1, leaving India and Australia to fight  

for the other spot.
   RESULTS: New Zealand 3 Pakistan 2; Malaysia 2 India 4; Britain 5 Australia 1.
   FRIDAY: Australia v India (4pm); Pakistan v Malaysia (6pm); New Zealand v Great Britain (8pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts
G BRITAIN           4  4   0    0  15  3   12
INDIA                     4  3   0    1  12  5   9
AUSTRALIA        4  2   1    1  8  10    7
N ZEALAND        4  1   1    2  8  9   4
MALAYSIA          4  0   1    3  6  10   1
PAKISTAN           4  0   1    3  3  15   1

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Malaysia caught snoozing..

MALAYSIA were caught napping in the first five minutes of the match, and went down 3-2 to Britain in the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru yesterday.
   Now, they must beat India and Pakistan in their next matches to secure a third-fourth classification match, the least.
   "A good fightback but individual mistakes crept in and we let in two early goals. However, I am proud of my players as they tried to make a comaback, but time was not on their side," said Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj.
   "Against India tomorrow (today) my personal target is to gain another set of experience, and try and reduce the cards as we need the numbers on the field consistently," said Arul.
    Britain were so great that they never let Malaysia settle down by scoring two quick field goals in the first five minutes of play.
   The damage was inflicted by James Boon in the third minute, and it was followed by another field goal by David Goodfield in the fifth minute.
   It was supposed to be an uphill battle against the tournament favourites, but Malaysia folded and crumbled too early and only started playing hockey 10 minutes into the match.
   The same old mistakes that the players commited against New Zealand crept into the Malaysian game, and the score stood 2-0 at the breather.
    Skipper Haziq Samsul injected some hope into his team-mates with a darting run in the first minute of the second half, and his pass saw Mohamed Rohulamin slapping in past Britain's goalkeeper Harry Gibson, who was beaten for the first time in this tournament.
   However, the fire was doused by Luke Taylor in a 63rd minute penalty corner attempt which made the score 3-1.
   Shahril Saabah re-ignited the fire a minute later when he scored a sizzling penalty corner drag flick to narrow the gap to 2-3 in the 64th minute, but the Brits ran down the clock and walked away with full points.
     India hit a sixer past Pakistan, and coach Harindra is now looking for a similar performance against Malaysia today.
   "This is a junior tournament and my players have been improving slowly in some of the departments, and we hope to carry this momentum into our next match (against Malaysia)," said India coach Harendra Singh.
  And his take on the hosts thus far: "Malaysia are a good side and with home support I think it will be an exciting match. However, as these are junior players they need to be let loose to sind their identity and there should not be rigid play," said HArendra.
   Australia staged a super fightback when they came back from three goals down to beat New Zealand 4-3 to take a step closer to playing in the final.
   It was a display of clinical finishing and tremendous team spirit that saw the Aussies come back from the dead: "We had to make changes in strategy to save the match and more importantly, a situation like this will help boost the players development,  which is what we are here for," said Australian coach Ben Bishop.
   After clawing back to 3-3, the match winner was delivered by 16-year-old Max Hendry from an acute angle.
   RESULTS:  Australia 4 New Zealand 3; India 6 Pakistan 0; Malaysia 2 Great Britain 3.
   TODAY: New Zealand v Pakistan (4pm); Malaysia v India (6pm); Britain v Australia (8pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts
G BRITAIN           3  3   0    0  10  2   9
AUSTRALIA        3  2   1    0  7  5    7
INDIA                     3  2   0    1  8  3   6
N ZEALAND        3  0   1    2  5  7   1
MALAYSIA          3  0   1    2  4  6   1
PAKISTAN           3  0   1    2  1  12   1