Monday, May 21, 2018

Now for Asian Games bronze...

COOL HEAD: Farah Ayuni Yahya.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian women hockey team ended fourth, but Farah Ayuni Yahya was named as the Best Goalkeeper in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Donghae, South Korea, on Sunday.
  It was her second back-to-back recognition, as she was also awarded as the Best Goalkeeper in the ACT in Singapore two years back -- even though Malaysia ended last among five teams.
  The policewoman has been instrumental in the rise of women's hockey in Malaysia, and was at the centre of attention when she helped score a sensational 2-1 win over higher-ranked Italy in a sudden-death shoot-out to join Ireland in qualifying for the World League Semi-Finals at the women’s Hockey WL Round Two in Kuala Lumpur.
  Malaysia had held Italy 2-2 then, and in the shoot-out, goalkeeper Farah made super saves to take Malaysian women into their first ever World League Semifinals.
  Coach Dharmaraj's charges will next play in the Jakarta Asian Games, and Farah will be expected keep the score low again.
  The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) have yet release the fixtures, but ten teams, in two groups, will play at the Asian Games,  .
  The ten are hosts Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kazahkstan.
  Malaysia should have no problems against Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kazakhstan -- going by the standard displayed at the ACT where they beat a half-strength Japan 3-2, and narrowly lost to China (3-1), South Korea (3-1) and India (3-2) in the pool. In the bronze match, China could only win 2-0.
  And the mission in Jakarta is to win bronze, an achievement last seen at the 1982 New Delhi Games.
  Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal had said in February that he believes with all the support given by MHC to to the women's team, they are good for bronze even though their Asian ranking is fifth.
  And if Malaysia do win bronze in Jakarta, it would be partly because of our strength between the posts -- Farah.
  "She has always been an asset for Malaysia in any tournament because of her daring saves which motivates the entire team. And in the Asian Games in Jakarta, we will need her to pull off upsets against higher ranked sides.
  "The MHC has set us a bronze target in Jakarta, and I believe my players are up to it. We have a fighting chance, and we will fight for the medal," said Dharmaraj.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Malaysian women narrow gap in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian women's hockey team finished fourth in the Asian Champions Trophy in Donghae, SOuth Korea, yesterday.
  Coach K. Dharmaraj's charges lost to world No 8 China 2-0 in the bronze battle, but gained much for the future.
  China took the lead in the 14th minute and then when Malaysia were down one player due to a yellow card infringement, they increased the lead in the 53rd minute.
  "There is nothing to be ashamed of but everything to be proud of because we played against World Cup teams in Donghae, except for Japan who did not bring their best," said Dharmaraj.
  Five teams played in Donghae, and only Malaysia were the odd one out as they did not qualify for the World Cup in England on July 21-Aug 5.
  "Considering that we played against teams who are preparing for the World Cup, I believe my charges did not disappoint the nation by finishing fourth.
  "My charges paced China all the way until we were down one player when Amirah (Nur Amirah Shakirah) was flashed the yellow card and satout for five minutes.
  "That is when China took advantage and scored their second goal while we could not go forward to find the equalsier.
  "We have learnt much from this tournament and I believe we will trouble all these teams again in the Asian Games (in Jakarta)," said Dharmaraj.
  The Malaysian women lost narrowly in Donghae and beat Japan 3-2 in the pool. 
  The had lost to India (3-2), South Korea (3-1) and China (3-1) earlier.
   Hosts South Korea beat India 1-0 for the gold medal.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dharmaraj's charges meet China for bronze

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian women's hockey team will play China for bronze in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Donghae, South Korea, Sunday.
  This is a repeat of the 2013 ACT in Kakamigahara, Japan, and back then Malaysia beat China 3-1 to finish third.
  However in Korea, Malaysia lost to China 3-1 in the pool match, but that is not going to stop coach K. Dharmaraj's women from dreaming big again.
  Malaysia are ranked 22nd in the world while China eighth, while in Asia its China number two and Malaysia number five.
  And in Asia, Malaysia are the only active hockey nation which did not qualify for the women's World Cup -- while China, India, South Korea and Japan will be playing in England on July 21-Aug 5.
  "All my players have shown strong commitment in the ACT and even though the rest of the teams are higher ranked than us in Asia as well as in the world, we still gave them a fright or two.
  "And in the battle for bronze, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We played China in the pool and know what t expect from them. It will be a tough game which can go either way," said Dharmaraj.
  He has been coaching the women's team for more than two years and his charges have shown tremendous improvement.
  In Donghae, Malaysia beat Japan 3-2 and lost narrowly to India (3-2) and South Korea (3-1).
  "The young players which I included for the ACT have shown potential, and I believe will be assets in the near future."
  Dharmaraj took a brave stand to select 18-year-olds Nur Maizatulhanim Syafi and Nor Asfarina Isahyifika for the ACT after both impressed him in the recent Asian Hockey 5s Youth Olympics Qualifier in Bangkok, Thailand.
  And they repaid his faith, by blending in well with the seniors in Donghae.
  South Korea and India will play for the gold.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dharmaraj embraces plan to host World Cup

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia played the waiting game on rest day in the Asian Champions Trophy in Donghae, South Korea, Friday while coach K. Dharmaraj pondered about the future of his charges.
  The Malaysian women's hockey team has closed the gap with their Asian counterparts and are no longer punching bags for India, China, South Korea and Japan.
  Dharmaraj's charges, ranked 22nd in the world and fifth in Asia, gave a tough fight to all four teams in the ongoing ACT, and if China beats Japan  Saturday -- Malaysia will play for the bronze medal.
  India and South Korea have qualified for the finals.
  Malaysia started with 3-1 defeat to South Korea, lost to India 3-2, beat Japan 3-2 and lost to China 3-1.  
  "The margin of defeat is very close and I believe we have narrowed the gap with our Asian counterparts. Everybody here, India, China, Korea and Japan coaches feel we are the team to watch after being 'whipping boys' for more than 20 years," said Dharmaraj.
  And all the teams have brought their best players: "Every team here came with their World Cup squad except Japan who have three players in the Netherlands League and another five back home.
  "In 2016 ACT we also beat Japan who brought their full squad, and this indicated consistency."
  The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) Thursday announced that they are planning to bid for the 2022 women's and men's World Cups and Dharmaraj embraced the news with open arms.
  Infact, the coach who had rebuilt the women's squad from ashes inside two-and-a-half years even said that his charges could be groomed to finish 7th or 8th if Malaysia host it in 2022.
  "It's easier to move up in women's hockey than the men's and if we get to host the 2022 World Cup, it would be dream come true for our ladies (who have yet to play at that level).
  "That is the right booost for us to prepare for the next four years instead of going through the pressure of trying to qualify. 
  "With proper planning, we can finish 7th or 8th as hosts," said Dharmaraj.
  This prediction came from a coach who trained a bunch of no hopers, and took them to a silver medal finish at the Kuala Lumpur World League Round Two last year.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Fazilla now a Fire Superintendent

Fazilla, right.

KUALA LUMPUR: National women's midfielder Fazilla Sylvester Silin scored another goal when she graduated as a Fire Superintendent with the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia yesterday.
  The 30-year-old from Sarawak has played for Malaysia in three Commonwealth Games (2010, 2014 and 2018) and coach K. Dharmaraj only had praise for her.
  "She is one amazing las who has exceptional fighting spirit in whatever she makes up her mind to do. I am the least surprised, and very proud of her, for achieving this milestone in her life," said Dharmaraj after his charges lost narrowly 3-2 to India in the Women's Asian Champions Trophy in Donghue, South Korea, yesterday.
  Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHC) deputy president Datuk Dr S. Shamala said: "The Malaysian women’s hockey team has very special players and each with their own special ways! One of them is most definitely Fazilla Sylvester more fondly known as Zilla.
  "She has sacrificed a great deal the nation, and thanks to the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia who has been very supportive and instrumental in allowing Zilla to represent malaysia at the recent Commonwealth Games."