The Malaysian National Women Hockey Team poses for a group shot at the Grand Kazan Hotel after beating host Russia, 2-1 to secure 7th place in the first FIH Womens Champions Challenge II held in the Russian city of Kazan from 21 to 27 June 2009. Malaysia earlier managed to hold the higher-ranked Russians 2-2 during the group match. The Indian team was crowned champions after besting Belgium 6-3 in the Finals.
COMMENT BY JUGJET SINGH
IF THE Malaysian men’s hockey team need inspiration to beat the Kiwis in the World Cup Qualifier today (10-11/-9), they need not look further than their women counterpart.
And in Asia, our boys can draw inspiration from Pakistan and Japan, who beat the odds to qualify for the Lille World Cup Qualifier finals by showing class over European sides.
Women’s hockey in Malaysia is on the rise, and if the men keep their consistency in failing to reach targets, more money must be given to the ladies as they have shown guts and determination in the just concluded Asia Cup in Bangkok.
The target before they left was fifth, and they nailed it with an extra bonus of only losing one match against Beijing Olympics silver medallists China in the six matches. China then went on to beat India 5-3 in the final.
In fact, they even surprised finalists India by holding them to a 1-1 draw. China and India qualified for the 2011 World Cup Ponzan, Poland, in February 2011.
South Korea, Japan and Malaysia will now play in a three qualifiers next April, where only the winners advance to Poznan.
The women started their run-up to Bangkok with a golden finish in the Asia Indoor Hockey championship, and they have also qualified for the New Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Since hockey’s inception in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Com monwealth Games, the ladies have yet to miss an edition as they always qualify on merit, but have yet to win a medal.
The men however, won silver in the KL Games, but did not qualify for the next Games in Manchester, and played in the 2006 Melbourne Games on invitation but went on to win bronze.
Coached by Yahya Atan, the women need to be exposed further by playing in more international friendlies before they play in the World Cup Qualifier, and China and India should be able to provide fantastic sparring partners.
There is also a need to send our best women to play in European leagues, and this is one area the energetic and enthusiastic officials of the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Federation should look into.
They were branded as no hopers by some when they left for Bangkok, but they achieved their target of playing in the Qualifier and must now be rewarded with more exposure.
Pakistan, who have never failed to appear in the World Cup since its inception in 1971, thrashed all their opponents in the Lille Qualifier except for the defeat to Poland, but that was after they qualified for the final and fielded reserves.
Asian teams Pakistan and Japan then played in a classy final, and the Japanese rebounded from the 6-1 loss to Pakistan in the pool match, to be edged out of the World Cup on a laudable 3-1 score.
The ladies did it, and two Asian teams beat the odds to reach the final, now it is the turn of the Malaysian men to beat New Zealand, China and then Scotland to prove that they are also worth the millions spent, and being spent right now.
ASIA CUP: Malaysia 3 Thailand 0, Malaysia 0 China 4, Malaysia 4 Singapore 0, Malaysia 1 India 1, Malaysia 5 Hong Kong 0, Malaysia 2 Kazakhstan 1.
FINAL STANDINGS: 1 China, 2 India, 3 South Korea, 4 Japan, 5 Malaysia, 6 Kazakhstan, 7 Hong Kong, 8 Singapore, 9 Taiwan, 10 Thailand, 11 Sri Lanka.