Monday, April 13, 2009

FIH commited to help Asia

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has taken offense to our house style of 'ghost writing' where we interview personalities every Sunday and credit the byline to them.
The article never misquoted Leandro Negre in any paragraph. The interview was done during the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh and the same facts appeared in the and in the Hindu by A. Thiagarajan.

By Jugjet Singh as told to him by
Leandro Negre
(Leandro Negre is the president of the International Hockey Federation)

THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) is well aware that Asia, once a powerhouse in hockey, is fast slipping behind Europe and other continents, and it needs urgent help.

Asia is a valuable partner of the sport, as it is widely played in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China and other countries.
That is why, more emphasis will be placed on this continent, and if giving hockey sticks and balls can start the sport in smaller playing nations, so be it.
The FIH will start with helping India prepare a strong team for the 2010 New Delhi World Cup. It will serve no purpose if India are only good hosts, but do not even qualify for the semi-finals.
I, personally, would be the happiest person if at the end of the World Cup, I end up presenting the trophy to India. It will be a big boost to Asian hockey if that happens.
I was in India before coming to Malaysia, and after a discussion with the Indian Olympic Association (which is running hockey on an ad-hoc basis in India), we came to an agreement that for six months, the Indian team will be based in England, and their players turn out for various clubs in the local league.
And during breaks, the India players will re-group and play against top clubs, from England, Spain, Netherlands or Germany.
There is a tremendous fan-base in England for the India team, and I believe the players will benefit from this exercise when they play in the World Cup.
Our partners in global hockey must be allowed to run their own houses. So, in future there will not be meddling from the FIH as continental federations know best on how to handle their programmes.
Money will also be channeled straight into the continental federations, and they will decide how to utilise it.
Another change which is being looked into is the qualifying system, which has placed many countries in a dilemma, and is too costly, and also takes up the greater part of FIH's time.
Having qualifiers all around the world and only promoting the gold medallists not only deprives some teams, but is also a waste of time and efforts which could be channeled into better work.
It was tragic when in the Beijing Olympic Qualifiers, teams were placed with Germany in Japan, with Argentina in Auckland and India in Chile.
Many teams gave up right after they knew that it was next to impossible to qualify.
I envision that soon, we will revert to the one-qualifier where 12 teams compete in two groups, and six are selected for the main event.
This way, even the placing matches will be keenly fought, and the tournament does not become a side-show once the chance to play in the final is out of sight.
Hockey is also feeling the pinch of the global economic slowdown, and having too many qualifiers for the women and the men is no longer realistic.
Lastly, my visit to India reaffirmed that they are capable hosts, with only one pressing matter which they must sort out.
India must have a democratic election to replace the ad-hoc committee, if not, we have Malaysia on standby as Plan B.
It is our responsibility to have a backup plan in case we are left with no option.

Third silver for Malaysia

The victorious India team with the Azlan Shah Cup after beating Malaysia 3-1 in the final yesterday. — Pic: MUHAIZAN YAHYA

MALAYSIA were resigned to their third silver medal in the Azlan Shah Cup when India beat them 3-1 in Ipoh yesterday.

A freak goal, and a disputed decision, was the order of the day as the hosts added another silver to the ones the won in 1985 and 2007.
The Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh was filled to the brim with a crowd of at least 12,000 who braved the rain to watch Malaysia give their best but India were in no mood to do them any favours.
Malaysia played as a team with a vision to convert their two silver into gold, but were dealt an early blow when India scored a freak goal in the eighth minute.
Arjun Halappa ran along the sideline of the Malaysian goal and made a pass to the centre. The ball met Malaysian defender Baljit Singh Charun's stick and was deflected into goal.
But with solid crowd support, Malaysia started to look more dangerous and their attacks were also well co-ordinated.
And it was no surprise that the equaliser came in the 11th minute from a goalmouth melee with Azlan Misron giving the hosts a life-line.
India were reduced to a defensive side, and only made occasional attacks after Malaysia had equalised, but nonetheless regained the lead.
This time, Prabhjot Singh took advantage of a 20th minute confusion in the Malaysian circle to push the ball in.
The score remained 2-1 in India's favour until the breather, but with a promise of more action after the break.
And the pace in the second half never slowed down with both sides looking to kill the game early. Malaysia came the closest in the 39th minute when Azlan had a one-on-one with India goalkeeper Baljit Singh, but failed.
India increased their lead to 3-1 in the 41st minute when the umpire Deon Nel of South Africa blew for a penalty corner and the Malaysian players stopped playing, but Shivendra Singh took a reverse stick shot and the umpire reversed his decision and blew for goal leaving the hosts stunned.
That goal killed the game's passion and, not surprisingly, Malaysia found the India goal sealed shut for the remainder of the match.
In the match for third placing, New Zealand beat Pakistan 2-1.
The Kiwis took a 2-0 lead through skipper Blair Hopping (12th) and Joel Baker (13th) but Pakistan pulled one back in the 35th minute off Shakeel Abbasi.

RESULTS -- Final: India 3 Malaysia 1; Third-Fourth: New Zealand 2 Pakistan 1.
ROLL-OF-HONOUR: 1 India, 2 Malaysia, 3 New Zealand, 4 Pakistan, 5 Egypt.
Man-of-the-Match: Arjun Halappa (India)
Top Scorer: Sandip Singh (India, 7 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: S. Kumar (Malaysia)
Player of the Tournament: Sandip Singh (India)
Fairplay: New Zealand.