DESPITE finishing fourth in the Asia Cup, the Malaysian hockey team have dropped to an all time low of 16th in the latest world ranking, putting them in a more difficult position of qualifying for next year's World Cup in New Delhi.
The drop of one place from 15th has also affected Malaysia's ranking in Asia where they are now sixth from the previous fifth behind top-ranked South Korea, Pakistan, India, China and Japan.
The scenario is unfavourable for Malaysia and if there's no improvement soon, they will likely be given a difficult draw in the World Cup Qualifiers in November.
There will be three World Cup qualifying tournaments involving six teams each in Lille, Auckland and Dubai.
Malaysia's only hope of improving their ranking before the World Cup Qualifiers is by making an impression, more like becoming champions, in the Champions Challenge II in Dublin in July 6-12.
Malaysia and Japan are the favourites to win the Champions Challenge II, which is a new International Hockey Federation (FIH) world-level event featuring teams who failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy or Champions Challenge I.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) has to work on fast mode to ensure the team's preparation is in accordance to the Champions Challenge II and World Cup Qualifiers.
Among the things MHF needs to discuss are moving the local Malaysian Hockey Premier League, scheduled for October, to a later date and also to hire a full time coach for the team.
Currently, Tai Beng Hai is handling the national team on an interim basis.
Meanwhile, Asia Cup champions South Korea maintained fifth in the world ranking while Pakistan climbed two places to sixth.
China, who beat Malaysia in the Asia Cup bronze medal match, moved up three rungs to 13th. Former Olympic champions India dropped from 10th to 12th while Japan slipped three rungs to 14th. Germany are still the World No 1, followed by Australia, Spain and Netherlands.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
By Vijesh Rai
(Vijesh is the Sports Editor of the New Straits Times)
TENGKU Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah must be a relieved man.
The national team's first two outings, though they were a tad
disappointing in the Asia Cup semi-final, ended with more positives than
negatives and the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president has every
reason to feel buoyant.
The early days of his tenure indicate Tengku Abdullah may enjoy greater
success than he did as FA of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president but if that
is indeed to be the case, he must start cracking the whip now.
Though the national team finished second in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
and met the semi-final target in the Asia Cup, we will be fooling
ourselves if we believe that hockey is on the rise.
It isn't and there will only be false dawns as long as the sport's
structure isn't drastically improved.
The Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) is anything but world class and Jiwa
Mohan, lured out of international retirement for the Asia Cup, was only
being honest in his assessment when he said the national players should
ply their trade in Europe.
That should be an immediate target for Tengku Abdullah after having,
despite several valiant attempts, to do the same with the football
What Tengku Abdullah has got going for him in hockey is that Malaysia
still has some players who are highly rated at world level and finding
them European clubs shouldn't be that major a problem.
A rosy picture is also being painted about the Bukit Jalil and Bandar
Penawar Sports Schools but the two are not enough to sustain the rise, if
there is to be one, of Malaysian hockey.
What hockey needs, to ensure those in the various national teams and
sports schools don't become complacent, is a structure where quality
players are just waiting to replace them.
We don't have that now and the fact that an Under-17 Bukit Jalil Sports
School team won the Under-19 Division 2 title and an even younger team
are leading the Division One standings currently is proof of that.
For this to change, Tengku Abdullah has to address the root of the
problem - the state affiliates.
Too few are actually promoting hockey but the real problem is all are
decision makers and we all know the decisions are always favourable to
What Tengku Abdullah must do is, and this will be a big task, devise a
formula where the hard-working and successful are rewarded - financial
and votes-wise while those who continue to give excuses for their lack of
commitment be "punished" by a gradual withdrawal of their rights.
This could even mean losing their right to vote and if Tengku Abdullah
can do this, then the feeling of relief he is currently enjoying may well
be replaced by real success.
SCHOOLBOYS from Bukit Jalil are holding out nicely in a man's world by
topping the table after the first weekend of the Malaysia Hockey League's
And the fact that 13 players from BJSS are Under-16, with the 17
year-olds, makes it both special and alarming.
Special because it means they are indeed worthy of their places in the
sports school and alarming because it exposes just how poor the overall
quality is in the division, which has no age restriction.
BJSS coach S. Prakash took a gamble when he fielded Under-17 boys in
the Under-19 Division Two of the MHL, only to be rewarded with a double
and this could also be the scenario in Division One.
"Since we are a sports school and have won many titles, we tried with a
young set of players and it was a rewarding experience in Division Two,
"So, we went ahead and fielded more youngsters for the Division One
challenge, and so far, the boys have coped well," said Prakash.
BJSS opened accounts by making a strong comeback from being 0-3 down,
to draw against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) who have several
After that, BJSS beat UNIMAP of Perlis 4-1.
"I see a good future in this set of players, and the only problem now
is their lack of sharpness in the semi-circle."
THE National Juniors played three friendlies against Singapore in the
island republic last weekend and found the artificial pitch not to their
Malaysia and Singapore, co-hosts of the June 7-21 Junior World Cup,
will accommodate 10 teams each.
Singapore was supposed to host a Four-Nation to test its facilities but
could not do so and invited Malaysia instead.
"We played three matches against Singapore and the boys found the
artificial pitch a little bumpy. We won all three matches (3-1, 3-0,
1-0). It was a good experience because, if we qualify for the
quarter-finals, we might have to play in Singapore," said Juniors coach
Johor Baru will host Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia
(Group A) and England, South Korea, Spain, US and Malaysia (Group C).
Singapore will host Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan and South Africa
in Group B. India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore are in
The juniors are now in Johor getting a feel of the competition venue in
"It will be strictly training for us until the World Cup but we have
lined-up a friendly against Belgium on June 2," said Rajan. "Spain will
be arriving on May 29 and have requested for a match but since they are
in the same group, I have declined."
Rajan has dropped midfielder Azrin Rizal after he underwent a knee
operation, and brought in Shaheed Shah.
"I have 21 players in training and things are looking up. We should be
ready to battle for a quarter-final slot when the tournament starts."