HIDDEN TALENT: Japan's Hayato Goto (C, in blue) fights for the ball with Faizal Saari of Malayasia during the Sixth Men's Junior Asian Cup hockey tournament in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad July 14, 2008.
EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD Faizal Shaari is in flying form, and both the senior as well as Under-18 coaches want him for tournaments in New Zealand and Myanmar, which clash.
However, a compromised was reached as Tai Beng Hai will need him for the New Zealand Olympic Qualifiers on Nov 7- 15, so K, Dharmaraj will wait for him to arrive in Yangon, Myanmar for the Second Under-18 Boys Asia Cup on Nov 14- 22.
“Teams are only allowed to field 16 players for the Asia Cup, and I will also list Faizal’s name as he can fly down from New Zealand after the World Cup Qualifier ends on the 15th.
“I will have to play with 15 players until he arrives, but it will be worth the wait, as if we qualify for the semi-finals, we will have Faizal for the crucial knock-out stage,” said Under- 18 coach K. Dharmaraj.
Seniors coach Tai Beng Hai’s mission is on priority level, as Malaysia will be involved in a do-or-die in the Invercargill, New Zealand, World Cup Qualifiers.
Only the gold medallists advance to the New Delhi World Cup, and Malaysia will be pitted against the hosts, China, Austria, Wales and Scotland.
“After watching the boys play in the Hyderabad friendlies, and then winning the Sea Cup in Bangkok, I believe we have a team which can reach the semi-finals in Myanmar,” said Dharmaraj.
The winner in Myanmar will qualify for the Youth Olympics in Singapore.
Twelve teams will play in two groups, and the coach felt that India will be Malaysia’s biggest hurdle.
“I have been told that India and Malaysia are in the same group, while Pakistan and South Korea in another group. If it is true, then we should be able to reach the semi-finals, and Faizal will be an asset in the semi-finals onwards,” said Dharmaraj as the groupings have yet to be endorsed by the International Hockey Federation.
The other teams who have so far registered with the Asian Hockey Federation are Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan and Uzbekistan.
Faizal scored eight goals in the Junior World Cup, and since then, has shown great improvement when fielded in the Champions Challenge II, and the Australian and New Zealand Tours where he also got his name on the score boards.