Malaysia have their back to the wall at number 15.
2009 Malaysian Hockey In Review
MALAYSIAN Hockey Federation (MHF) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah took over the reigns of a sinking ship in October last year, and while most of the debts have been paid, his vision to break into the top-ten in the world will take much longer than he expected.
He entered a world which, in his own words, was quite alien and said that he will need all the help he can get from his state affiliates to realise his dream.
After a year at the helm, he has delivered his promise of bringing in the cash, and even the jaded Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division is now shown live on tele vision and will travel out of Kuala Lumpur to woo more youth to take up the sport.
However, the 2-1 defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup Qualifier final has placed Tengku Abdullah and his council in a tight spot.
Malaysia only moved up a rung to 15th in the world in the latest International Hockey Federation (FIH) ranking, while China moved up three rungs to occupy the 10th spot, as they beat Malaysia on penalty strokes to win bronze in the Asia Cup in Kuantan.
The FIH do not take into consideration the ranking points for the 18 teams which competed in three World Cup Qualifiers, where Malaysia did outclass China to reach the final. In the FIH world of weird rankings, the points earned will only be accumulated after the completion of the New Delhi World Cup in March next year.
New Zealand, who struggled to beat Malaysia in the final, are eighth in the world. After the Qualifier, the Kiwis played in the Champions Challenge I, where they beat Pakistan 4-2 in the final and will play in the Champions Trophy next year.
The FIH ranking has shown that teams placed in the eighth to the 16th bracket are almost of the same standard and only separated by determination on match day.
This is the only plus point, which the MHF president and his council members can bank on to work even herded next year.
We have the players who can even upset world No 2 Australia, as they did in the 1-0 win at the Five-Test series in Melbourne, only to lose 11-3 to the Aussies the very next day.
The yo-yo performance is still a mystery, just like the coach issue which has been dragging since Tengku Abdullah took over in October last year.
Tai Beng Hai can now apply to be listed in the Malaysia Book of Records, for being the longest interim coach in the country. He has the distinction of holding the interim reigns for a year, and his assignments include the Azlan Shah Cup, the Champions Challenge II, the Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifier.
And it looks like he is going to break his own record next year, as the MHF have yet to secure a foreign coach, while the Azlan Shah Cup, the Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy and the Commonwealth Games await to strengthen his internship next year.
The Korean has said ‘aniyo’, the Dutch said ‘nee’ while the Aussie also said ‘norrr’.
It looks like Tengku Abdullah and his men must first decide on their coach, local or foreign, before they can work towards breaking into the top-10 in the world.
The Asian Games next year provides a direct entry into the London Olympics, and all we need to do is beat our Asian neighbours, which is not too much to ask from this talented squad.
HOW THEY FARED IN 2009:
AZLAN SHAH CUP: 1 India, 2 Malaysia, 3 New Zealand, 4 Pakistan, 5 Egypt.
CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE 11: 1 Poland, 2 Ireland, 3 France, 4 Malaysia, 5 Japan, 6 Russia, 7 Austria, 8 Chile.
ASIA CUP: 1 South Korea (qualified for 2010 World Cup), 2 Pakistan, 3 China, 4 Malaysia, 5 India, 6 Japan, 7 Bangladesh.
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS: 1 New Zealand, 2 Malaysia, 3 Scotland, 4 China, 5 Austria, 6 Wales.