SAPURA proved a point when they side-stepped hot favourites Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) to reach the final of the Malaysia Hockey League TNB Cup on Saturday.
They only had experience on their side, but it was enough to beat KLHC which paraded the country’s best strikers and defenders.
“Man for man, KLHC have the best in the country, so I had to plan my strategy around the experience and mental strength of my players.
“And after we beat them 4-2 in the first leg, I knew KLHC will make an all-out onslaught in the return leg, so we could not play an open match, and had to rely on counter-attacks. It worked, and we held them 1-1,” said Sapura coach S. Prakash.
KLHC coach R. Vivekanandan’s worst nightmare became a reality, as he was afraid his charges were not mentally strong to reach the final.
KLHC’s game started to go downhill after they drew 1-1 with Maybank in the League.
“Physically I have confidence in my team, but mentally, many of my players are weak especially when they stakes are stacked high,” Vivekanandan had said many times during the MHL.
The MHL final will be held on Feb 12, after which the national team will be selected for the First Asian Champions Trophy in Ipoh which is tentatively marked on April 13-18.
And the bulk of the national side will come from the KLHC side again, so the foreign and local coaches who will take charge of these players needs to pay more attention on their mental state.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) coaching com mittee held their meeting last week and came out with names of coaches to helm the various national sides.
It was reliably learnt that Tai Beng Hai and Stephen van Huizen, who is Sapura’s consultant coach for the MHL, were named to handle the senior side.
K. Rajan, who coached the 2009 Junior World Cup side, and K. Dharmaraj were chosen to prepare the 2013 Junior World Cup team.
And at the Under-16 level, Maybank coach S. Velappan and Sapura as well as Bukit Jalil Sports School coach S. Prakash were named as the guardians.
The MHF management committee will meet on Wednesday to endorse the coaching committee’s nominations.
Coaching committee chairman Dr Balbir Singh could not be reached for comments.