Monday, March 22, 2010

AHF taken for a ride


PAKISTAN and South Korea gave a sucker punch to the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) when they withdrew from the First Asian Champions Trophy, which was scheduled to be held in Ipoh on April 13-18.
The AHF, left with only China and Malaysia, decided to hide their tail between the legs and postpone the inaugural event which was supposedly being organised to elevate the stan dard of Asian teams.
Pakistan, who have four World Cup titles under their belt, finished last in the New Delhi World Cup and the entire team as well as the management resigned in shame.
South Korea finished sixth, and then decided that they had had enough of hockey and withdrew from the Asia Cup.
Both the teams know for a fact that the tournament does not carry any ranking points, and is also not a qualifier, so they did not think twice before pulling out.
They also know that the AHF will not punish them, as the Asian body need the two giants when elections come a calling.
However, the withdrawals have left the Malaysian team high and dry, and now they will have to keep on training for another month and wait for the Azlan Shah Cup, also in Ipoh, from May 6-16.
Interestingly, Pakistan and South Korea are also among the seven confirmed teams for the Azlan Shah Cup. The others are World No 1 and World Cup holders Australia, India, Malaysia, Egypt and China.
And a check with the MHF revealed that Pakistan and South Korea have not backed out of the Azlan Shah Cup, as of yesterday.
The reason? Both the teams will be punished by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) if they pull out of the Azlan Shah Cup, which is a sanctioned and recognised tournament.
Therein lies the fault which has seen Asia take a free fall in the recent World Cup, and only had two teams which qualified on merit, while India played as hosts.
The top five in the world saw one Oceania and four European teams in Germany, England, Netherlands and Spain.
Australia are in a class of their own, and even with little help Down Under, they seem to flourish by sending their players to compete in the European League.
And the European teams, with borders touching each other, enjoy a good time competing among each other and are consistently improving with England the team to watch in the London 2012 Olympics.
The AHF planned and then tried to execute a noble idea when they came up with the Asian Champions Trophy so that their members can have another tournament to improve themselves.
But it looks like some members are not interested in helping struggling countries like Malaysia and China, and that is why they took the easy way out, knowing well that the AHF do not have the clout to punish them.