By Vijesh Rai
THE Malaysian Hockey Federation is gripped by election fever and the outcome of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games may not have made a significant impact on its office bearers and states.
With the next MHF council, following amendments to its constitution, set to rule for a four-year term following the Oct 31 elections, campaigning is important for losing would mean four years in the wilderness.
The candidates, however, must be mindful of the need to close ranks - irrespective of which camps get a bigger slice of the pie in the council - for the Commonwealth Games have shown that Malaysia will not win gold in the Asian Games next month.
That would mean having to play in the Olympic qualifier in early 2012 and MHF must not wait for the conclusion of the Asian Games before starting to plan on how to make it to London.
Failure to qualify for London would mean having missed three consecutive Olympics and this could well be a blow that Malaysian hockey will never recover from.
Stephen Van Huizen, no doubt set to be the target of snipers following the New Delhi episode, has left his fate in the hands of MHF but the association will do well to listen to what he has to say.
"We will only have about 15-16 months to prepare for the Olympic qualifier if we don't win gold in the Asian Games and we must start preparing immediately," said Van Huizen.
Key decisions have to be made - be it with the coaching personnel or the players - as some seniors will have to start making way for those coming through the ranks.
That is another area MHF has to look at and it has to be honest about the quality of players in the junior ranks and whether they are capable of shouldering the burden of mounting Malaysia's 2012 Olympics campaign.
MHF has the 2013 Junior World Cup programme running while 1Mas offers hope for the future but it is the next two years that need to be sorted out first.
Finger pointing isn't going to help for we would only have been kidding ourselves if we really thought Asian Games gold would be won when, even when Malaysian hockey was at its peak, bronze was the best ever achieved.
Today's Malaysian players are nowhere near the class of their predecessors and MHF has to seriously reconsider the full-time training concept currently practiced.
The squad lacks for nothing when it comes to training and exposure but playing friendlies, as what the squad did prior to New Delhi, isn't going to hone their competitive edge.
Neither is playing in the Malaysian Hockey League, which is in all honesty a competition between current, former and social players.
The players must be sent abroad to play in the European leagues and this is something which MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah shouldn't face a problem in realising.
Malaysian hockey players can, unlike their footballing counterparts, get playing contracts in Europe and this is one route that has to be taken before the rot worsens.
Cynics will say it has already reached rock bottom but, despite the results in New Delhi, isn't the case yet but it will be if MHF doesn't start planning now for the 2012 Olympics.