PIC: ISMAIL ABU in yellow.
By Jugjet Singh
TWO team managers, and two teams, that seem to be the two-prong approach taken by the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) this season.
MHF appointed Datuk Dr S.S. Cheema as manager for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, while George Koshy will manage the team during the Asian Games in China.
And there are also plans to field two ‘different’ sides for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
That was the story that emerged after the Press were made to wait for a week for MHF to announce the selected 33 players for training, as the list changed many hands after chief coach Stephen van Huizen handed it in right after the Razak Cup in Kuantan.
On the list were a few surprise re-calls, as Stephen had named goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, 32, and striker Tajol Rosli, 28. Both the players had retired but performed well in the Razak Cup, naturally.
The training team now has five goalkeepers with S. Kumar still the best among his peers.
So why include Roslan? No disrespect to the player as he has represented Malaysia in many international tournaments, and performed exceptionally well and then retired gracefully.
The answer from MHF officials was as perplexing as calling back the overweight goalkeeper, who represented Perak in the Razak Cup.
The officials said the three goalkeepers under Kumar, Abdul Hakim, Khairulnizam Ibrahim and Fairus Wanazir are still not ready for big assignments like the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and that is why Roslan was also named.
Stephen is expected to name the second stringers for the Commonwealth Games and the full squad for the Asian Games as it offers the gold medallist a direct entry into the 2013 London Olympics.
And that is why he has named 33 players, of which five are goalkeepers.
Going by form in the Razak Cup, Ismail Abu should also have been selected for national training, but it looks like the young player is still being punished for playing truant during training last year.
Ismail as caught red-handed at a gaming centre in Bukit Jalil after excusing himself from training because he had an urgent matter to attend to.
The young striker was then dropped from the national side who were preparing for the New Zealand World Cup Qualifier.
Malaysia lost 2-1 to New Zealand, and failed to advance to the New Delhi World Cup. Ismail could have been an asset in the final, if he was not selfish enough to leave his friends to sweat during training while he played games in an air-conditioned arcade.
But some feel that he has served his sentence, and instead of re-calling a retired striker like Tajol, Ismail would have been a better bet for the Asian Games.
But then, as they say, the coach knows best. Stephen has made his bed, and he should be prepared to lie on it when the finalists of the Asian Games march onto the pitch to battle for the gold medal in China.
Malaysia must be one of the teams on the pitch fighting for gold, if not, Stephen’s bed will not be cushy enough to lie on anymore.