PROJECT 2013 returned form their European Tour on Thursday with not only success on the pitch, but also a major breakthrough in mind-set of players, and respect from their opponents.
And offers are now pouring in from European clubs to sign in our young players for their leagues.
The Under-19 outfit played 13 matches in their Tour of Switzerland, Poland, Spain and Netherlands. The count was eight wins, two draws and three defeats.
And all their defeats were against the Under-21 sides of Spain, Belgium and Poland who were in the midst of prepar ing for the European Under-21 championships.
All three teams also had many players from the 2010 Junior World Cup hosted by Malaysia and Singapore.
But the Project boys still managed to hold the Spain and Poland sides in return matches after the initial defeat.
On mind-set, coach K. Dharmaraj feels the whirl-wind Tour has made his players more matured and confident, while their opponents are now more mindful of Malaysia.
“We had little respect when we started the Tour as Malaysia are no longer feared by European sides. But after our young side started winning matches with ease against established club sides, the outlook started to change,” said Dharmaraj.
At least 10 players have received offers to play in Europe: “Clubs from Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Netherlands want to sign up our players for their leagues but we could not make a commitment.
“I will write a report on the matter, and the MHF (Malaysian Hockey Federation) and NSC (National Sports Council) will have their final say on how many players can be released to play in Europe.
“I believe those who went on the Tour gained much because most of them were a timid lot, but after 13 matches and travelling and experiencing different cultures, they are now much more confident on and off the pitch,” said Dhar maraj.
Some of the players who shone exceptionally well are Firhan Ashaari, Mohamed Sabri and Izat Hakimi.
“The three showed tremendous potential, and among the ’newcomers’ who showed maturity were Joel Samuel, Syamim Yusof and Fitri Saari.
“Overall, it was an excellent Tour and now, I believe junior sides in Europe will no longer take Malaysia lightly, and the fact that they want the services of out players is testimony to that,” said Dharmaraj.
THE TOUR SQUAD: Shahrul Azaddin, Hafizuddin Othman, Mohamed Sabri, Mohamed Noor Faeez, Joel Samuel van Huizen, Faiz Helmi, Zulhairi Hashim, Harmeet Singh, Fathi Kamel, T. Ganeisha, Amir Farid, Syamim Yusof, Fariq Saadon, Eldon Lemery, Izad Hakimi, N. Ugentheren, Norhiz zat Sumantri, R. Ramesh, Rashid Baharom, Fitri Saari, Firhan Ashaari.