Malaysian Hockey Federation deputy president Nor Azmi Ahmad (right) and national corporate affairs manager of F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd Datuk Kamal Harun at the launch of the Razak Cup logo at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. — Picture by Fariz Iswadi Ismail.
THE Project 2017 squad and Labuan are the two new teams competing in the 100PLUS Razak Cup which begins with the May 27-July 3 regional qualifiers.
The Project squad, under coach Lim Chiow Chuan, are the national Under-16 team. They have been placed in the Central Zone with defending champions Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Selangor.
Labuan are in the West Zone alongside Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. This year's Borneo Cup standings will double up as qualifiers for the Razak Cup.
Unlike in previous years, the 49th edition of the Razak Cup will see teams battling it out in their respective zones and then in the final round where the 20 teams will be separated into two divisions.
The top two teams from each of the five zones will play in Division One with the others featuring in Division Two in the final round scheduled for July 21-30.
Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said all 16 affiliates have confirmed their entries with the Project 2017 squad, Brunei, Singapore and Labuan playing as invited sides.
"Each team must also register five Under-21 players in their 25-man squad and at least two must play in every match. This is to ensure that teams do not compromise on developing their younger players," said Nur Azmi at the launch of the Razak Cup logo at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
"The Razak Cup has also been moved from Kuantan to Malacca. The hockey pitch in Kuantan is unavailable as it is being refurbished for next year's Malaysia Games.
"Teams will be placed in two groups in both divisions with the top two teams playing in a crossover semi-finals."
Nur Azmi said the new format will help promote the sport on a wider scale.
"The tournament needed a face lift with innovative ideas to sustain and maintain its position as the Premier National Championship in the country, and that's why we introduced a qualifying round this year," he said.
Nur Azmi confirmed teams would earn RM1,000 for every match they play in the regional qualifiers.
"As an incentive, we will also give a grant of RM5,000 to each team who qualify for Division One and RM3,000 for Division Two sides," Nur Azmi added.
Division One champions will receive RM10,000, runners-up RM7,000 and third place RM5,000.
Division Two champions will pocket RM5,000, runners-up RM3,000, third place RM2,000.
THE ZONES -- North: Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Armed Forces.
Central: Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Project 2017.
South: Johor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Singapore.
East: Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Police.
West (Borneo Cup): Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, Labuan.