COMMENT by Jugjet Singh
UNIKL, only in their second Junior Hockey League (JHL) season, has turned into a micro role model on how hockey should be developed in the country.
They won the Overall title and finished second in the League last year, and on Sunday won the League title are are looking good for a double.
Their only nemesis are Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS), who were the League champions last year and second on Sunday.
Another sports school, Bukit Jalil, were double champions for six consecutive times from 2003 to 2009, but have been relegated to third after they started to field 16 and 17 year-olds.
UniKL’s success can be traced back to their chancellor, who is Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, strong funding, good ad ministration, a good coaching set-up and exposure in the Malaysia Hockey League which they joined only in 2009.
The University side must have spent close to RM750,000 in both the MHL and JHL this season, and it was money well spent as the exposure in the senior league has turned some of the boys into men.
Fifteen of their players are in the Project 2013 squad, while BPSS have 11 Project players -- making both the teams into a hot-bed for training future national players.
That is why the progress of these two teams are being closely followed by an army of national coaches, as they have some budding players like Manraj Singh, the son of former national skipper Sarjit Singh, and Joel Samuel, the son of current national team coordinator Stephen van Huizen.
Both the players are lanky, and only 19-years-old, but are a chip off the old-block.
The administration, led by team manager Amir Azhar, have played a great role in promoting the team by having live match updates via twitter, and an impressive fan-base among the UniKL students who show up at stadiums on match days as well as 2,658 followers on Facebook.
They also took the trouble to hire a kiwi coach Darren Smith for the MHL, while another Malaysian-born living in New Zealand Matthew Ling and experienced Malaysian coach S. Vellapan, as well as former international S. Sel varaju are among the coaches for the JHL.
The clubside has many of the qualities which are just being ingrained into the MHF after decades in existence.
So, maybe the parent body should pick up a few pointers from their cub on how to make winners from whiners, and also make sure that the talent that comes through this JHL season does not disappear into the red-tape and political differences void.