Thursday, December 22, 2011
The national team will start against Chile, followed by Russia and Ukraine and maximum points and goals will be the order of the day.
After that, they will meet South Korea and finally hosts Ireland, and need to win at least one match to play in the final of the Qualifier.
“The fixtures were drawn based on ranking and since we are 13th in the world, we will meet the lower ranked teams first before South Korea and then the hosts.
“We must not only win all the three early matches but also score as many goals as possible so that we will end up playing in the final,” said Beng Hai.
And the fixtures will also see Malaysia have one rest day before playing Korea, and then another rest day before meeting Ireland which could decide the outcome of the Olympic dream.
The round-robbin format will see the top two teams playin in the final, and only the gold medallist will advance to the London Olympics.
For the record, Malaysia last played in the Olympics in Sydney 2000.
“Training started last week as I sharpen some areas which were lacking during the Champions Challenge I (in South Africa where Malaysia finished fifth).
“I am concentrating on strengthening several areas, in cluding the penalty corner battery,” said Beng Hai.
And with the Azlan Shah Cup postponed from February to the middle of the year, the team’s training schedule has to be re-structured.
“Since the Azlan Shah Cup has been postponed, I have been on the hunt for some friendly matches and so far only China has confirmed to play a series of friendlies from Jan 10-20.
“India are also interested, but we are still working on the dates as they will be hosting the Qualifier in New Delhi from Feb 18-26.”
MALAYSIAN FIXTURES: March 10 -- Malaysia v Chile; March 11: Malaysia v Russia; March 13: Malaysia v Ukraine; March 15: Malaysia v South Korea; March 17: Malaysia v Ireland.
HOCKEY: The year in review.
THE Asian Games gold medal was in Malaysia's hands, but the players decided to trade it like Aladdin's lamp to Pakistan, and now it looks like two out of their three wishes will remain just that, wishes.
They not only threw away a chance to win Malaysia's first Asian Games gold medal, but also decided to take the long and arduous route to the 2012 London Olympics, by joining the soup queue in the Dublin Qualifier next year.
The cost of shaving their head bald in Changzhou, China, in 2010 and tamely losing the ticket to London on a 2-0 margin to Pakistan, will haunt the team in Dublin as hosts Ireland and South Korea will be the biggest barriers.
Malaysia are now known as a generous side, as they first gave away the India World Cup ticket to New Zealand after taking a 1-0 lead with only 13 minutes separating them from the World Cup and failure, but decided to lose 2-1 in Invercargill.
And then, they gave Pakistan the Olympic ticket on a whimper.
It was no different in South Africa, where the generosity of the Malaysian team was again on parade as they held India by the jugular with six minutes remaining, but decided to throw away a 4-2 lead and instead of playing in the medal knock-outs, they fought gallantly for the fifth spot.
Incidentally, or hilariously, they kept true to the fifth target set by the now dead Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) and were aptly rewarded with a purse of RM4,500 each, player and official, for holding on tenaciously to their target.
If wishes came true, hockey fans in the country would have held their breath, and crossed their fingers, and wished hard that the players would suddenly be blessed with some grey matter between their ears.
But that would just turn out to be another wasted wish.
The current batch of players have skills, speed, stamina and the ability to beat the best teams in the world.
However, they seem to lack the ability to hold onto leads, or motivate themselves to win gold medals, and play at a higher level, instead of only being remembered by romantics as the almost-there team.
They could have played in the India World Cup and then the London Olympics, but it turned out to be wishful thinking, leaving just the Dublin Qualifier to look forward to -- wishfully.
The Genie failed twice, and now it looks like the golden harvest will only materialise with hard work and not just playful thinking.
MHF, and now Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah inherited a sinking ship in November 2008, but his steady hands has safely manuevered it out of debts and now there is a surplus if RM10 million in their coffers.
With the office in working order, he is now looking for a winning side.
He stared many long term projects to raise the standard of hockey, by projecting to break into the top-10 in the world, and one of the best laid play so far is the 1Mas Programme.
It started with an RM3 million per-year grant from the government, and just after a year, has started to show encouraging results.
First, the Under-16 team went Down Under and won the FHE Cup held in Perth, Australia.
The Malaysian 1Mas team was on top of their game when they defeated Western Australia Under-16 team 3-2 in the final.
And when a 1Mas under-12 camp was held in Kuala Lumpur recently, a strong critic of Malaysian hockey finally found a soft spot in his heart and lamented loudly that he has never seen under-12 players in Malaysia possess such good basics and also dribbling skills in the half-century that he has been following the sport.
It all boiled down to state coaches who trained these under-12 boys and gave them strong basics in just one year.
Tengku Abdullah has said many times that he would like to see the current batch win gold in the Dublin Qualifier and finally be back in the Olympics which they last played in the year 2000 in Sydney.
But if the state coaches keep up the good development work for at least another five years, then there will no longer be a need to wish for gold anymore.
Monday, December 19, 2011
LAUSANNE – The FIH today announced changes to both the London 2012 Olympic line-up and the Olympic Qualification tournaments.
The most notable change is that Spain’s National Men’s team have been awarded a berth to the London 2012 Olympic Games after the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee turned down it’s men’s team direct entry to the Games. As per the Qualification System approved by FIH and published by the IOC, once official word was received that South Africa had formally ceded it's automatic Olympic berth, the spot was offered to Spain, which is the next highest ranked team without an automatic berth to London 2012.
In addition to the above amendment, three National Olympic Committees declined their invitations to take part in the Olympic Qualification Tournament. The Cuban (women) and Trinidad & Tobago (women) and the Egyptian (men) have all informed the FIH that they will not be taking part in the Olympic Qualification process.
Each of these teams will be replaced in accordance with the Qualification System agreed between the FIH and the International Olympic Committee, which specifically states "if an NOC withdraws a qualified team, the qualification place will be reallocated to the next highest ranked NOC, not yet qualified, in accordance with the FIH World Ranking List at the date of withdrawal."
The teams that have been invited to replace the above countries are: Poland (for Cuba), Austria (for Tirnidad and Tobago) and Italy (for Egypt); all three teams have accepted their inclusion in the Qualifying Tournaments . The FIH has started drafting the match schedules for the six qualification tournaments and these will be published shortly.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
By Jugjet Singh
THE Malaysian golf scene had never had it so good, and the professionals can finally break into song and dance after suffering a major handicap for the past decade caused by bickering and in-fighting among rival bodies.
The mushroom that sprung up from the ground after rival bodies clawed, cussed and then fought to their deaths was the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour.
And PGM, born on December 2010, has not only brought in the money and more tournaments than the local professionals could even have dreamt of, but is also looking at nurturing world class golfers in the near future.
PGM held 16 legs this year, with a total purse of RM2.6 million, and will increase it to 19 legs and RM3 million next year.
And the severely handicapped golfers, some of whom who were left with little more than their golf clubs and the T-shirts on their backs after a long and bitter clash among golf bodies, have now more than enough legs to support their quest to play and also make money in one swing.
Take a bow Tun Ahmad Sarji, Chairman of PGM, as he handed the dying golf scene a breath of fresh air, and aspires to see 20 Malaysian golfers on the Asian Tour and five on the European Tour in the next few years.
In his own words, he described the birth of PGM: “It started when the Prime Minister wanted to end the suffering of professional golfers in the country by providing them with more tournaments.
“His vision was to have world class golfers in the next few years and a few Government Linked Companies were roped in a sponsors.
“It started in a small way, but now, sponsors are very happy with the progress made by local golfers and I believe we should have more than a handful of credible gofers in the near future,” said Ahmad Sarji.
The plan is not only to provide more competition, but also to nurture the mind-set of locals to think big, and towards this an academy will mushroom next year.
Feb 2 will me the milestone as the PGM High Performance Golf Academy will take in its first intake of 16 male golfers. The new benchmark will provide holistic raining programme covering skills in all areas -- physical, technical, mental and strategies.
“We need the academy to change the mind-set of local golfers, who until recently still believed on luck rather than skills and mental strength to make their mark.
“I stills see professionals who arrive minutes from their tee-off time and gulp down a nasi lemak before trying their luck in a tournament.
“This will be a thing of the past if they take up the challenge to be groomed into real professionals in the PGM Academy,” said Ahmad Sarji.
The five-year development programme at the PGM Academy will have seven intakes in varying numbers, with the age limit set at 25-years and below.
However, it is not a free ride as PGM will bare 60 per cent of the cost, while golfers will have to fork out the remainder.
“Training will be for six months with the student’s contribution being RM3,000 per month with the total being RM18,000.
“PGM’s total subsidy per-student for the six months will be RM27,796. We need to have paying golfers at the academy, so that they will be more serious in their quest to change their game and mental approach,” said Ahmad Sarji.
And what about the ladies?
Plans are also afoot to help the ladies who do not have their won professional body, but work with the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia.
Right now, there are less than 10 professional lady golfers in the country, of which only Jean Chua, in the United States, and Ainil Johani Bakar actively playing.
The ladies will also be allowed to play with the men in the PGM Tour, but not in the six joint PGM-ADT Tours, until they have more numbers and are able to form their own pro organisation.
Next year, PGM Sime Darby Harvard Classic will kick-start the calendar on Jan 11-14 at the Harvard GCC in Kedah, and hopefully by December when the pros assemble for the grand finale in the PGM Masters Invitation at the Impian GCC in Selangor, low scores will be the order of the day.
2012 PGM CALENDAR
Jan 11-14: PGM Sime Darby at Harvard GCC, Kedah (RM125,000); Feb 8-11: PGM Perlis Classic at Kelab Golf Putra (RM125,000); Feb 19-22: PGM Kelantan Classic at Kelantan GCC (RM125,000).
March 8-11: PGM CCM Impian Masters at Impian GCC (RM180,000, ADT).
March 28-31: PGM Perak Classic at Clearwater Sanctuary (RM125,000); April 4-7: PGM Johor Classic at Johor Country Club (RM180,000 ADT); April 18-21: PGM Sabah Classic at Sabah GCC (RM200,000).
May 10-13 PGM A’Famosa Classic at A’Famosa Golf Resort (RM180,000 ADT); May 23-26 PGM Kinrara Classic at Kinrara GC (RM125,000); June 6-9: PGM Malacca Classic at Ayer Keroh CC (RM125,000); June 25-28: PGM Terengganu Masters at Awana Kijal (RM220,000 ADT).
July 11-14: PGM PNB Lanjut Classic at Lanjut Golden Beach (RM125,000); Sept 5-8: PGM North Port at Templer Park CC (RM125,000); Sept 19-22: PGM Penang Classic at Penang GR (RM125,000).
Oct 4-7: PGM Sarawak Classic at Kelab Golf Sarawak (RM180,000 ADT); Oct 17-20: PGM Negri Sembilan Classic at Seremban International GC (RM125,000); Nov 8-11: PGM-MIDF KLGCC Masters (RM180,000 ADT).
Nov 21-24: PGM UMW Serendah Classic (RM130,000); Dec 12-15: PGM Masters Invitational at Impian GCC (RM300,000).
Friday, December 16, 2011
MALAYSIAN golf professionals are set for another bumper year as the Professional Golf of Malaysia yesterday unveiled 19 tournaments and an increase of prize money to RM3 million next year.
This year, PGM organised 16 tournaments with a total purse of RM2.6 million, and their last leg will be the PGM Kinrara Masters starting on Monday, and offers a purse of RM300,000.
The 2012 calendar was unveiled by PGM chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club yesterday.
“Next year, we will be much stricter with the entries and a Qualifying School will be held on Jan 3-5 to maintain a high standard in the 16 legs,” said Ahmad Sarji.
The 50 top PGM Order of Merit golfers will receive automatic sanction to play next year, while the rest will have to qualify. There will also be a one-day qualifier before all 19 legs to give more members a chance to play in the PGM tournaments.
“Malaysian tournament winners on the Asian Tour will also receive a three year exemption while Malaysian winners in the Asian Development Tour will be granted a two-year exemption,” said Ahmad Sarji.
This year, out of the 16 legs, three were Asian Development Tours (ADT) but will be increased to next year.
“ADT tournaments will be increased to six and this will give our local professionals a chance to test their skills against 60 foreign Asian Tour players.
“We need to expose our players more often against ADT foreign players as this will only make them stronger in the sport.”
The biggest winner on the PGM Tour, before the Kinrara Masters, is Rashid Ismail who has earned a total of RM117,571.
Second on the Order of Merit is Nicholas Fung on RM100,676.
“When we started the PGM Tour, the winners were quite predictable and the scores were quite high. However, after a short span, it is hard to predict who will win as the younger professionals are fast moving up the leaderboard and winners keep changing at every leg.
“The scores are also much more respectable now, and that is why we will be holding a Qualifying School to take it to the next level,” said Ahmad Sarji.
And the target of PGM in the next few years is to have at least 20 Malaysians in the Asian Tour and five in the European Tour.
“That is our target, as I believe by playing more domestically, and also against foreign pros in the six ADT legs, our locals have what it takes to break into the Asian Tour in big numbers, and a select few look promising enough to break into the European Tour in the next few years,” said Ahmad Sarji.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will cease to exist after delegates meet on Saturday to vote in the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
And the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association (MWHA) will meet a similar fate, when they are dissolved on Dec 31.
The MHF have a long and illustrious history, and together with the Amateur Athletics Union of Malaya (AAUM), they formed the Federation of Malaya Olympic Council.
The MHF and AAUM met at the PWD Sports Club in Cheras on Aug 15 1953, and after 35 minutes, the Olympic Council was officially formed.
“After the EOGM, we will send a report to the Sports Commissioner’s office and by January, the MHC should officially be formed by merging with the MWHA,” said MHF general manager Maninderjit Singh.
The Malayan Hockey Council was officially formed in 1947 in Kuala Lumpur when delegates from Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Johor and Singapore met and Singapore HA President Sir George E.N. Oehlers formally proposed:
“That a body governing the game of Hockey in the Federation of Malaya and in the Colony of Singapore be formed and that such a body be called the Malayan Hockey Council”.
Sir George was elected the first president.
The Malayan Hockey Federation, with Singapore opting out, was formed in 1954 with Herman Marie De Souza as president and Kandiah Aryaduray as secretary.
Sir Gerald Templer and Sir Donald Mac Gillivray, the High Commisioner of the Federation of Malaya, were the Patrons.
And the first international assignment for the hockey team was the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, with the best finish in the 1975 KL World Cup where Malaysia finished fourth.
“In recognition of services rendered by both officials from MHF and MWHA, a dinner will be held somewhere in January where former officials and office bearers will be invited to attend in appreciation,” said Maninderjit Singh.
The hockey body has seen changes from Malayan Hockey Council to Malayan Hockey Federation to Malaysian Hockey Federation.
And will now be called the Malaysian Hockey Confederation.
Presidents of MHF from 1957 to current:
1 Tun Abdul Razak (1957-1976)
2 Sultan Azlan Shah (1976-2004)
3 Raja Nazrin Shah (2004-2006)
4 Admiral Tan Sri Mohammad Anwar (Dec 19 2006-Nov 1 2008)
5 Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah (Nov 1 2008-current).
Sunday, December 11, 2011
THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) have asked Malaysian Hockey Confederation Secretary General Maninderjit Singh to apologise to them for sending them an e-mail criticising on Spain’s back-door qualification to the Olympics.
Maninderjit had written to the FIH asking for an explanation after reports, online and on television, had said that since South Africa had failed to reached their federation’s target of reaching the final of the Champions Challenge I, they will forfeit their Olympic ticket and play in the Japan Qualifier.
The reports had said that South Africa’s African Nation’s Olympic ticket will now be given to the highest ranked Qualifier, which is Spain.
Maninderjit was peeved with the swap between South Africa and Spain, and had written a strongly worded e-mail to the FIH after India and Belgium qualified for the Champions Challenge I final.
“This scenario is simply mind boggling, as this private deal was never communicated or circulated to all teams who will be playing in the Olympic Qualifiers in India, Ireland and Japan,” said Maninderjit Singh in an earlier Timesport article.
However, the e-mail from Maninderjit to the FIH also read: “And I believe that FIH should be hard on the reasoning for Spain to get this berth and it is also that we all know that the current FIH President is from Spain. More so, FIH have to be more vigilant with the approach on such matter.”
The FIH CEO Kelly Fairweather wrote an e-mail to Maninderjit Singh stating: “The reference in your e-mail to our president is completely unacceptable. I trust that with time to reflect you will understand how serious the implications carried by your comments are.
“I ask that you immediately contact the president by e-mail to apologise for your comments and that you unconditionally withdraw them from the public arena.
“The immediacy and extent of your apology and retraction will inform the nature of any further action to be taken by the FIH.
“For your information, at the time of writing no decision has been taken with regards to any replacement for South Africa as the FIH is following the process outlined in the Qualification system.
“It is really unfortunate that you have either deliberately chosen to ignore the aforementioned Qualification system ot have written what you have in total ignorance of the published system.”
When contacted by Timesport, Manindersjit said he has written an apology to the FIH and considers the matter closed.
The Sikh sports chaps attended Ajitpal Singh's wedding yeaterday. He was born in 1975 and named after India skipper Ajitpal, who lifted the 1975 World Cup Trophy in Malaysia.
Ajitpal's father Harnek was a 1975 World Cup trainee for Malaysia.
MY colleague, Ajitpal Singh, is very excited to be tying the knot tomorrow. But he didn't see the trouble coming -- which was tying his turban, known as the dastaar.
Ajitpal's turban woe came to light when I asked Jugjet Singh, another NST employee, why he was in a hurry to leave the office the other day.
Jugjet said he had to rush to Ajitpal's house in PJ to help him wear his maroon turban for the biggest day of his life.
I got excited too, and soon I was phoning up Ajitpal and demanding to know what's happening.
"What's the problem with your wedding?" I asked.
"I'm having a headache, tying my wedding turban," admitted Ajitpal who was wrestling with a piece of cloth over his head all day.
Thinking it was as easy as the shampoo girl making a turban of my head with a towel in the salon, I said: "Is it really that difficult? Haven't you worn a turban in your life before?"
Ajitpal replied: "I'm not a turban man... not even when I was a boy."
"So, you're the modern type, the 'no turban' urban Singh," I quipped.
"Yes, you can say so," said Ajitpal who revealed that he called in four friends to help him put on his headgear.
The four who answered Ajitpal's SOS were Satwant Singh, a media consultant; Aftar Singh, a hockey umpire; Surjit Singh, and Jugjet.
Ajitpal has good reason to be worried about his turban after it turned out to be a "disaster", in his own words, during his engagement to his beloved Baljit Kaur, a secretary, in February.
"Somebody tied the turban for me but it was not well done and looked really flat. It should be sharp and pointed in front of my head," said Ajitpal.
With the turban as his crown, Ajitpal wants to be as regal as the Maharajah of Punjab when he becomes "Raja Sehari" (king for a day) tomorrow.
Tying a turban, with its twists and turns in many variations, I am told, is an art.
It is a daily ritual that takes an average of 25 minutes to wrap one's head. Usually, a Sikh wears a turban in the fashion as taught by his father.
To the seasoned turban wearer, it is always easier for one to wrap a piece of cloth around his own head than someone else doing it for him. But for the inexperienced Ajitpal, it seems to be the hardest task in the world.
But it is all worth the trouble for Ajitpal is going to have a lovely and caring wife, whom he first met on Jalan Cyber through Facebook.
The NST wishes Ajitpal and Baljit a blessed and happy marriage.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Following some confusion with regards to the qualifying system adopted by FIH, this blog took the liberty to write to FIH and seek clarification on the matter as well as the automatic qualification of Malaysia for the 2012 Champions Challenge I.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
THE 1Mas Hockey development program of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) tasted its first success when the Under-16 team won the FHE Cup held in Perth, Australia.
The Malaysian development team was on top of their game when they defeated Western Australia Under-16 team 3-2 in the final.
The tournament saw six other teams competing and they were Western Australia, Japan, South West Academy of Sports, New South Wales Bushranger, Western Australia Under-15 State Team and New South Wales Golden Thun derbolts.
Lim Chiow Chuan, the Project Director of 1Mas Hockey program said: “The result was what we have been looking for, and I hope that the players will build on this and continue to improve.”
And as a further step to improve hockey in the country, a 1Mas Under-12 camp will be held on 9-13 Dec at the Ministry of Education pitch in Kuala Lumpur.
“The camp is a gathering of the 1Mas Under-12 pro gramme whereby centres will be able to meet other family members throughout the country and showcase their skills after 12 months of training at their respective centres. This camp will include fitness and basic skills tests and a tour nament amongst the training centres,” said Chiow Chuan.
On the Under-16 1Mas team, coached by Maidin Mo hammad of Negri Sembilan and Wan Noor Zuhari of Ke lantan, their progress was a pleasant surprise, as the players were selected in June, and from the initial 40 short-listed, the team was further reduced to the final 16 after a week’s training camp in October.
The FHE Cup started in Australia in 2007 as a junior event and focused around the under 16 tournament.
James Charles Lawson, Deputy Principal of the Clontarf Aboriginal College and a coach in Western Australia said: “I am ,astonished with the talent and discipline of the Malaysian players in the competition. The players not only performed well on the pitch but also earned the respect of everyone with their behaviour off the field.
“I hope that the 1Mas Hockey program will continue to flourish and produce quality players that will eventually represent the country in the near future.”
Group results: Malaysia 2 WA U-16 School Boys 0, Malaysia 2 Japan U-16 National Team 2, Malaysia 3 South West Academy of Sports 1, Malaysia 4 WA U-15 1, Malaysia 1 NSW Kelly Blues 1, Malaysia AirAsia 6 NSW Golden Thunderbolts 0.
Final: Malaysia 3 WA U-16 School Boys 2.
MALAYSIA: Adi Fazri Rahim, Danial Zafrin, Rozaini Ba harom, Izaidi smail, Abdul Muhaimin, Rahimi Iskandar, Jamil Johari, Ikwan Ishak, S. Devamoorthy, Syabariq Sham suri, Faid Farhadh, Ashraf Mohamed Noor, Fahad Naim, Khairul Ikhwan, Hafizi Roslan and Mawardi Hamirin.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
JOHANNESBURG: India's Olympic Qualifier hockey tournament for men will feature a team less as Egypt have pulled out of the event due to financial problems caused by political strife in the county.
Seif Ahmed, president of Egypt's hockey federation, said Egypt had intimated to the International Hockey Federation ( FIH) that it would not be playing in the qualifying competitions.
Egyptian men's hockey team finished second behind South Africa in the All-Africa Games, where a victory would have secured them a direct spot in the Olympic lineup.
Out of 12 teams to feature in the Olympic Games, nine places have already been allocated, and the remaining three will come from three Olympic Qualifiers to be played in India, Ireland and Japan.
Eight-time gold medalists India will play at home in the New Delhi qualifier, where the other contenders for the lone Olympic Games spot will now be Canada, France, Poland and the United States.
Monday, December 5, 2011
A total of 10 teams, a record of sorts for the championships participated in the tournament that was organised by the Kedah Hockey Association.
Prior to the final, a friendly match between Mahkota United, led by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and a Kedah Veterans XI was held. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
In the final a goal by former RMR player Balbir Singh in the 14th minutes was enough to seal the title for Negri who had the services of Mohamed Nor Hussain, Surinder Singh, Derek Fidelis and MHF vice president K. Gobinathan.
In the match for the bronze medal, Kuala Lumpur trashed Police 6-1 with goals from Prem Singh, Lt Col Inderjit Singh, Satvinder Singh, K. Murali and Harbinder Singh who netted a brace.
Police got their consolation via Adzli Abu Shah.
Negri had defeated Police 1-0 in the semi-final while Perak edged Kuala Lumpur 3-2 on penalty strokes after the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
The three elements needed now for the Azlan Shah Cup in February, and then the Olympic Qualifier on March 11-18 in Dublin are a strong minded-skipper who can rally his men to hold onto a winning lead, make sure with sitters, and don’t give away unwarranted penalty corners.
AFTER a roller-coaster show in the Champions Challenge I in Johannesburg, the Malaysian Hockey team will be in for the ride of their lives when they play in the Olympic Qualifiers in March.
In Africa, Malaysia played like they were in holiday in the first three group matches which saw them lose 3-1 to Canada, draw 2-2 with Japan and got clobbered 5-2 by Argentina.
But it could be due to the format of play, which guaranteed a quarter-finals slot for all eight-teams, irrespective of their group matches.
Malaysia placed all their hopes in that one quarter-finals match, and lost 5-4 to India after letting in a golden goal.
There was more classy play after that which saw them beat Japan 2-1, and then Poland 3-0 to finish fifth and claim the next ticket to the Champions Challenge I.
The most promising display was from 25-year-old Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, a product of the 2005 Junior World Cup coached by former skipper Sarjit Singh.
But sadly most of Tengku’s mates from that era have mostly vanished from the scene, and among those who are still donning national colours are Baljit Singh, Shukri Mutalib and Razie Rahim.
And to be fair, all three of them were only impressive in patches, and did not display their true potential, like Tengku, in any on the matches.
The biggest disappointment was defender Baljit, who has never failed to impress in all the previous tournaments with his never-say-die attitude, but in Africa, he was just going through the motions -- and gave away many easy turn-overs which troubled goalkeepers Roslan Jamaluddin and S. Kumar.
Amin Rahim, always can be relied to score off penalty corners in every tournament, was also not his usual self. He gave away more penalty corners as a flat-footed defender, than the three goals he scord in the Challenge.
Maybe in the Azlan Shah Cup in February, coach Tai Beng Hai should inform Amin to stay above the 25-yard line at all times, as his skills as a defender is surely lacking for him to be present in the semi-circle and give away penalty corners on a platter.
From the younger 2009 Junior World Cup brigade, Faizal Saari missed many crucial sitters in the early matches, but made up with three goals which helped Malaysia beat Japan and Poland.
The coach should train the immensely talented youngster with powerful drives, reverse and front, to hold back a little when he aims for the goal-mouth, as he lacks accuracy.
In the Dublin Qualifiers, which only offer one ticket to the London 2012 Olympics, missing sitters and giving away penalty corners should be at the very minimal level, unlike in Africa where the two crucial elements were aplenty.
If not, South Korea and Ireland as well as Russia, Chile and Ukraine would suddenly turn into unbeatable sides in the Olympic Qualifier.
The three elements needed now for the Azlan Shah Cup in February, and then the Olympic Qualifier on March 11-18 in Dublin are a strong minded-skipper who can rally his men to hold onto a winning lead, make sure with sitters, and don’t give away unwarranted penalty corners.
If this three elements can be nurtured in the next three months, this batch of players will not only qualify for the Olympics, but finish among the top-six in London next year.
But sadly, easier said than done...
Tom Boon put the icing on the cake for Belgium when he scored a last-minute winner after his side had mounted a magnificent second-half comeback, fighting back from 3-1 down to win an absorbing final.
Both teams treated a packed appreciative crowd to a high quality contest, filled with mesmerising skills, extraordinary goals and packed with drama right up until the final whistle.
It was billed as the battle between the two Australia-born coaches with Belgium’s Colin Batch getting the better of his compatriot Michael Nobbs. There is nothing the crowd appreciates more than attacking play and plenty of goal mouth action and the famed Aussie style went down a treat.
India’s clinical precision at the penalty corner saw them take a 2-0 lead and after the Europeans pulled one back in the second-half, Shivendra Singh restored his side’s cushion jinking his way along the by-line before scoring from a seemingly impossible angle.
But you simply had to admire Belgium’s never-say-die attitude and as they pushed forward relentlessly they scored three times in the final quarter to clinch the gold medal. For their heroic first-choice goalkeeper, David van Rysselberghe, who was side-lined after dislocating his shoulder in the semi-final, it was a moment to savour.
Best Player: Sandeep Singh (India)
Best Goalkeeper: David van Rysselberghe (Belgium)
Top Goalscorer: 8 - Justin Reid-Ross (South Africa) and Tom Boon (Belgium)
Fair Play: South Africa
Note: Hopefully, the other 17 teams in Olympic Qualifier groups will also send their displeasure to FIH. Especially, Qualifier hosts India, Japan and Ireland.
THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) are peeved that their parent world body International Hockey Federation (FIH) have allowed Spain an automatic ticket to the 2012 London Olympics.
This fantastic scenario emerged after South Africa failed to qualify for the final of the Champions Challenge I, when they went down 4-2 to India in the semi-finals on Saturday.
South Africa had qualified for the Olympics by virtue of being the African continent champions, but their Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee had set the team a condition of playing in the final of the Champions Challenge I if they want to play in the Olympics.
And Spain had lost their European Qualifier ticket to Belgium, and had been slated to play in the Japan Olympic Qualifier in April, but a private deal will now see them play in the Olympics, while South Africa will play in the Japan Qualifier.
“This scenario is simply mind boggling, as this private deal was never communicated or circulated to all teams who will be playing in the Olympic Qualifiers in India, Ireland and Japan,” said MHF general manager Maninderjit Singh.
And immediately after the deal was known to Maninderjit, he sent an e-mail to the FIH , whose president Leandro Negre is from Spain, asking for justification and clarification.
Part of the e-mail to FIH read: “As you remember that I also wrote an e-mail protesting why Oceania were given two slots with only two teams playing in the Oceania Cup (Fiji pulled out prior to the event).
“I suggested that second placed team in the Asian Games (Malaysia) and the second placed team in Oceania play a best of three matches to decide the slot.
“The answer I received from you (FIH) was that the mechanism is been endorsed between International Olympic Committee and FIH and any changes could not be made or else we may face legal challenges. What about this scenario now?”
MHF are of the opinion that Egypt, the second placed team in the African qualifier, should be give the ticket instead of Spain.
Also, Malaysia want answers why the slot was given to Europe, and not Pan-America or Asia. And Maninderjit also suggested, in his e-mail, that the three Olympic Qualifiers offer four tickets to the Olympics, with three going to the respective champions, and the fourth to the best placed team -- instead of handing it on a platter to Spain.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
SASCOC have determined that despite the FIH and the IOC recognising the Africa Cup as an official qualification route to the Olympic Games, they do not feel the tournament is of high enough a standard to be regarded as a true Qualifier. They set the Men's and Women's team the additional goal of reaching the final of a World Level event, the Champions Challenge, for SASCOC to send them to the Olympic Games. THe Women lost their Quarter-final to Spain on a Golden Goal and the Men have lost their Semi-final to India meaning neither team reached the objective.
The South African Hockey Association realising there was one more World Level event before the Olympics, the Olympic Qualifiers, proposed that South Africa give up their automatic berth and go through the Olympic Qualifying process. This proposal was accepted by the FIH and the IOC and finally by SASCOC.
SASCOC's stance has angered the African Hockey Federation who feel it degrades hockey throughout the continent and have been heard to mutter they will not invite South Africa to any further African events. If this does happen, SASCOC, instead of carrying out their mandate to promote sport in South Africa will effectively banish hockey into the wilderness.
And it came with a guarantee to play in the next Champions Challenge I, and a move up from their 14th spot when the next world rankings are updated.
It was a bit of consolation, as Malaysia showed that they can play possession hockey, but Poland were never in the match and looked like they were just waiting for the final hooter to end their misery.
Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin started the winning touch with a field goal in the 18th minute, and Faizal Saari made it 2-0 in the 29th minute to take his tournament tally to three goals.
Tengku then doused the Poles fight-back with a deft touch off an Azlan Misron pass in the 47th minute, and took his tally to five goals in Africa.
In the group stages, Malaysia lost 3-1 to Canada, drew 2-2 with Japan and lost 5-2 to Argentina.
However, it was a heartbreak for them in the quarter- finals, where they took a 4-2 lead, but crumbled to lose 5-4 to India off a golden goal.
In the seventh-eighth placing match, Japan overwhelmed Canada 7-2, to show that they are serious contenders for the Olympic Qualifiers which they will host in Kakamigahara in April.
RESULTS: Final -- India x Belgium x (10.30pm start); Third-Fourth: South Africa x Argentina x (8pm start); Fifth Sixth: Malaysia 3 Poland 0; Seventh-Eighth: Japan 7 Canada 2.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Just 70 minutes separates the South African men’s hockey team from earning a place at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
SA meet eight-time Olympic Games gold medallists India in the 4 pm Champions Challenge semi-final at Randburg Hockey Stadium Saturday (live on SuperSport) and are just one win away from fulfilling the stringent requirements of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
SA’s Olympic governing body, not satisfied that winning the Africa Olympic Qualifier tournament was sufficient proof of the team’s ability to compete for a medal in London, set a further hurdle for the team. Reach the final of Champs Challenge and your ticket to London is assured.
Failing that, SA have one last chance for London if they win the final Olympic Qualifier tournament in Japan in April/May. An onerous task indeed.
After a disastrous 5-4 golden goal defeat to India, Malaysia bounced back the very next day to beat Japan 2-1, with both the world class goals scored by 20-year-old Faizal Saari off solo attempts.
And today, Poland will be in their path to achieving their target of finishing fifth, and claiming a spot in the next Champions Challenge I.
Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) general manager Maninderjit Singh confirmed yesterday that the top-five teams will remain in Challenge I, while the bottom three will be relegated to Challenge II.
“We have much more than the target at stake against Poland, as Maninderjit has told us that the team which finishes fifth will remain in the first tier, while three teams will be relegated to the second tier,” said team manager George Koshy.
The last time Malaysia saw Poland playing was in the 2009 Champions Challenge II in Dublin, where the Polish stunned for form-book and became champions.
However, Malaysia and Poland were in different groups: “Basically, Poland has about the same players who gave them the Challenge II gold in Dublin. It is an experienced side but the mood in the Malaysian camp is good, and we should have another winning experience,” said Koshy.
Goalkeeper S. Kumar, normally a steady hand between the posts, admitted that his form against India was among the reasons why Malaysia are not in the semis, but fighting for fifth.
“I haven’t been very consistent in the tournament and I felt so bad against India because the rest of the squad were fantastic. It was a bad day.
“But we’re all feeling a lot better after beating Japan as it would have been a disaster playing off for 7/8th place. They (Japan) are a much improved team and never easy to beat but we wanted to win so badly,” said Kumar on the official Champions Challenge website.
Kumar, with 182 caps, and numerous awards to his name, is ready to help his mates claim the fifth spot.
“We’ve set our sights on finishing fifth and maintaining our world ranking of 14th. We’re definitely a much happier squad today (after beating Japan)!”
RESULTS: Semi-finals -- Argentina 2 Belgium 2 (Belgium win 3-2 shootout); India 4 South Africa 2.
SUNDAY: Fifth-Sixth: Malaysia v Poland (5.30pm); Seventh- Eighth: Canada v Japan (3pm).
Friday, December 2, 2011
It was evident that after bouncing back from being down 2- 0, to leading 4-2 with six minutes remaining in the match, that Malaysia lacked a captain’s presence to control the match tempo.
Even India were surprised with the ease they scored the two goals to take the match into extra-time, and then nail the winner off a last minute penalty corner.
Malaysia were skippered by Radzi Rahim when they lost to Canada 3-1, and then the arm-band went to Madzli Ikmar in the Japan (drew 2-2), Argentina (lost 502) and India (lost 5-4) matches.
But it looked like Malaysia only gave their best when playing against India, but in the end, it still boiled down to missing a strong player to control and dictate the pace as the match warrants.
“It was heartbreak in the end as we failed to take control of the match after leading 4-2. The pace should have been slowed down, with Malaysia taking control of the match and dictating the pace, but that did not happen.
“However, all is not lost as we have three months to rectify some of the problems that were spotted in South Africa, and be better prepared for the Olympic Qualifiers next year,” said Malaysian team manager George Koshy.
Malaysia will first play in the Azlan Shah Cup in February, and then the Olympic Qualifier on March 11-18 in Dublin.
Dublin will offer a single ticket to London 2012, and Malaysia ranked 14th, must beat world No 6 South Korea, Ireland (17th), Russia (20th), Chile (24th) and Ukraine (31st).
In South Africa, Malaysia scored a total of nine goals and three were from Amin Rahim, two from Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, three from Azlan Misron, and one from Izwan Firdaus.
Strikers Hafifi Hafiz, Faizal Saari and Firhan Ashari all had their moments, but wasted a handful of sitters which could have turned the tide for Malaysia.
The only golden lining is that the team management has three months to rectify the chinks, or Malaysia are going to loose another Olympic moment, which the hockey team last tasted in Sydney 2000.
In the Fifth-Eighth playoff yesterday, Malaysia beat Japan 2-1 with both goals scored by Faizal Saari.
SATURDAY: Semi-finals -- Belgium v Argentina, South Africa v India.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The 5-4 defeat will now see them play in the fifth-eighth bracket either against Japan or South Africa, who were playing a late quarter-finals match.
Malaysia were in control of the match, but two penalty corner strikes from Sandeep Singh saw them trailing much of the first half.
India only won two penalty corners as they lost the midfield battle, but still Sandeep beat goalkeeper S. Kumar in the eighth and 24 minutes with powerful drag flicks,
Malaysia only won one penalty corner in the 15th minute, but Amin Rahim’s tame flick was parried away easily.
However, with two minutes remaining before the breather, a pass from Shukri Mutalib was connected home by 22-year-old Izwan Firdaus and Malaysia went into the dressing room to plot for more goals.
India, who picked up three yellow cards and one green in 35 minutes, did look more indisciplined than dangerous in their field attacks.
Malaysia rose to the occasion in the second half and scored three goals to take a 4-2 lead, before crumbling in the last 10 minutes of the match to allow India to equalise and take the match into extra-time sudden death.
Azlan Misron scored a field goal in the 42nd to level the score at 2-2, and in the 46th minute Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin took Malaysia to the front for the first time in the match.
Goal number four was duly converted by Azlan in the 56th minute and India looked beaten for the moment.
However, strikes from Sunil Sowmarpet and Yuvraj Walmiki took the match into sudden-death.
And R. Raghunath turned hero for India with a sudden-death goal off a penalty corner attempt after the final extra-time hooter went off.
RESULTS -- Quarter-finals: Malaysia 4 India 5 (sudden-death goal), Belgium 4 Canada 0, Poland 1 Argentina 5; South Africa 3 Japan 2.