KUANTAN turned out to be a forlorn and bruising experience for teams and coaches playing in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League over the weekend.
For starters, the stands at the Kuantan Stadium were empty, except for players and match officials, as the fans gave it a wide berth.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) took the Premier Division to states for the second season, and only Penang has seen a good fan turn-out both times.
Ipoh and Kuantan only attracted a handful of die-hard fans, and it did not serve the purpose of taking top-level hockey to the states.
And the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru, slated to play host in the middle of February, received a knock-out blow as thieves carted away fuse boxes to the stadium lights. The matches will noe be held at the Tun Razak Stadium instead.
The weekend also saw Tenaga Nasional and Malaysia's No 1 goalkeeper S. Kumar fracturing his ribs, after taking a powerful reverse stick shot in the chest from Izzat Rahim of Sapura.
Tenaga not only lost the match 2-0 to further drop into the abyss, but also their best goalkeeper.
"It was an unfortunate incident, as the ball hit Kumar where he was not protected by hs gear. He will be out for at least three weeks, and now we have to rely on our second goalkeeper (Fairus Wanazir)," said Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini.
But Kumar is made of sturdier stuff, and can't wait to get back into the thick of action.
"I tried to avoid the ball as it came directly to just below my neck where I have no proctetion. But it hit me square and I suffered a hair-line fracture on one of my ribs.
"It hurts, but I feel I can still play and if the coach gives me a chance, I will be back in no time to help my club," said Kumar who was awarded the Best Goalkeeper in Asia by the Asian Hockey Federation two weeks ago.
There was another casualty in Kuantan, as Armed Forces-Airod shook hands with their coach K. Rajan and parted ways after their match against Yayasan Negri sembilan on Saturday.
"The Forces management felt that the team underperformed after eight matches, and told me that they no longer needed my services.
"I have no qualms with them, but I feel we have done reasonally well considering that we have no national or foreign palyers but still managed to win six points just like seasoned MHL team Maybank," said Rajan who coaches the 2009 Junior World Cup team to 12th among 20 nations.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces Juniors extended their lead to seven points when they hammered Universiti Sains Malaysia 5-1 in Division One of the Malaysia Hockey League yesterday.
DIVISION ONE: Sunday -- Ipoh City Council 2 Bukit Jalil Sports School 1, Bandar Penawar Sports School v Malacca CC (rained off), Armed Forces Juniors 5 Universiti Sains Malaysia 1.
P W D L F A Pt
ATM JNR 7 6 1 0 20 4 19
BJSS 7 4 0 3 15 8 12
BPSS 6 4 0 2 12 10 12
IPOH CH 8 3 2 3 14 16 11
MALACCA CC 7 3 0 4 10 9 9
USM 7 2 0 5 9 22 6
UNITEN 6 0 1 5 3 14 1