K. DHARMARAJ was never one to hide his thoughts, be it during his playing days or coaching the Project 2013 team since 2009.
He has set his mind on not only qualifying for the Junior World Cup next year in New Delhi, but also win Malaysia’s first Junior Asia Cup gold in Malacca from May 3-13.
“Every time I was quoted in print and television that I want not only the World Cup spot, but also the gold medal in Malacca, I receive many calls and SMS’ cautioning me not to be overconfident.
“My reply to them is -- until when are we going to have a low key attitude going into a tournament. What is the message that we are sending the players if the coaching staff themselves are afraid to set a target higher than that of the parent body?” questioned Dharmaraj.
The Malaysian hockey Confederation (MHF) have set a target of playing in the final, but Dharmaraj is bent on winning the gold as he believes his players are capable of it.
“I have won many local tournaments both as a player and coach. But winning the Sultan of Johor Cup was the best moment of my life.
“To be honest I never thought that we would be champs in Johor. But having been at the helm as coach since 2009, I have had a dream to win the Asian level tournament.
“This tournament was why the Project 2013 team, was formed and with playing at home providing us with the perfect opportunity to make good the dream,” said Dharmaraj.
And he has a large coaching and support staff to achieve the dream of being champions, and denying India their hat-trick of titles.
“I have two video analyst, one masseur, one medical assistant, one nutritionist, one psychologist and one bio mechanic.
“My coaching team consists of K. Gobinathan, Nor Azlan Bakar and M. Nadarajan as goalkeeper coach. All were there in Johor as well .
“To me, I am strong believer of sharing responsibilities and using the best to master the best. All this would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from the MHC, NSI (National Sports Institute) and NSC (National Sports Council),” said Dharmaraj.
The Junior Asia Cup only offers two tickets to the World Cup, while India are automatic qualifiers.
In Group A are Malaysia, South Korea, Iran and Japan, while in Group B are India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China.
And what is his biggest fear: “I fear my own team’s performance than any of the other team. One off day could spell trouble for us.
“Pakistan have included five senior players in their squad. And I reckon India and Korea too are strong in their own way as they are Olympic playing nations.
“but we have trained long and hard and are well prepared for this moment. I will play attacking hockey all the way, and I believe the results will be in our favour,” said Dharmaraj.