MALAYSIAN Hockey Confederation (MHC) senior vice president Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad yesterday set a sky-high target of playing in the final for the Azlan Shah Cup which will be held in Ipoh from May 24-June 3.
His reasoning was: "The senior team need to redeem their pride after failing to qualify for the Olympics. This message was also conveyed to the team by president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah."
Malaysia will be up against six Olympic teams in hosts Britain, Argentina, New Zealand, South Korea, India and Pakistan.
And the prospect of playing in the final, which Malaysia did last in 2007 when under coach Sarjit Singh but lost 3-1 to Australia, is like scaling Mount Everest without breathing gear.
However, Azmi was adamant that the team should strive to play in the final, as not only do they have home ground advantage, they have nothing to lose in this tournament.
"There is no pressure on them at all, this is not a qualifier, and so I believe if you ask me personally, the target should be nothing but the final," said Nur Azmi.
Yesterday Sultan Azlan Shah received mock cheques from sponsors for the tournament totaling RM1.32 million.
Among the 21 sponsors were Astro (RM300,000), Perak State Government (RM200,000) and National Sports Council (RM100,000).
As for the players, eight Junior Asia Cup gold medallists yesterday joined the seniors in training for the Azlan Shah Cup. And of the eight, the sure bets to be selected by coach Tai Beng Hai are Faizal Saari, Fitri Saari and Firhan Ashaari.
The other five juniors are Faiz Helmi, Nor Izzat Sumantri, Mohamed Ramadhan, Noor Faeez Ibrahim and Amir Farid.
"The five who had trained with the national team before are most likely to be selected as they know they style of play, other than that, it is up to the coach on who he wants to select," said stand-in-manager George Koshy.
The team will be named after they play a friendly against New Zealand today.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has recalled former skipper and penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas to lead their team after their parent body barred eight established players from coming to Malaysia.
The eight Shakeel Abbasi, Rehan Butt, Zeeshan Ashraf, Waseem Ahmed, Imran Warsi, Tariq Aziz, Adnan Maqsood and Mudassar Ali Khan, have been issued show cause notices by the PHF for taking part in the WHS in India in March/April despite having been warned of dire consequences by the federation for playing in an International Hockey Federation (FIH) unsanctioned tournament.