MALAYSIA open their Junior Asia Cup campaign against Iran at the Malacca Stadium today, and it is safe to assume that three points will belong to coach K. Dharmaraj's boys.
For losing to Iran can't even be fathomed, as the first opponents have only indoor experience. The match might just turn into a goal fest for the hosts.
However, that has not stopped the Iranians from feeling optimistic, even though they made it thus far by finishing third in the second rung Junior Asia Cup that was held in Hong Kong last year.
“That bronze in Hong Kong has given hockey in Iran a tremendous boost but we still lack in terms of financial backing as sports like football have a huge following,” said Iran team manager Nader Foroutanian.
“We have come here to gain experience but that does not mean that we will be pushovers. Though Malaysia are a class act, we will give them a fight. It is not about losing but giving your best on the pitch. And that is what we intend to do against Malaysia,” said Nader.
Iran have prepared for the Junior Asia Cup by training on indoor pitches for the last six months.
“We have a 16-team indoor league and use that and other regional tournaments to select players for the national team.
“Hopefully things will get better and we hope for a decent outing in the tournament here to help our cause of promoting hockey.”
Iran does not have an artificial pitch, although two are under constructed in Tabriz and Kermanshah.
And they have been hard at training in Malacca, getting valuable experience playing on an artificial pitch. Their other opponents in Group A are Korea and Japan. In Group B are India, Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka.
Dharmaraj was spot on when he said: "We have the players to beat Iran, that is for sure. But I am not going to put pressure on the boys by setting goal targets. I believe the win will come with a healthy margin as a boost for the South Korea and Japan matches."