THE Project 2013 team achieved one, and will be going for their second target against Pakistan in the final of the Junior Asia Cup at the MBM Stadium in Malacca on Sunday.
Malaysia has never won gold in this tournament since its inception in 1987, with the best being a silver won in the 1992 edition in Ipoh.
The excitement is overpowering, and the wheels have started to grind even faster as plans are afoot to send several promising boys to play in overseas leagues.
“It is still at a blueprint stage, as the National Sports Council (NSC) are trying to secure top clubs in Europe or Australia to take players from this team to a higher level,” said team manager Mirnawan Nawawi.
Mirnawan, who was in he 1992 silver winning side, feels there is tremendous potential in this team and they need to hone their skills by playing in tough leagues.
“There is no point in sending the players to mediocre leagues, as they need to play competitive hockey in Europe, where I expect the challenge to come from during the Junior World Cup (in New Delhi November next year),” said Mir nawan.
NSC Director General Datuk Zolkples Embong confirmed that talks are being initiated with several countries.
“We are in the process of negotiating with several clubs from three countries and hopefully are able to settle this by the end of June.
“We realise that our players need to be exposed in foreign leagues in order to become complete players and hence the NSC, with a go ahead from the Malaysian Hockey Con federation has started working on this plan.
“We are looking at 12 to 18 players, from both the senior and junior squads, to be placed overseas,” said Zolkples.
NSC took a lead role in seeking clubs for hockey players in 1997 and R. Shanker, Chairil Anwar, Nor Azlan Bakar, S. Kuhan and Kerpal Singh went on three month stints with clubs in Germany.
As a result, Malaysia qualified for the 1998 Utrecht World Cup after being in the cold for 16 years.
Clips and bio-data of potential players for consideration of clubs is being complied, to make them more marketable and secure top-flight clubs.
At the senior level, Malaysia last played in the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur 2002, and next year they will be involved in the Qualifier.
With six of Project 2013 players overage to play in the New Delhi Junior World Cup, the possibility is high that they will be drafted into the senior side and play in the senior Qualifier next year.
SATURDAY: Seventh-Eighth: Iran v Sri Lanka (6pm); Fifth- Sixth: Japan v South Korea (8pm).
SUNDAY: Final: Malaysia v Pakistan (8pm); Third- Fourth: India v South Korea (5pm).