MALAYSIAN hockey players have never shown so much of promise in any tournament for the last seven years, be it at the senior or junior level.
The last time Malaysia had such a quality bunch was during the 2005 Junior World Cup in Rotterdam, but still, we could only finish 10th.
The Project 2013 team has achieved its target of qualifying for the 2013 Junior World Cup in New Delhi, but six of them will be overaged by then.
The six are stalwarts Faizal Saari, skipper Nor Faez Ibrahim, Izat Sumantri, Amir Farid, Mohamed Ramadan and Dedi Aryandi.
The feeling is all rosy and jubilant now, but the coaching set-up as well as the team management went through a lot to form this bunch of winners.
"For sure I will miss the six in the Junior World Cup, as they played big roles in helping the team to qualify. However, we do have back-up players in training right now as we foresaw the situation much earlier, and by November next year, they should be ready to step into the shoes of those who will leave us," said Malaysian juniors coach K. Dharmaraj.
Dharmaraj treats his charges just like his children, and even the naughty ones were loved just much as the rest.
"Since this team was formed in 2009, I have faced many challenging situations for not only do I have to manage my own children but am also entrusted by parents to manage their children who dream of bringing honour to the nation.
"At times I did feel helpless tackling the problems that surfaced. But now, looking back, I am happy as some of the boys who were branded as naughty boys have matured and changed to caring and good human beings.
"I have always maintained that as a coach, the most important thing is to make players better persons in life as not everybody can be a national player. I am proud as some of the players are close to me as my own children and share and solve problems together," said Dharmaraj.
Malacca has been super hosts, as not only is the stadium spanking new and spectator friendly, the officials have also done a great job in running the show.
The only two problems seem to be regarding umpiring and also publicity, by the parent body International Hockey Federation (FIH) that is.
Dharmaraj and Japan team manager Satoshi Makimoto have both complained about the umpiring, as crucial goals were disallowed and penalty corners were not given when due.
Both were of the opinion that since so much is at stake in this tournament, quality umpires whould have been selected and also video refferals made available to settle disputes.
As for publicity, the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) only uploads a day later, while the FIH don't even care about the Junior Asia Cup, as their website does not even have a passing mention of it, even though the semi-finals are about to begin.
The FIH twitter did provide live accounts about the Japan Olympic Qualifier, but never even bothered to take the live feed from @hockeyasia and send Junior Asia Cup information to its 7,349 followers around the globe.
So much for promoting hockey around the globe.
WEDNESDAY: Classification -- China v Iran (6pm), Japan v Sri Lanka (8pm).
THURSDAY: Semi-finals -- Malaysia v India (6pm), Pakistan v South Korea (8pm).