Friday, June 20, 2014

Hockey to rise from the ashes?

HOCKEY has been among the elite sports in Malaysia and is recognised as world class.
However, after the dismal performance in the recent 13th World Cup in The Hague, Holland, where they finished last, the sport will come under the microscope.
There was a lot buzz after Malaysia finished fourth in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi under coach K. Dharmaraj.
However, the commendable performance of the Junior World Cup team, including having finished fourth in 1979, 1982, 1985 and 2013, has not continued at senior level.
The senior team went to The Haque with false hopes and expectations were running high.
It was forgotten Malaysia were back in the World Cup after missing the last two tournaments.
All was not well in the run-up to the World Cup when national coach Paul Revington resigned due to stress-related illness — the second time he tendered his resignation. He had come back the first time to help Malaysia qualify for the World Cup finals.
When Dharmaraj was appointed as his replacement, together with K. Gobinathan and Nor Azlan Bakar, there was a whole lot of controversy.
The selection of players was also hotly debated while in the backroom, the intrigue and heavy politicking the sport is known for continued.
In short, things were simply not right, but everyone chose to ignore them.
Then, seeing Revington as a consultant raised further questions. What was he doing there when he had already made it clear that he could not handle the team?
So, was Dharmaraj there to be made the scapegoat for the team’s failure? Why did he accept Revington’s presence? Was it because he was not confident of handling the job and needed guidance?
With due respect to Dharmaraj, he got carried away with the junior team’s performance. The World Cup stint was definitely too soon for him.
The World Cup is the mecca for hockey gurus with the best brains behind the teams. Was Dharmaraj on a par with those coaches in the Hague? Was he intimidated?
Now, whether Malaysian hockey can bounce back in the next four years is left to be seen.
After having finished 11th in 1973, Malaysia clinched their best-ever placing in the World Cup — fourth — in 1975. The World Cup was then held biennially.
But home advantage — Malaysia hosted the 1975 World Cup – had a lot to do with it.
With the present set of players, all indications are that we have to work overtime to raise our standard to qualify for the next World Cup.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah can bring in the money to manage the association and for its programmes, but if things are not handled professionally, it is all going to be wasted.
With Tengku Abdullah having to divide his attention between the MHC and the FA of Malaysia, as its newly elected president, “little napoleons” will try to wield their power, which is only going to be detrimental to hockey.
Without doubt MHC and its affiliates need new blood who have the game at heart.
For far too long, hockey has been entangled in internal bickering and interference from outside parties.
Several ex-internationals have commented on Malaysia’s performance.
They have valid points, but surely it would do better if they were actively involved instead of just doling out criticism? In short, put your money where your mouth is.
It makes no sense to keep on talking about our fourth placing in 1975 because many things have changed since then.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than three
decades of experience and is
passionate about local sports. He
can be reached at Twitter handle: