Thursday, July 31, 2014

Enter the Panic Room...

By Vijesh Rai

THE Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) is in panic mode and rightly so. Losing to Trinidad & Tobago is a shocker but were it a case of one of those days, it would be acceptable.
   But if the grapevine is to be believed, there are more serious reasons for the national hockey team's struggles, both here in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and in the recent World Cup in the Netherlands.
   MHC, it is said, is already investigating with a committee even having interviewed players for feedback.
   Coach K. Dharmaraj's position could be shaky as the MHC, based on the national team's recent form, is not going to win the Asian Games gold which would mean automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympics.
   There is no doubt that the MHC has to do something, simply because Malaysia must play in the Olympics after having missed out on the last three editions.
   This, however, is a short term target as MHC must also concentrate on the long term and that involves a revamp of its entire structure.
   Blaming coaches and players every time there is a failure is not going to help develop Malaysian hockey and the MHC must understand this.
   There is certainly no excuse for Malaysia losing to Trinidad but MHC was very much party to the decision to send a mixed squad of seniors and juniors to the World Cup.
   The reason for this was mainly because the juniors, following the Junior World Cup campaign in New Delhi last year, have been starved of competitive action as Malaysia played in the Azlan Shah Cup, Champions Challenge and World Cup prior to the Commonwealth Games.
   This meant the Malaysian Hockey League, the nation’s premier' hockey tournament, being pushed to until after the Asian Games.
   When then will the juniors, who are the reason why Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said hockey will continue to be among the core sports despite the huge cost of funding, going to play competitively?
   Certain sections also feel that Dharmaraj shouldn't have been elevated to the national coach’s job as he isn’t ready.
  Again, whose decision was this?
  It is an undeniable fact that MHC settled for Dharmaraj out of desperation following Paul Revington’s abrupt resignation.
   MHC also cannot deny that the Malaysian coaching job is not a plum position and the only way it can attract a foreigner is by paying big bucks.
   That, however, will have no effect if the talent that the foreign coach has to work with is of, at best, mediocre standard.
  And who is to blame for this? The MHC as it is the guardian of the sport, and the coaches and players are its products.
   The bottom line is MHC cannot absolve itself of blame here but the good thing is, the defeat to Trinidad could well be the catalyst for the administration of hockey to improve.
   What Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is told by his fellow office bearers may not necessarily reflect the actual scenario, and the only way out is for the MHC president to go directly to the ground, not only to unearth what is ailing hockey but to find out the cure.
   If not, not only can we expect failure at the Asian Games and missing the 2016 Olympics but more shockers akin to the one that Trinidad delivered in Glasgow on Tuesday.