By Vijesh Rai
WITH the Asian Games looming and the national hockey squad showing no signs of being capable of winning gold in Incheon, South Korea, the National Sports Council (NSC) may ask the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to take drastic action.
Tuesday’s shocking 4-2 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago in a Commonwealth Games Group B match has the NSC alarmed and director general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong said steps must be taken to ensure the team are up to the mark in the Asian Games.
If not, Zolkples said the result will be the same as the World Cup and Commonwealth Games - failure.
“There seems to be something wrong in the squad. The first liners failed to impress in the World Cup while the squad in Glasgow have fared even worse.
“Defeat to Trinidad is unacceptable, considering our world ranking and the support hockey enjoys in Malaysia," said a shocked Zolkples.
While the Commonwealth Games semi-final was always considered a stretched target for K. Dharmaraj’s second liners, defeat to an unheralded nation was never in the script.
Assistant coach M. Gobinathan, in trying to explain the defeat, said luck had been on Trinidad’s side as they scored four times from six chances in the first half.
“Trinidad are also a rising team as several of their players are playing in the English league. In fact, Kwandwane (Browne - Trinidad’s hat-trick hero in the win) has been playing in England for eight years.
“I agree that we shouldn’t have lost to Trinidad but defeat was caused by several factors, one of which was we started very slowly and couldn’t recover after Trinidad had taken the 4-1 lead,” said Gobinathan.
While the team officials may have their reasons, the MHC must be in panic mode, especially as the defeat to Trinidad comes after a hugely unimpressive World Cup where Malaysia finished last in the 12-team competition.
“Tengku Abdullah (Sultan Ahmad Shah - MHC president) contacted me and asked me for my opinion on the defeat.
“What I said was that the Asian Games are our priority as a gold will mean automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympics.
“NSC is of the opinion that if something is wrong in the national squad, then drastic action must be taken.”
Zolkples did not elaborate on what drastic action should be taken but it is learnt that a committee had been tasked with finding out what was ailing the national squad.
Dharmaraj, elevated to national coach after the Junior World Cup side he coached finished fourth in New Delhi last year, could be in danger as certain players are said to be unhappy with him.
Zolkples, when asked, declined to comment, only saying: “We can’t be losing to Trinidad but we have. This is an alarming result and the team have to be sorted out.”
It will be interesting to see just how the MHC plans on doing that.