NOTE: WITH champions trophy in December, top German, Aussies, Indian, Pakistani players not in MHL. Even Koreans are the recently retired ones.
PIC: Nur Azmi Ahmad
THERE is plenty of money being pumped into the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) , but the number of teams is steadily declining.
The MHL Premier Division, the pride of Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC), will only see six teams competing from this weekend, one less from last season.
Dominating Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC), four-time back-to-back double champions, will start against Tenaga Nasional in a Charity Shield match this Wednesday, while the two-leg action begins from Friday.
The other four teams are Terengganu HT, Sapura, Maybank and UniKL.
Yesterday, title sponsors Tenaga Nasional came in with RM2 million for the entire year’s domestic commitments. In total, TNB has invested RM12 million into the local leagues since 2006.
One reason for the decline is that the quality-player pool is drying up, and teams have resorted to hiring foreign players to lay their hands on the two titles.
Maybank have signed three foreign players in goalkeeper Moritz Knobloch from Germany, and Pakistanis Shakeel Abassi and Abdul Haseem Khan who were both members of the silver medal-winning team in the Incheon Asian Games while defending champions KLHC, coached by K. Dharmaraj, have six foreign signings.
Dharma’s foreign pack includes two young Australians - Harrison Page and Matthew Mallinson, both 20 years of age, and Pakistanis Akhtar Ali, Waseem Ahmad, Fareed Ahmad and Muhammad Imran.
Terengganu Hockey Team has registered five Koreans in penalty-corner specialist Jang Jong-hyun, Bae Jeong-seok, Seo Jong-ho and brothers Kang Moon-kyu and Kang Moon-Kweon
Sapura also have four Pakistan players, UniKL four foreign players. The only all-local side is Tenaga Nasional.
MHC vice-president Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad said the TNB-MHL is seen as the answer to producing talented players.
“With the presence of a stellar cast of foreign players in the TNB-MHL, the quality of the league is unquestionable,” said Nur Azmi.
But with so many foreign players earning a handsome keep in the Premier Division, many budding local talent will have to watch from the sidelines.
Juniors team manager Mirnawan Nawawi did say, after his charges finished fifth in the Sultan of Johor Cup, that he will be scouting for talent in the Premier Division of the MHL to strengthen his 2016 Junior World Cup trainees.
But its the same old local faces playing for the six clubs, so talent scouting is out of the question.
TOMORROW -- Charity Shield: KLHC v Tenaga (6pm, National Stadium, Pitch II).
FIRST LEG -- FRIDAY : Sapura v Maybank (6pm), UniKL v Terengganu HT (8pm).
SUNDAY: Tenaga v Terengganu HT (6pm, National Stadium, Pitch I); Sapura v UniKL (6pm, National Stadium, Pitch II); KLHC v Maybank (8pm, National Stadium, Pitch II).