THE Sultan of Johor Cup is such a popular tournament that Germany, Britain and Argentina have already made requests to play in the next edition.
Malaysia won gold the first edition in 2011, and the very next year the hosts finished last. A comeback in 2013 saw them clinch silver, and today they will be fighting for their lives against Pakistan, who are again their possible opponents in the fifth-sixth classification on Sunday.
Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj said he did not have enough time to prepare this side, as the team was only formed in March, but then, these set of players have been playing hockey in school, then 1Mas, and many other age group tournaments before they were spotted and included into national juniors training squad.
Are these the best players that we have in the country right now? If yes, Malaysia's grassroots development is not working, as the best juniors in the country are not only weak in the basics, but also mentally not ready and possibly will never be ready.
The senior team is now dubbed as 'the almost there' players, after they missed the boat to Rio de Janeiro by dishing out an almost there performance in the Asian Games.
And by the present trend, one can also judge that hockey is no longer played by the Punjabis, Indians, Chinese and Eurasians. At the Asian Games, goalkeeper S. Kumar was the sole representative of the lain-lain category, while in the juniors at the SOJC, we only have D. Selvanayagam.
This is a worrying trend, as schools no longer have a sound development programme to cater for this team sport, and the task has beeen left in the hands of states, where 1Mas is the biggest shareholder, while a few clubs are also active in developing players, but it is still not enough.
Overall it looks like there has been a drastic increase in the number of players since five years ago, but quality has been compromised as the present batch of players look like they have no mindset of their own, and are akin to robots who do not know what to do when faced with a new problem which they are not programmed for.
Former national coach and K. Dharmaraj and his assistant K. Gobinathan are now in Europe and have been to Spain, Germany and Netherlands and are still moving from club to club looking at their development programmes, with an eye of forming a blueprint which will hopefully take Malaysia out of the doldrums in the next decade.
Their travel jottings are posted on FB at Dharma Hockey Academy. And among the points which hit this scribe hard was that hockey is being played by five-year-olds who are taught the basics. They are also taught how to run properly, by athletics coaches, so that they keep the good habit for the rest of their hockey playing lives.
These are just two examples of how great the developments are at club levels in Europe. In Malaysia the planning and execution is still at a haphazard level, and that is why we have a rojak team in the Fourth SOJC.
SATURDAY: Australia v India (4pm); Pakistan v Malaysia (6pm); New Zealand v Great Britain (8pm).
P W D L F A Pts
G BRITAIN 4 4 0 0 15 3 12
INDIA 4 3 0 1 12 5 9
AUSTRALIA 4 2 1 1 8 10 7
N ZEALAND 4 1 1 2 8 9 4
MALAYSIA 4 0 1 3 6 10 1
PAKISTAN 4 0 1 3 3 15 1