FIVE teams in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League have invested heavily on foreign imports, but local players are the ones who have carried the load for the front-runners.
For starters, double champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) are unbeaten after six matches as penalty corner flicker Razie Rahim nailed eight goals and is now the current joint-top scorer.
Faizal Saari of Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) is chasing Razie, also on eight goals, even though he played one match less after being red carded for verbally abusing and showing the middle finger to umpire P. Elangovan when playing against Sapura.
The two locals are top-scorers in a league which has 22 foreign players.
And in Faizal's absence against UniKL on Sunday, THT found a new local hero to keep them afloat in chasing their first League title.
Syamiru Aiman, who will turn 21 on Dec 27, scored four goals against UniKL to give his side a 5-2 win. His sizzling form on a heavy pitch, saved the blushes for THT who have invested in five South Koreans as well as some of the best local talent in MHL.
"Syamiru played for Terengganu in the recent Malaysia Games (scored two goals in bronze playoff to help beat Penang 4-2) and was a regular in the first two games until my five Korean imports arrived.
"Against UniKL, since I did not have the services of suspended strikers Faizal and Firhan (Ashaari) Syamiru was given more time and he delivered the crucial three points for us," said THT coach Sarjit Singh.
Syamiru's four field goals were scored in the eighth, 16th, 31st and 34th minutes while the fifth was delivered by seasoned international Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.
"The pitch (in Kuala Terenggau) was heavy after a torrential downpour, and our penalty corners could not be executed as the push-out was slow to reach our Korean flickers, but Syamiru delivered for us with four field goals," said Sarjit.
As for Maybank, they benched their German import goalkeeper Moritz Knobloch against Sapura, and local boy Shahrul Azaddin played a good game to help the Tigers steal one point in a 3-3 draw.
A former coach, who declined to be named as there is a gag order from Malaysian Hockey Confederation president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, said teams are wasting their time and money on foreign imports.
"It looks good for the MHL to have foreign players, but in the long run, when the money dries up, teams which are developing local youth will be the survivers.
"There is a precedent, as Yayasan Negri Sembilan were the best with their imports, but when the money dried up, the team also died while teams like Tenaga Nasional are still active in the MHL," said the coach.
Tenaga are the only all-local outfit in the MHL, and they have give the rest a tough fight and are standing proud with three wins and three defeats at No 3 on the standings.
On another matter, Tengku Abdullah said that the draft of the new MHC constitution has been sent to the Sports Commissioner's office for endorsement.
"While I'm not sure if the minutes of the EOGM has been sent to the Sports Commissioner, the draft of the amended constitution has been submitted," said Tengku Abdullah at a football function in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The Sports Commissioner has said that the date for the MHC elections could not be set as he is still awaiting for the minutes of the month-old EOGM from the MHC.
P W D L F A Pts
KLHC 6 6 0 0 22 6 18
TERENGGANU 6 5 0 1 27 12 15
TENAGA 6 3 0 3 11 11 9
SAPURA 6 1 2 3 11 19 5
MAYBAN 6 0 3 3 11 16 3
UNIKL 6 0 1 5 4 22 1