MALAYSIA did just enough to beat China 3-2 in the World League Semi-finals, but if one looks to the future, this match should be the fist wake-up call to the new Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) management.
China were friendly and diplomatic before the start of the match, but they were robust, dominant in certain areas, and defended like a pack of wolves and Malaysia were lucky to walk away with three points from a team which is ranked 19 rungs below.
After warm-up, the Malaysian players started to wrap a thick black tape around their arms, and when China players saw this they came over and asked the reason for the band.
And when they found out the black arm-band was in respect for goalkeeper S. Kumar's tragic loss, the China players formed a circle and held a brief discussion, before coming over to the Malaysian side to pay their respects and surprisingly -- requested for the black tape from team manager Stephen van Huizen.
They wore the mourning band in tandem with Malaysia, as respect, but that's all the sympathy Malaysia received from them.
To be honest, China were beaten by two spectacular goals which no goalkeeper in the world could have stopped. The first was a cricket volley from close range, after the ball fell at Faizal Shaari's feet and bounced eight inches for a beautifully set up Sixer.
The second was even more cheeky, as 21-year-old Haziq Shamsul's back was towards the goalmouth and the ball just nicked the tip of his hockey stick and for a moment, even he was unsure of the goal before he started celebrating.
A replay at the stadium big screen, in slow motion, showed just how lucky the goal was -- and luck almost ran out for coach Tai Beng Hai and his men after that.
They barely pulled off a one-goal victory against a team which we beat 4-1 at the Asian Games.
The key word here is RESPECT.
China gave Malaysia no respect, pushed hard, used their elbows to shove aside our boys like they were pesky flies. And it almost worked if not for the two spectacular goals which might just turn out to be the goals of the tournament.
In Antwerp, Malaysia are respected by everybody as a spirited lot, with a history of playing in the World Cup, Olympics and hosts to many international tournaments.
The in-house World League bulletin printed a half-page on Malaysia's hockey history, starting with the first recorded match in 1904 between Singapore and Malaya.
And the write-up went on to note that it was only 52 years later that Malaysia played in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. It also ran accolades to the late Sultan Azlan Shah and his wonderful tournament.
Respect, we had, but respect we're losing fast as even China has closed the gap to a one-goal margin.
We need to beat Ireland next, and not be thrashed by Belgium and Britain to keep this respect. If not, in future tournaments, not only China but Singapore might just beat us.