by Jugjet Singh
WHILE the best will head for Hockey India League (HIL), the rest came to play in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
Just as this column was being written, in came an email and the intro was -- HIL to conduct auction for 135 Indian and 141 foreign players on Sept 17.
Among the foreign players to be auctioned, Australian ace Jamie Dwyer's name stood out. Dwyer has played in four World Cups, and will be playing in his fourth Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after helping Australia become champions at the Belgium World League Semifinals.
Five out of six teams in the Premier Division hired players from Argentina, Pakistan, Ireland, South Africa and Germany -- but the hired guns have yet to impress in any manner.
Tenaga Nasional, the title sponsors, were the only team who believed in locals and they are doing much better than foreign-injected Sapura, Maybank and UniKL at the start of the Second Round.
Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) and Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) are the only two teams in battle for the League title, and are on 19 and 18 points respectively after seven matches.
The pretenders are Sapura (10 points), Tenaga (nine), Maybank (three) and yet-to-win-a-point UniKL.
And even KLHC and THT are being carried by their local players, while their foreign imports are in the shadows.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) had said at the start of the MHL that the foreign players are needed to inject prestige and also attract fans.
However, the imports have failed in every department. The Premier Division matches at Bukit Jalil have yet to attract the desired number of fans, and in fact, 70 percent of those who come to watch the matches are family members and friends of players.
Both the stadiums in Bukit Jalil only see about 100 to 200 'fans' turning up to watch the Premier Division matches, but the presence of hockey players from other teams waiting for the next match, adds to the numbers.
Sadly, even MHC officials are normally missing from the stands.
Nobody but KLHC and THT seem to be enjoying the spotlight, and a top MHC official said it all: "We tried everything to attract the fans, but failed."
MHC Deputy President and Competitions Chairman George Koshy had promised drastic changes in the MHL when he went on his election rounds early this year.
But he did not have enough time to implement them this season. Lets see if Koshy, who is also the KLHC team manager, can give this dead-end league a kiss of life, and make it as interesting and lucrative as the HIL.