KUALA LUMPUR: The second oldest hockey tournament in the country was thrown into turmoil at the 11th hour, as two teams have withdrawn while one more is waiting for an appeal.
The problem is player-eligibility rule which was introduced a month ago after the closing date of entries.
The 56th Razak Cup will start at the Bukit Jalil Stadium Friday, but Division One team Negri Sembilan and Division Two team Kedah have written in to the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to withdraw their teams.
Perlis, in Division One, is still waiting for an appeal to be considered by MHC.
However, it looks like the three states can say goodbye to their Razak Cup hopes, as MHC Competitions Committee manager Brian Fernandez when asked if they will relax the rule said: "It's the states' prerogative if they wish to participate or not."
Negri Sembilan team manager S. Chandran said in the end, the players will become victims of a rigid rule.
"After the entries closed we were informed of a new eligibility rule where only four guest players are allowed per-team while the rest must be born in their respective states.
"More than half of our boys were born in other states but have been studying and staying in Negri Sembilan for a long time. In fact, they are a product of our development programme.
"Only their Identity Card number shows that they were born in another state (normally the mother's state).
"So, we did appeal to the MHC Competitions Committee to relax the rule but they stood their ground. And so, we have no choice to withdraw even though all the players played for Negri in the recent Malaysia Games," said Chandran.
The Razak Cup team managers meeting is Thursday.
Kedah HA secretary B. Sandra Gesan had the same problem.
"Half our team is born at other states but we are the ones who developed them. So we had no choice but to withdraw," said Sandra.
Perlis team manager Mohamed Shurizat said they are still waiting: "We are also facing the same problem like Kedah and Negri, as half of our boys are born at other states as well. If there is no favourable reply from the Competitions Committee, we will be forced to withdraw as we do not want to be whipping boys in Division One."
For the record, the oldest hockey tournament in the country is the Gurdwara Cup which has been held for 67 years without a single break.