Selva (left) with Dr Shamala (centre).
Sultan Nazrin with Dr Shamala.
KUALA LUMPUR: South Africa players will miss the chance of a lifetime to play in the 28th Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup, because their Hockey Association (SHA) had asked them to fork out 70 per cent of the flight expenses.
Many players naturally refused, and SHA pulled out their team a few days back.
This is strange because the 'almost free' tournament just received RM2.06 million in sponsorship yesterday, which was handed to the Sultan of Perak, Nazrin Shah, in a gala ceremony in Kuala Lumpur.
The organisers are now banking on Poland to make it six again, as the other confirmed teams are hosts Malaysia, India, Japan, South Korea and Canada.
And if Poland do not confirm in two days time, it would be run as a five-team tournament.
Azlan Shah Cup organising secretary M. Selvakumaran said: "This is the only tournament in the world which caters for accommodation, food as well as internal transport to and fro Kuala Lumpur (airport) to Ipoh for invited teams. All the teams need to do is pay for their players and officials flight tickets and show up with playing gear."
But South Africa HA are no strangers to this, as they has also asked their players to fork out nearly RM3,000 each to play in the recent World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) deputy president Datuk Dr S. Shamala said: "This is one of the most prestigious Invitationals in the world which has stood the test of time and has seen the best in the world play and lift the trophy.
"It's a pity South Africa could not make it due to financial problems, and so we wait for Poland. And if the tournament becomes a five-team affair, we will let the FIH (International Hockey Federation) decide its format."
There are no plans to include a Malaysian B team if Poland does not answer the 11th hour call-up as the Cup will be held on March 23-30.
SOme of the sponsors are Astro RM400,000, Perak State Govermnent RM300,000, KL Teh Land and Development Sdn Bhd RM300,000, Lumut Maritime Terminal RM200,000 and many others.
Teams and officials are even provided with water, as Spritzer has pledged 20,000 bottles.
South Africa surely missed the freebee of their lives to expose their players by being an international scrooge.