Saturday, July 21, 2007

Malaysia still on ground zero


MALAYSIA suffered their second straight defeat in the Azlan Shah Cup when
they went down 4-2 to New Zealand in Ipoh yesterday.
New Zealand scored three first half goal as Malaysia were in deep
slumber, and in the second half, the hosts tried their best to come back
into the match, but now face the bleak prospect of finishing their
campaign without a win when they meet Germany on Friday.
The way the Malaysians played yesterday, there is no way that they will
be able to win their remaining two matches against Pakistan and Germany
and a sure repeat of the 11th edition in 2001 is in store for them -
finishing last in their own tournament.
It was the old look Malaysia, with that familiar `tidak apa' attitude,
which disappointed the fans who braved an earlier thunderstorm to watch
them play, by letting in two soft goals even before the first quarter of
the match ended.
The first was off a sixth minute penalty corner awarded after Azlan
Misron stopped the ball with his boots in the semi-circle. Kiwi Hayden
Shaw took a low flick which beat goalkeeper S. Kumar.
Fired by the easy goal, the Kiwis mounted a wave of attacks and in the
11th minute, Mitesh Patel took a shot from the top of the semi-circle and
it went past a rooted Kumar. Even Mitesh was stunned for a while, and
looked at the umpire for confirmation before jumping for joy.
Malaysia could do nothing right for the next 10 minutes as even
established players with a string of caps to their names were giving away
New Zealand had numerous opportunities to score but they were plain
unlucky, and the crowd could sense a disaster in the making when Kiwi
Philip Burrows missed an open goal to give Malaysia a whisker of a chance
of getting back into the match.
Malaysia received their first penalty corner in the 29th minute and the
Kiwis, as well as the crowd which chanted Kuhan's name, expected the
skipper to take the flick, but Mohamed Amin Rahim brought back the cheers
with a low flick, which shook the goalmouth.
But the joy was short-lived as Malaysia gave away the second penalty
corner in the 34th minute and Shaw kept his record 100 per cent clean by,
again, catching Kumar napping. Coach Paul Lissek should have replaced him
with Roslan Jamaluddin out on the spot, but the half-time horn blew just
Lissek still had his faith in the young goalkeeper and upon resumption,
Kumar was still between the posts as Malaysia try to find their rhythm.
As the clock ticked away at a furious pace, Malaysia also picked up
their match but the ball whizzed to the left and right of the Kiwi
goalmouth, and the score stood at 3-1.
Keevan Raj, the coolest of the lot, was flashed a green card for rough
play in the 49th minute but he still kept his head, and when the umpire
blew to resume the match, Keevan took a thundering shot from the 25-yard-
line and Riduan Nasir, standing beside the Kiwi goalkeeper, tapped it in
and Malaysia now had an outside chance for at least a draw.
Malaysia fought hard and won their second penalty corner of the match in
the 55th minute but goalkeeper Woolford saved Kuhan's low flick with 10
minutes of play left. But New Zealand had other plans and a 70th minute
Umesh Pagrag goal made sure they kept the full points.
Fixtures - Today: REST DAY; Tomorrow: New Zealand v S Korea (6pm);
Pakistan v Malaysia (8pm).
Mohamed Amin Rahim (29th) Hayden Shaw (6th, 34th)
Riduan Nasir (50th) Mitesh Patel (11th)
Umesh Parag (70th)
Timo Wess (41st)
Max Landshut (47th)

Germany edge Pakistan


PAKISTAN........3 GERMANY..........4
GERMANY and Pakistan went through a dress rehearsal of the Azlan Shah Cup
final yesterday, with the Kuala Lumpur World Cup champions taking a slight
4-3 lead.
The tournament is only two days old, but it was clear that these two
teams will be fighting for the title, while the other three will be left
to fight for the third placing.
Pakistan and Germany displayed world-class hockey and the 1,000-odd
crowd at the Azlan Shah Stadium thoroughly enjoyed the Asian flair
displayed by the men and green.
Pakistan were very unlucky to let in an eighth minute goal which made
the Germans more confident and turned the tables on the Pakistanis who
displayed excellent passing and dribbling skills.
Germany got their first penalty corner in the eighth minute and Max
Landshut sent the ball crashing to the top of the net.
Germany increased the lead in the 23rd minute off a Sebastian
Bierderlack goal but failed to break Pakistan who replied in the next
German defenders Philip Crone and Timo Wess played so well that Pakistan
only won their first penalty corner in the 17th minute but Sohail Abbas'
flick grazed the post and went out. But Sohail made up with his third
penalty corner flick.
Sohail, who normally stands behind the stopper, confused the Germans
when he took a position to the left of the goalmouth. The ball was pushed
straight to Mohamed Saqlin, who in turn pushed it to Sohail for goal.
But just before the break, Germany increased the lead when Wess flicked
in off a rebound.
Pakistan, looking much better than the 2002 Kuala Lumpur world Cup and
the Busan Asian Games side, came back into the picture when Kashif Jawad
sounded the board in the 41st minute to throw the match wide open again.
But Germany had other plans and Benjamin Koepp scored a 58th minute
field goal for 4-2.
And just went Germany thought they had the match in control, Rehan Butt
scored a deft goal and Pakistan were staring at a possible draw with five
minutes of play left, but Germany held on for a win.
Today: New Zealand v Malaysia (6pm); South Korea v Germany (8pm). Note:
Entrance if free at the Azlan Shah Stadium.

Malaysia's best still not good enough


SOUTH Korea dashed a Malaysian dream yesterday when they won 2-0 in the
Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh yesterday.
Malaysia put up one of their best performances to date, but umpire
Gerald Curran disallowed three clear goals to rob the hosts of an outright
The umpire, via an earphone, was in contact with FIH officials who
monitored his performance, complete with playback, on a television screen,
but he still refused to give the hosts what they deserved.
Defender Wan Asyrizal made his debut in the international scene
yesterday, and he stood shoulder to shoulder with skipper S. Kuhan.
Malaysian defenders, Wan, Kuhan and Nor Azlan Bakar did an excellent job
of keeping the South Koreans outside the semi-circle, but the forwards
lacked bite with Chua Boon Huat missing out on several goal-scoring
The men in yellow were oozing with confidence yesterday and hardly made
any back-passes, which is their normal pattern when under attack.
For every Korean with the ball, three Malaysian players lunged forward
to win it back and the 1,000-odd crowd thoroughly enjoyed themselves. More
than half the crowd were students who wore either red (colour of Korea) or
yellow and their cheers motivated the national team to play above their
normal self.
Malaysia received their first penalty corner in the 25th minute and
Kuhan's thundering flick was barely palmed away by South Korean goalkeeper
Yoon Kim.
The Koreans only penetrated the Malaysian semi-circle about 10 times in
the first 35 minutes and as the clocked ticked by, the Asian Games
champions became more desperate and made many unforced errors.
P. Prabahkaran was among the most hard-working players on the pitch
yesterday and he signaled his comeback, after his performance took a
nosedive last year, with deft passes and intelligent play.
In the second half, Malaysia came out firing from all cylinders.
The match became robust in the 50th minute and a Korean striker took a
bad hit in the process and had to be stretchered out, but he received a
double whammy when the stretcher barriers could not carry his weight and
he fell onto the artificial pitch.
The crowd had a good laugh at the Korean's expense but minutes upon
resumption, the Koreans silenced everyone at the Stadium with a superb
goal. Receiving the ball from the flag post, Hwang Seung Sun met the ball
and beat Kumar after a goalmouth melee.
Malaysia refused to be broken and pushed forward but more heartbreaking
news greeted them, as umpire Gerald Curran did not recognise the three
quick goals that they scored.
In the first, the umpire claimed that the shot was taken from outside
the semi-circle and only touched the Korean goalkeeper before going in.
The second goal was disallowed because, according to Curran, the ball went
out the goal line before being pushed into goal. And the third, instead of
giving Chua Boon Huat the benefit of the doubt, the umpire blew for a
penalty corner about five seconds after Chua scored.
While Malaysia were busy finding the eqaliser, the Koreans mounted a
swift counter-attack in the 65th minute and sealed the three points when
Seo Jung Ho sounded the board.
Kashif Jawad (4th, 60th) Hayden Shaw (29th)
Mohamed Saqlain (20th)
Shabbir Hussain (41st)
Sohail Abbas (50th)
Rehan Butt (54th)
Hwang Seung Sun (55th)
Seo Jong Ho (65th)

Gobinathan out of Azlan Shah Cup


MALAYSIA lost a steady defender yesterday when K. Gobinathan was declared
medically unfit to play in the Azlan Shah Cup which starts in Ipoh today.
But it was good news for young Wan Asyrizal from Kelantan who impressed
the selectors enough in the three Test matches against Pakistan to make
his international debut in the Azlan Shah Cup.
Gobinathan pulled a thigh muscle while playing in the second Test
against Pakistan and tournament doctor, R. Ramanathan advised the team
management not to risk aggravating his injury.
"Dr. Ramanathan said that Gobinathan needs at least six weeks of rest to
recover and if we still persist on utilising him, he might be floored for
the next six months," said Malaysian team manager Zulkifli Abbas.
Zulkifli said the management decided to rest him because he would be
needed for the Champions Challenge in South Africa and the Asia Cup more
than the Azlan Shah Cup.
Gobinathan, Rodhanizam Radzi, Redzuan Ponirin and Engku Abdul Malek were
the players dropped from the squad after the team managers
meeting yesterday.
Asyrizal, 20, and Fakrulrazi Bagarudin, 19, are among the newcomers that have caught the eye of national chief coach Paul Lissek in his quest for a good finish in the Azlan Shah Cup.
Malaysia finished last in the previous edition in 2001, and Lissek has a
golden opportunity to take his team to a third-place finish in the absence
of India, who pulled out at the eleventh-hour, and Australia who declined
invitation because they had domestic commitments.
Malaysia have been progressing steadily in the three Test matches
against Pakistan and now it looks like the only team that can trouble them are World and Azlan Shah Cup defending champions Germany.
Goalkeeper Roslan Jamaludin was a pale shadow of his former self in
recent weeks, but yesterday he received news that his wife had delivered a
baby boy and rushed home for a day, and according to Zulkifli, they hope
it will boost his game.
"He (Roslan) has not been up to the mark and it is likely that Paul
(Lissek) might opt for second choice S. Kumar in the starting line-up
against Korea tomorrow (today)," said Zulkifli.
Malaysia have a good chance of beating South Korea and New Zealand but the matches against Pakistan and Germany will test their character to the limit.

Alcover: FIH must come down hard on India


AZLAN Shah Cup tournament director Jorge Alcover feels that the
International Hockey Federation (FIH) is going to come down hard on India
for withdrawing from the tournament at the 11th hour.
Alcover said yesterday that the letter written to the FIH by India was
forwarded to him, and it is now up to the FIH Disciplinary Board to
determine the next course of action.
"On a personal note, I am very disappointed with India and I feel that
FIH should come down hard on teams who withdraw from tournaments because
it is not fair for the hosts, officials and also match umpires," said the
"This has happened in many other tournaments but FIH has done very
little about it. The situation is getting worse and I feel that this time
the FIH may impose a fine on India for placing the hosts in a very
difficult situation."
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) had already printed invitation
cards with India in the fixtures. It also had to cancel hotel reservations
and transport arrangements made for India.
If the FIH imposes a fine on India (the ruling clearly states that a
team must give at least two months notice prior to withdrawing) MHF will
be able to recover some of the costs. It will also be a deterrent to other
teams in future tournaments.
Alcover was also annoyed that umpires will now have fewer matches to
officiate and the long break in between matches will be annoying.
"Instead of 18 matches, there will now be only 12 and the break in
between is too long to benefit umpires," said Alcover.
Meanwhile, Malaysia played better in the third Test against Pakistan
whose forwards were effectively kept at bay by skipper S. Kuhan and
goalkeeper S. Kumar.
Malaysia had one penalty corner and Pakistan four, but both Kuhan and
Sohail Abbas failed to break the deadlock in the first half.
After the break, Malaysia played one of their best matches to date, and
were unlucky to fall to Sohail's 41st minute penalty corner goal.
Malaysia took control after the setback and earned three consecutive
penalty corners but Kuhan flicked wide each time.
Impressive for Malaysia were Megat Azrafiq, who showed a marked
improvement in defence while newcomer Wan Asyrizal has been shortlisted
for the final 18 when the team managers' meet in Ipoh today.
The national team will have one more friendly against Germany today
before the opening match on Saturday against South Korea.

Pakistan set sights on Cup


PAKISTAN coach Shahnaz Sheikh has set his sights on winning the Azlan Shah
Cup and lift the team's morale after a disastrous 2002 campaign.
Pakistan failed to clinch a single podium finish last year, and even
lost to Malaysia in the Busan Asian Games bronze medal playoff.
"I coached the 1999 team which won the Azlan Shah Cup gold for the first
time since its inception in 1983, and with the players that I have with me
today, I am confident we will be able to lift the title again this year,"
said Shahnaz after his team beat Malaysia 5-3 and 4-1 to take a winning 2-
0 lead in a three-Test series. The third match is scheduled for today at
the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.
Pakistan have won the title twice (1999 and 2000) and finished fourth in
the last edition in 2001. The 2002 edition was not held because Malaysia
were hosting the Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
The Pakistanis played their worst hockey lasy year and were beaten by
New Zealand 7-1 in the Manchester Commonwelath Games and then by Malaysia
(4-2 on penalties) at the Busan Asian Games.
"We had a very miserable year (last year) and that is why I am looking
forward to lifting the Azlan Shah Cup title and give the team a boost in
their preparation for the Champions Trophy and the Athens 2004 Olympics,"
said Shahnaz.
The Pakistan forwards did not look deadly in the two Test matches
against Malaysia, but goal scorers Sohail Abbas and Kashif Jawad, looked
very much at home in Malaysia after playing one season with Bank Simpanan
Nasional in the Malaysia Hockey League last year.
Sohail, still very deadly with his penalty corner flicks, scored three
goals while Kashif scored four. The other goals came from skipper Nadeem
Mohamed and Aqeel Khan.
"We tried out all our reserves in the two Test matches and they played
very well. In the first Test, we played badly in the first half because
they were still settling down after long hours of travelling. But in the
second, the boys had a good time and enjoyed themselves. I am confident
that if they continue like this, we will lift the title," said Shahnaz.
Pakistan open accounts against New Zealand on Saturday, and it will be
the indicator if the Pakistanis can achieve their target.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Improve or face early exit


MALAYSIA could be the first team to exit from the Azlan Shah Cup which
starts on Saturday in Ipoh, if they play like they did in the two Test
matches against Pakistan.
After India's withdrawal, there is no match for fifth-sixth placing on
March 30, and the team can pack their bags after playing Germany on March
Even Malaysia's German coach Paul Lissek fails to understand why there
are so many ups-and-downs in the team in 70 minutes of play.
"Judging from the re-calls, we have a much better side than the one
which won the bronze medal at the Asian Games in Busan, but they have been
very erratic in their approach," said Lissek.
"The Malaysian team played like novices in the first half of the second
Test against Pakistan and were down 3-0 due to silly mistakes by
experienced goalkeepr Roslan Jamaluddin."
Roslan let in a shot from Kashif Jawad from an acute angle and was
promptly replaced by second choice S. Kumar.
Kumar was in better form and Paksitan could only score one goal in the
second half. He even saved a 65th minute penalty stroke taken by Sohail
Abbas to keep the score down.
"Roslan has not been attending training regularly and it can clearly be
seen that his form has dropped. But I can't overly rely on Kumar because
he still lacks experience and it could be fatal to use him for a full
seventy minutes," said Lissek.
Defenders Nor Azlan Bakar, S. Kuhan and K. Gobinathan were a big letdown
in the first half of the second Test but, amazingly, displayed 100 per
cent improvement after the half-time briefing, or was it a tongue lashing.
Malaysian skipper Kuhan, however, has been on target with his penalty
corner flicks and this might just save Malaysia the blushes as forwards
Tajol Rosli and Azlan Misron were also disappointing as they tried too
hard and lost the ball everytime they entered the semi-circle.
Lissek tried out all the reserves in the two Tests, even fielding
newcomer Wan Asyrizal for the first time on Tuesday, but the youngster
clearly lacked match experience.
It looks like beating Pakistan and Germany is out of the question, but
Malaysia must beat Champions Challenge teams South Korea and New Zealand
if they want the fans in Ipoh to cheer, and not jeer.

Redraw as India stay out


THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have resigned to the fact that India
will not change their minds, and have drawn up new fixtures for the Azlan
Shah Cup which begins in Ipoh on Saturday.
The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) sent a fax to MHF on Monday saying
that their government has not given them permission to travel to Malaysia,
and the MHF officials did not comment on what brought about the sudden
But newspapers in India, quoting a release from the IHF blamed it on:
"Recent developments concerning harassment of Indian IT professionals in
The Hindu said: "Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said that
the decision was part of the approach the Indian Government had adopted
since the ill-treatment meted out to about 270 Indian IT professionals by
the Malaysian police."
The Hindu went on to say: "According to reports, the Indians were
rounded up, some of them were beaten up and their passports defaced. The
last-minute pull-out from the tournament (Azlan Shah Cup) was a way of
expressing the country's displeasure against such treatment," sources
The MHF have been in contact with the IHF and the they are almost sure
that India will not be able to come.
"I do not want to speculate on the reason why India has withdrawn from
the Azlan Shah Cup, but we have closed our options because it is highly
unlikely that IHF will get the greenlight from their government to travel
to Malaysia in the next two days," said MHF secretary S. Satgunam.
MHF have re-drawn the tournament fixtures and submitted it to the
International Hockey Federation (FIH) for approval.
"We have sent the revised fixtures to FIH and have received their
approval," said Satgunam.
Even with five teams - Germany, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Korea and
Malaysia - the tournament will still be from Saturday to March 30.
"We (MHF) are very disappointed with the withdrawal but nothing can be
done about it. We will not invite another team because time for
preparations is too short and it would not be fair to the other teams,"
said Satgunam.
The MHF did the right thing by deleting India from the fixtures as the
Rediff reported that IHF president K.P.S Gill was already planning for an
alternative tournament for his team.
Rediff wrote: IHF chief K.P.S Gill said the decision was taken by the
External Affairs Ministry in consultation with the Sports Ministry.
"We respect the decision of the government. It is a policy decision
taken in the larger interest of the country. We totally agree with the
government. At the same time, we will request the government to arrange
for an alternative tournament for our team," K.P.S Gill was quoted.
REVISED FIXTURES: Saturday - Pakistan v New Zealand (6pm); Malaysia v
South Korea (8pm); Sunday: Germany v Pakistan (6pm).
March 24: New Zealand v Malaysia (6pm); South Korea v Germany (8pm);
March 25: REST DAY; March 26: New Zealand v South Korea (6pm); Pakistan v
Malaysia (8pm).
March 27: Malaysia v Germany (6pm); March 28: Germany v New Zealand
(6pm); South Korea v Pakistan (8pm); March 29: REST DAY.
March 30: Third-Fourth (3pm); Final 5.30pm.

India told to stay at home


INDIA threw a spanner in the Azlan Shah Cup scheduled for March 22-30 in
Ipoh, yesterday when the Indian Government did not allow them to travel to
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) received a fax from the Indian
Hockey Federation stating that they will not be taking part after a
meeting held in India.
"The IHF fax stated that their Government did not allow them to travel,
and there were no other reasons for their eleventh-hour pullout from the
invitational tournament," said MHF secretary S. Satgunam yesterday.
Since the Azlan Shah Cup is an International Hockey Federation (FIH)
sanctioned tournament, India may be punished for their actions.
"I will have to check with the FIH on the next course of action since it
is a sanctioned tournament," said Satgunam.
But one thing is for sure though, MHF will have to redraw the fixtures.
Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh, when approached after his team beat
Malaysia 5-3 in the First Test, was shocked when told of India's
withdrawal from the Azlan Shah Cup.
"This is news to me. Did India really withdraw? Well it would have been
great if they had come, but we have no problems playing a five-team
tournament in their absence," said Shanaz.
National chief coach Paul Lissek was clearly disappointed with the news.
"What? India pulled out? This is a big blow as they are always an
interesting team to play against.
"Now the only solution that I see is for the MHF to invite another team,
like Japan or even China to see if they are able to make last minute
arrangements," said Lissek.
The Azlan Shah Cup, incepted in 1983, will have to make do with
champions Germany, South Korea, Pakistan, New Zealand and Malaysia, if no
other country is available as an eleventh-hour replacement.

Cup gaining recognition


THE Azlan Shah Cup, incepted in 1983, is fast gaining recognition by the
FIH as being among the premier invitational tournaments in the world.
The 12th edition of the tournament in Ipoh on March 22-30 promises yet
another hockey fest with the best in Asia pitting their skills against
world champions Germany - with the fans in Ipoh getting to watch the
matches for free.
"The Azlan Shah Cup is fast becoming a premier tournament and this year the teams are preparing for either the Champions Challenge in South Africa on July 19-27 or the Athens Olympics Qualifiers," said Malaysian Hockey Federation secretary S. Satgunam.
Satgunam refuted claims that the tournament is costing RM1 million to
"It is not true that the tournament needs RM1 million to organise. In
fact, we only need about RM450,000 to bring top class hockey to our
backyard and the MHF has always made a profit from organising it. We only provide board and lodging, the teams take care of their own travel costs," said Satgunam.
In the first edition in 1983, the champions were Australia and runners-
up Pakistan.
Malaysia's best finish was in the second edition in 1985 when we lost to
India in the final.
"The Azlan Shah Cup is a big boost for local hockey because we do not
need to travel to five countries to play against top hockey teams. It
saves travelling expenses and our umpires and officials gain from the
experience at home," said Satgunam.
Chief coach Paul Lissek was also of the same opinion.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult for Malaysia, who are in the
Champions Challenge ranks, to play against Champions Trophy teams like Holland, Germany, Pakistan, India and Australia simply because they know that they will be wasting their time as the outcome is very predictable.
"That is why the Azlan Shah Cup should be seen in a positive manner
because not only do we get to play against Germany, but also, have the
opportunity to play Test matches before the Azlan Shah Cup," said Lissek.
Lissek had tried to arrange at least three Test matches against Germany
in the middle-of-the-year European Tour, but his efforts failed.
"Germany only want to play one Test match against us in Europe, for the
other two matches, they will be fielding their juniors because their
seniors will not benefit much from playing a lower-ranked team. It was
only for courtesy sake that they entertained our request," said Lissek.
The Germans, champions in 1987 and 2001, will be playing in their
seventh Azlan Shah Cup. The hockey world waits to see what they are
capable of after showing awesome form to lift the Kuala Lumpur World Cup last year.
The South Koreans are another team which cannot be taken lightly as they were champions in 1996 and finished runners-up in 1999, 2000 and 2001.