Sunday, October 7, 2007

Champs Tenaga keep title on sight


TENAGA Nasional Bhd kept their sights on the Malaysia Hockey League title
when they beat Pahang Sports Council 1-0 at the Tun Razak Stadium
The defending League champions did not have it easy against Pahang, and
now they will have to dig deep against their last two opponents Ipoh City
Hall and Maybank next weekend to claim the League title.
Tenaga had a miserable outing in the first half, but they kept up the
pressure and finally found the winning touch in the second half.
In the first, Pahang had the better chance of sealing the match as they
had four shots at goal, but could not make it count.
Tenaga came to live in the last minute of the second half, when they
received their first penalty corner, but Nor Saiful Zaini's powerful hit
failed to break the deadlock.
But in the second half, Tenaga played better hockey and nailed the first
goal in the 37th minute when Azlan Misron met a cross from M. Kaliswaran.
Tenaga coach K. Rajan admitted it was the worst outing they had in the
MHL: "Eventhough this was our worst MHL match, I am still happy with the
three points because we are still in the hunt to defend our League title."
Meanwhile, in the earlier match, Royal Malay Regiment kept their hopes
alive of reaching the quarter-final when they whitewashed Ipoh City Hall
Hong Kong import Arif Ali started the rout with a penalty stroke in the
14th minute and a jaded Ipoh side just caved in after that even though
there was not much pressure from the Army men.
The other RAMD goals were scored by Zulhairi Ariffin (26th), Sulaiman
Bujang (42nd), Azahari Yusof (56th) and Ramli Ismail (67th).
At the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Royal Malaysian Customs hammered the
daylights out of Navy Dolphins when they went on an 11-1 rampage.
With the win, customs are virtually assured of a berth in the quarter-
finals. The Customs rout was started by Faried Abdulah in a first minute
field goal while the other goals scorers were Ikmal Jabar (sixth), Lam Mun
Fatt (eighth, 22nd), Ranjit Singh (20th, 23rd), Melvinder Singh (35th), St
John Davis (41st, 51st, 62nd). Faried ended the goal count with a 66th
minute field goal.
At the Bertam Hockey Stadium in Kepala Batas, Ernst & Young thrashed
middle of the table Srii Aroma 8-1, reports K. KANDIAH.
Ernst & Young's short corner specialist and top scorer Len Aiyappa
sounded the board in the third minute with a well taken short corner hit
and put in another three minutes later.
After fumbling three more short corner hits Aiyappa added another in the
22nd and rounded up his tally with the fourth goal in the 65th minute.
Their other goals, which were all field goals, came from S. Suriagandhi
(26th), Chua Boon Huat (28th), Mirnawan Nawawi (38th) and Kamal Affendy
Mohamad (39th).
In the 54th minute of the match Srii Aroma's D. Baskaran dribbled past
three opponents to squeeze into the semicircle to score the consolation.
Results: Royal Malaysian Customs 11 Navy Dolphins 1, Royal Malay
Regiment 5 Ipoh City Hall 0, Ernst & Young 8 Srii Aroma 1, Tenaga Nasional
1 Pahang Sports Council 0.

Bad goalkeeping our downfall


DESPITE fielding the nation's best players, almost, Malaysia failed to
capitalise against a mediocre field in the Champions Challenge at the
Randburg Hockey Stadium in South Africa.
It was a tournament in which the Malaysians were handed almost
everything on a silver platter, even an excellent chance to play in the
But it was in Africa - the land of the world's fiercest predators that
saw Malaysia tuck their tail between their legs to finish last.
It started with poor umpiring in the curtain-raiser against South
Africa, and the Malaysians never recovered.
But the umpires caused only minimal damage. The bulk of the blame lies
on the two goalkeepers - Roslan Jamaluddin and S. Kumar - who destroyed
Malaysia's dream of playing in the Champions Trophy.
Basically, if the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) wants to see a good
finish in the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September, both goalkeepers must
be dropped from the squad.
MHF can still rely on former No 1 Nasihin Nubli as he has been playing
well for Sapura in the Malaysia Hockey League.
If the MHF can sort out this problem, half the national team's problems
will be solved too.
Nasihin had to quit national duty to help his father manage a poultry
farm and unlike both the present goalkeepers, Nasihin is no chicken.
Then there is junior goalkeeper Ahmad Bazli, who played for Malaysia
Sports School in the recent Junior Hockey League to consider as well.
"There are no two ways about it. We need to bring back a former
goalkeeper (Nasihin). But bringing in an 18-year-old (Bazli) will not be
good for the team because he will need time to adjust to international
hockey, and we don't have that luxury," said coach Paul Lissek.
The German did not blame the disastrous outing solely on the
goalkeepers, because he feels the entire team played badly in patches.
Their worst period was in the last 15 minutes of the matches.
On a more positive note, it was heartening to see skipper S. Kuhan get
over his Azlan Shah Cup nightmare, and together with Nor Azlan Bakar, form
a solid partnership in defense.
To cap his performance, Kuhan even scored six goals.
Forwards Tajol Rosli, Azlan Misron and Ismail Abu are still young but
have now seen action at the top level. However, they were a big letdown in
Africa as out of the 10 goals that Malaysia scored, they contributed only
Amin Rahim, with more than 60 caps under his belt, was a disappointment
as he was not physically and mentally fit and could not cope with the
pressure of playing a full match.
"We have a big problem here," said Lissek pointing to his head.
"Most of the players are not mentally strong and easily give up even
though we are in the lead. That and fitness needs to be worked on further.
"It might sound a little silly when I say that this outing is not
entirely a waste, because back home (Malaysia) people will laugh if I
praise a team which finished last in a tournament.
"But I see some promise in the team, the structure is there and all we
need to do is, polish a few areas.
"The Champions Challenge will help us in the Asia Cup campaign."
For the Olympics Qualifiers in Madrid in March next year, Malaysia is
almost assured of meeting England, New Zealand and Spain again.
On that note, the Challenge was not entirely a waste of time.

Malaysia sink to rock bottom


Final: Spain .............7 S. Korea........3
3rd-4th: S. Africa .......2 NZ..............2
(SA win on sudden-death pen)
5th-6th: Malaysia.........2 England.........3
RANDBURG: Malaysia blew a 2-1 lead, and sank to the bottom of the
Champions Challenge pool when they allowed England too much space in the
final minutes at the Randburg Hockey Stadium in South Africa yesterday.
Meanwhile, Spain made it back into the Champions Trophy elite when they
humbled South Korea 7-3 in the final.
The last time Spain played in the Champions Trophy was in 2000 in
Rotterdam but they have been struggling since. But yesterday, they nailed
the Koreans in the first eight minutes of the match itself.
And in the third-placing match, South Africa downed New Zealand in a
sudden-death penalty shoot-out with the match tied 2-2 after extra-time.
Only seven minutes was left on the clock, with Malaysia clinging to the
lead, but it was not motivation enough for the men in yellow to bring out
their best. Instead, they waited for England to attack and let in two soft
goals to sink to a new low.
It is always difficult for any team to play in the classification
matches, especially if it is at 10am and even when the sun is still
The Malaysian players started on a very shaky note and a mistake by Amin
Rahim in the 15th minute earned England a penalty corner.
Amin stopped an overhead flick from the English side with his stick
raised over his shoulders even though he was inside the Malaysian semi-
circle and then there was a poor clearance during the penalty corner and
Ben Hawes tucked in the lead.
The Malaysian players maintained an attacking posture though and after a
series of attempts, they won a penalty corner with skipper S. Kuhan
levelling the score in the 20th minute.
Two minutes later, Kuhan flicked in the second penalty corner and
Malaysia were back in command of the match.
Malaysia took things easy in the second half, being contented with the
one-goal lead as every player was inside the 25-yardline.
It was evident that England were going to get their equaliser sooner
than later because they never stopped attacking the Malaysian goalmouth.
For 20 agonising minutes, the Malaysian forwards never saw the ball
upfront as England pushed from every angle and thus with only seven
minutes remaining in the match, the defence went into snooze mode.
It was the easiest of equalisers for Jimmy Wallis when he tapped the
ball in between the legs of onrushing Roslan Jamaluddin.
The equaliser spurred the English on and with three minutes on the
clock, with extra-time and possibly a penalty shoot-out looming, Malaysia
buckled under pressure yet again.
This time, a long ball from the center found Danny Hall in the middle of
the Malaysian semicircle and he slotted in to seal fifth spot for the
English in the Champions Challenge.

Little respect for 'chicken Malaysia'


RANDBURG (SA): Malaysia will have to work on its image, because the
umpires still have no respect for this fast-rising team.
Played-out twice in the Champions Challenge in South Africa, national
coach Paul Lissek was at breaking point after South Korea were given added
advantage in their 5-2 win over Malaysia.
It was a crucial encounter, which could have seen Korea playing in the
third-fourth placing match against Malaysia, instead of the final, but the
fourth-ranked team in the world received some divine intervention to aid
their cause.
"I now feel that I have chosen the wrong sport to coach. How can hockey
grow worldwide if umpires continuously support teams which have a proven
"Malaysia have started to knock on the doors of the elite hockey playing
countries and I feel that some people do not like this. The penalty stroke
awarded against (K.) Gobinathan killed my boys. The first penalty corner
in the 11th minute (where Korea scored) was also very heartbreaking
because the ball accidentally hit (S.) Kuhan's foot about two feet outside
the semicircle," lamented Lissek.
Lissek has been very vocal about the standard of umpiring in the
Champions Challenge, and now FIH officials who used to look up to him with
respect, make an about turn when they see him approach.
"Some of the officials and umpires have watched videos of the Malaysia-
South Africa match and only now they are coming up to me and saying the
yellow card handed to Madzli Ikmar was unwarranted. Isn't it too late to
agree now?
"That yellow card ruined our chances in the first match, and the umpires
(John Wright of South Africa and Nick Lockhart of England) must have felt
that Malaysia were a "chicken team" and they should'nt be allowed to play
at the highest level," said Lissek.
There was a clear example of how the umpires respected the Koreans more
than Malaysia:
When Wright gave the penalty stroke in the 30th minute, Malaysian
skipper Kuhan requested him to consult the second umpire but he was just
brushed aside and the stroke stood.
But when Malaysia received a penalty corner in the early minutes of the
second half to narrow the gap, South Korean skipper Kim Jung Chul went up
to umpire Wright and requested him to consult the second umpire.
Lockhart ran from the other end of the field, and signaled that Malaysia
did not deserve the penalty corner and Wright quickly blew for a restart.
"You can see for yourself that they are more willing to review the
situation when teams with a proven track record protest than teams which
are trying to make an impact.
"The decisions taken today (yesterday) would never had been seen if
Germany or Holland were playing because the umpires know that the players
will throw their hockey sticks down, and refuse to continue with the
"But against `chicken' teams like Malaysia, they are brave because they
know we would not want to take the risk of getting into trouble with the
FIH," said Lissek.
Meanwhile, as predicted, Spain and South Korea will play in the final
today. South Africa needed to win by three goals to reach the final, but
Spain were too good for the hosts and won 1-0.
The gold medallists today will book a place in the 2004 Champions
Trophy, scheduled for November in Lahore, Pakistan.
Fixtures - Final: South Korea v Spain; 3rd-4th placing: South Africa v
New Zealand; 5th-6th: Malaysia v England.

Going wild in untamed South Africa


IF you are in South Africa, a glimpse of the Big Five in their natural
habitat is a must, so the Malaysian journalists covering the Champions
Challenge decided to pool their resources and go on a mini tour yesterday.
The best place would have been the Kruger National Park, but not only
was it out of our budget, but also too large to travel around within the
limited time we had.
So, we went to the nearest Big Five (Lion, Rhinoceros, Elephant,
Hippopotamus, and Buffalo), which was a two-hour drive from the hotel, but
were told not to expect too much.
The Philensberg Park is about 80,000 hectares and house to a myriad of
South African animals left to roam in the wild. Unlike in zoos where the
animals are in cages and the humans are free to walk - in South Africa,
the animals are left to roam free while the humans are in a metal box
(cars) and not advised to venture outside because they might turn into a
snack for some of the predators roaming the park.
The journey took us past a flea market, a mile long, and selling wares
that could turn a window shopper into a big spender.
African woodcarvings are a marvel because every detail is cleverly
chipped from ironwood, and the animals look very handsome and majestic.
Face masks of every design, some used in tribal rituals were aplenty, but
their fierce designs were not of our taste.
Kudu statues, which are almost extinct in the wild, fetched the highest
price, but the bargains at the flee market were almost 80 percent cheaper
than what one would get at the classy shopping complexes in Randburg or
other big cities.
We only had an hour, so there was a flurry of bargaining done in the
short span, and the van was almost half filled when we resumed our journey
to the Big Five.
The Philensberg Park, very small in scale compared to what South Africa
has to offer, was a big letdown in the first 30 minutes of travel because
the only animals we saw were hippopotamus and small birds.
Our guide, farmer Danny who turned into a tour guide because he wanted
to do something else in life, was hell-bent on showing us a glimpse of the
bigger animals so we started to get off the tarred road and roam around
the dirt tracks.
And the journey became tolerable because out jumped a herd of zebras in
front of us, the leader cautious at first, but slowly became cocky and led
his herd to the water's edge to quench their thirst.
Next was a herd of waterbucks, which according to our guide, was the
last resort for hungry lions.
"Waterbucks are not preferred as meals because the moment they are
killed, their meat starts emitting a strong odor which the lions dislike.
But if they do not have a choice, hungry lions are known to pounce on
waterbucks as a last resort," said Danny.
It was clear to see that elephants had ravaged the park as trees were
either stripped of their bark or smashed to pieces. But we only managed to
catch a glimpse of two bull elephants because they like to rest in the
shade under the hot afternoon sun.
Giraffes and wilderbeasts were only in small groups, but we never found
the lions but overall, the budget tour was exhilarating.
The next stop was Sun City, and it was like travelling back home to the
Sunway Lagoon Resort back home. The only difference was that Sun City had
a casino and the theme park was home to magnificent statues of African
We tried our hands at the one-arm-bandit, but like the Malaysian hockey
players, luck was not on our side.

Fifth or sixth at best


Philip Burrows (9th, 40th)
Hayden Shaw (11th)
Bevan Hari(60th)
Lee Jung Seong (12th, 30th, 40th) S. Kuhan (24th)
Seo Jong Ho (44th) Tajol Rosli (42nd)
Hwang Seung Sun (70th)
MALAYSIA had a good chance of beating South Korea yesterday, but two
penalty strokes relegated them to fifth-sixth placing while Korea moved
into the final of the Champions Challenge in South Africa yesterday.
Malaysia will meet England tomorrow for the placing match, while South
Korea will get a shot of making the Champions Trophy awashed with Asian
teams as Pakistan and India are already in.
Malaysia looked psyched up for the encounter against South Korea and as
the minutes ticked by, it was evident that every player in yellow had only
one mission - to beat South Korea and play for the bronze medal.
But a tackle by S. Kuhan about one feet outside the Malaysian semicircle
was punished with a penalty corner by South African referee John Wright.
Lee Jung Seong, who had scored four goals in the tournament, notched his
fifth when he pounced on a rebound.
Malaysia were not broken by the goal and defender Nor Azlan Bakar
rallied his teammates with a loud battle cry: "Kita masih boleh menang
And this made a difference in the game as Malaysia swamped the Korean
goalmouth and earned a penalty corner in the 24th minute. After exchanging
his hockey stick at the sidelines, Kuhan flicked in the equalizer.
However, a tackle inside the semicircle by K. Gobinathan on Lee resulted
in Wright blowing for a penalty stroke.
Lee bagged his sixth goal of the tournament when he flicked low on the
right of goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.
The second half started on a bad note for Malaysia into the match as
Roslan Jamaluddin had brought down a Korean player which resulted in
another penalty stroke as hardly five minutes after the breather.
Lee scored his hat-trick from the spot. Malaysia refused to budge as two
minutes later they earned a penalty corner, which was deflected in by
Tajol Rosli.
In the 44th minute, Seo Jong Ho made it more difficult for Malaysia by
scoring the fourth goal.
With 10 seconds left on the clock, Hwang Seong Sun made it 5-0.
In the earlier match, New Zealand relegated England to playing in the
fifth-sixth position when they thrashed the English 4-0.

On a kamikaze mission


MALAYSIA and South Korea will both be on a `kamikaze' mission in the last
day of pool matches in the Champions Challenge today.
Both teams still have a chance of reaching the final. Malaysia in the
final? Yes, it is mathematically possible but in reality, a third placing
finish will be a better target.
Malaysia must beat South Korea to have a total of seven points, and then
wait for luck to do its bit to reach the final. If England beats New
Zealand and Spain beats South Africa, Malaysia will enter the final on a
better goal difference over South Korea.
Back to reality, a win against South Korea is long overdue, as Malaysia
have succumbed to the Asian giants in recent tournaments, the closest to
memory being the Azlan Shah Cup.
The Koreans won on a slim 2-1 margin in Ipoh, and in Randburg, South
Africa, they have been on a roller coaster ride.
"This tournament is so closely knitted in standards that any team has a
chance of reaching the final (except England). Spain looked like they have
booked one ticket, while the rest will only know after Friday's matches,"
said Malaysian coach Paul Lissek.
To be frank, Malaysia blew their chances when they lost to South Africa
in the curtain raiser. But South Africa have shown since, especially by
beating South Korea, that they are no pushovers and are serious about
reviving hockey.
"We can beat Korea. But then, Malaysia could have also beaten Spain if
not for silly mistakes made by both goalkeepers.
"I have been following Korea closely in the tournament and although they
are very good, they still have a long way to go before they can mature
like the previous Korean teams we have seen in action at world level,"
said Lissek.
Erratic. That is the exact word to describe the South Koreans in the
Champions Challenge. Sometimes, one wonders, whether the "Malaysian hockey
bug" has caught on with the normally reliable Korean boys.
"Against Spain, we were asleep for too long in the first half. The boys
had too much respect for the team, which beat them 7-1 in the Osaka
Olympic qualifiers.
"But it was clear that Spain were not their normal self against us as
they made too many unforced errors and could have been beaten. But against
Korea on Friday (today), I am confident that we can beat them and make the
play-offs for the third place," said Lissek.
That will be only a one-rung improvement than the First Edition of the
Champions Challenge in Kuala Lumpur in 2001.
"Yes, it will be a small step in the Champions Challenge but a big leap
in our preparation for the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur (in September)," said
And if luck favours the men in yellow, they might just find themselves
elevated to playing in the final on Sunday. But first, they must beat the

Malaysia back to old self


Malaysia ...........2 Spain ...........3
South Korea ........2 England .........1
RANDBURG: Malaysia were back to their old selves as they allowed Spain to
seal the crucial Champions Challenge match in the first half at the
Randburg Hockey Stadium in South Africa yesterday.
Only birthday boy S. Kuhan, who turned 27 yesterday, had a good game,
tucking away two goals out of the three penalty corners that came
Malaysia's way.
The rest of the players were in no mood to play hockey, and the
Spaniards only had to bring out 50 percent of their capabilities to
collect three points.
It was perfect weather for hockey, but the Malaysians were not in the
game as they allowed Spain too much room to move and paid a price for it.
S. Kumar started between the posts for the third consecutive match, as
he had impressed with his agility in the previous two, but he was not in
his element yesterday, allowing two soft goals to past him before coach
Paul Lissek replaced him with Roslan Jamaluddin.
Spain held back and preferred to defend in the first 10 minutes and when
they had their machinery going it resulted in goal from an acute angle.
Santi Freixa was at the Malaysian goal line, and when he attempted to
hit the ball to the top of the semicircle, the ball touched the tip of his
hockey stick and a freak goal was the result.
The goal awoke a handful of players in the team, and five minutes later,
Malaysia received their first penalty corner. Kuhan found himself in an
awkward position, pushed the ball to the leg of a Spanish defender and the
umpire awarded another penalty corner.
This time, Kuhan's flick was clean and Malaysia were back in the match,
but not for long.
Back on snooze mode, unforced errors were committed by the Malaysian
defenders and Spain were back in the lead when Alberto Esteban took a soft
hit towards goal and Kumar again failed to stop it.
The Spaniards only tested Kumar twice, and both resulted in goals.
Lissek replaced him with Roslan and with 10 seconds left on the first
half clock, the experienced hand was beaten by Pol Amat and Malaysia went
into the dressing room with little hope of salvaging the match.
Malaysia had more than enough chances to seal the match after the
breather, but the forwards, Tajol Rosli especially, were a big letdown and
as the clocked ticked in the last quarter, a desperate push in the 57th
minute finally landed Malaysia the second penalty corner.
Kuhan took his time, and his well placed low flick crashed into the
board and Malaysia narrowed the gap.
But after the goal, the Malaysian players were back to their old selves
and Spain didn't have much defending to do in the remainder of the match.
* SOUTH Korea kept their hopes alive of reaching the final of the
Champions Challenge when they beat England 2-1 in the second match.
South Korea's prolific goal-getter Seo Jong Ho started the ball rolling
with a deft touch in the fifth minute, and just before the halftime
whistle, You Hyo Sik made it 2-0.
England narrowed the gap in the second half though Dave Matthews and
pushed forward but could not find the equaliser.

All six equally balances, says Hendriks


THE Spaniards escaped by the skin of their teeth against New Zealand
yesterday, and only now, their coach Maurits Hendriks believes that all
six teams in the Champions Challenge are equally balanced.
After thrashing England 6-2 in the curtain raiser of the Champions
Challenge, Hendriks practically claimed the Champions Trophy ticket, but
after losing to South Korea and scoring the winning goal against New
Zealand with five seconds left on the clock, he has started seeing things
"All the teams in the Champions Challenge have improved tremendously,
especially Malaysia who I last took a keen interest in during the Sydney
2000 Olympics," said Hendriks.
Hendriks was coaching Holland during the Sydney Olympics, and now is
helping Spain get their act together for the Olympics and World Cup
"The last tine I saw Malaysia in action was during the Kuala Lumpur
World Cup (2002) and comparatively, the team has improved tremendously,"
said Hendriks.
Hendriks, who is a long-time friend of national coach Paul Lissek, said
finally he could see the handiwork of the German in the Malaysian team.
"Malaysia had a very good defensive structure, but they always lacked
forwards. But from what I saw against England today (yesterday) the team
has finally started opening up.
"I can see a solid team in the making, as when the young forwards
mature, the goals will start coming easier," said Hendriks.
The Malaysian forwards struggled to find their footing in the first
match against South Africa, and this resulted in the defence cracking up
after facing tremendous pressure.

A win for malaysia, finally


Malaysia...............4 England................1
Spain..................3 New Zealand............2
RANDBURG: Malaysia displayed great determination to outclass England 4-1
in the Champions Challenge at the Randburg Hockey Stadium in South Africa
With the win, the hopes of a good finish were raised. There was tension
in the air as Malaysia adopted an open game and started attacking from the
There were plenty of good passes into the England semi-circle but there
were no takers, as the ball whizzed all across the field. England
goalkeeper Jimi Lewis was under constant pressure in the first five
minutes, while Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar, fielded for the second time
in South Africa, had nothing much to do except direct his team-mates from
the back.
England looked comfortable in defence, and relied on long balls to get
to their forwards. And in the sixth minute, a long ball into the Malaysian
semi-circle earned them a penalty corner, which was cleanly tucked in by
Brett Garrard.
The Malaysian runners were a little slow out of the goalmouth and
Garrard's low push rolled past Nor Azlan Bakar and into the goalmouth.
Malaysia earned their first penalty corner in the 16th minute, but
stopper Nor Azlan could not trap the ball but the forwards fought back and
won the second consecutive penalty corner.
This time, skipper S. Kuhan failed to lift the ball off the artificial
pitch, but he recovered and made a pass to Jiwa Mohan, who slammed the
ball past Lewis.
Malaysia received their fifth penalty corner in the 40th minute, and
Kuhan's powerful flick grounded goalkeeper Lewis but Jiwa was slow to pick
up the rebound and the English survived.
The men in yellow swamped the English goalmouth and in the 49th minute,
K. Keevan Raj finally got the penalty corner set piece right and Malaysia
were in the lead.
Jiwa Mohan won the penalty corner and Kuhan pushed the ball to Keevan
who sent it crashing to the top of the English net.
Malaysian team pressed harder and were rewarded again in the 59th
Off a well-planned counter attack, the ball met Azlan Misron's stick and
he coolly slotted it in.
And with two minutes remaining, Riduan Nasir and Tajol Rosli perfected a
one-two with Tajol getting the last touch for Malaysia's fourth goal.
* SPAIN came back from a goal down to beat New Zealand 3-2 and kept
their hopes alive for a medal finish.
The Kiwis shocked the Spaniards with a sixth minute goal through Umesh
Parag but Xavi Ribas equalised 18 minutes later.
In the second half, Bevan Hari again gave New Zealand the lead with a
39th minute goal but it was cancelled a minute later by EduardTubau. And
when the match looked like it was heading for a draw, Rodrigo Garza nailed
the winner.

Home away from home


WAN Abdullah is the unofficial mayor of Johannesburg. The Malaysian, from
Kelantan, decided to try his luck in South Africa 15 years ago, and today,
his WGS store in Village Walk, Sandton, can be considered as the "Malaysia
WGS (Wan's Gems Store) is a cosy little place, where discounts await
every Malaysian - with a touch of Malaysian hospitality.
The Malaysian journalists covering the Champions Challenge in Randburg,
South Africa, first heard about Wan on board a Malaysia Airlines flight.
Salleh, the head steward, recommended WGS if we were looking for bargain
stones and stone trees.
Even though we forgot to ask Salleh for the shop address, it was not
hard to find.
Hungering for some spicy food on the third day in South Africa, we
walked into a Cape Town Malay shop at the Sandton Shopping Complex and
asked the manager for Wan.
He immediately retorted: "Wan Batu? Yes, I know him." And after
shuffling through his calling card rack, he handed us Wan's card.
We called his handphone, with some reservation, but were greeted by a
warm voice at the other end. And that night itself, Wan arrived at our
hotel and took us to his shop. Talk about Malaysian hospitality.
We were given a quick tour of his shop, as it was nearly closing time,
after which we sat down for coffee, with Wan becoming our tour guide.
Every question about Johannesburg was answered sincerely, and he even
gave us helpful tips on how to survive in this crime-ridden country.
"When I came here 15 years ago to try my luck, the situation was much
worse. Now, it is much safer but still, make sure you plan your excursions
properly. There are plenty of nice places to visit here, but make sure you
guys go with a licensed tour operator, because they will take care of
you," said Wan.
Wan keeps a visitors' journal in his shop, and flipping through its
pages, names of various Malaysians, some famous, have been jotted down.
Datuk Dr Siti Hasmah's picture was on the wall, with various other
Malaysians who have walked into Wan's store.
After the journalists had picked out their favourite stones, and a good
discount given, we started talking about hockey and Wan found out that the
Malaysian players had no one to cheer them on at the Randburg Hockey
It was decided there and then, that the Malaysia Airlines cabin crew,
led by head stewrd Salleh, that was housed at an adjacent hotel, would
come and cheer the Malaysian boys in the crucial match against England.
Salleh promised about 17 crew members as cheerleaders - but we still had a
problem. Where to get Malaysian flags?
Not a problem for Wan though!
He phoned his friend at the Malaysian Tourism Centre in Joburg, and
within 30 minutes, the flags were delivered to WGS, which by now was quite
crowded with Malaysians as more Malaysia Airlines cabin crew had walked in
and joined us.

England can be beaten


RANDBURG: Malaysia can beat England today, as they will be under a
character microscope at the Randburg Hockey Stadium because they have
everything else under their belt.
Fitness is at its peak, skills they have, and motivation to do the
country proud in the Champions Challenge is left to be displayed.
"After South Korea beat Spain, and England beat South Africa, the
tournament has been thrown wide open. We have the players to beat England
and there are no two ways about it," said national chief coach Paul
That is if the team does not adopt a defensive technique, like they did
against New Zealand in the first half on Sunday.
Malaysia defended well, but with only Jiwa Mohan, Azlan Misron and
Fairuz Ramli upfront, the wall finally cracked after constant attack from
the Kiwis.
Ismail Abu, 19, saved the day for Malaysia with a well-placed reverse
stick shot, but before the goal, he was a nervous wreck.
"I was a little edgy in the first half, because it was very cold and my
fingers became numb. I also found it harder to breathe as the cold air
burned my lungs.
"It is very hard to play hockey in this kind of weather (about five
degrees) but the goal has set the fire burning in me, and I hope I can
help my team-mates achieve a good finish in the Champions Challenge," said
Tajol Rosli, among the most hardworking in the squad, let his team-mates
down when he missed four sitters, which could have ended the Kiwi fight
early in the match.
"I normally do not miss such easy opportunities, but yesterday (Sunday)
I was in a dreamlike mode and my actions became slower as the match
progressed because I could not breathe well in the chilly weather. But we
still have a fighting chance, and we must beat England to keep our hopes
alive," said Tajol.
England were whipped 6-2 by Spain, but made a remarkable recovery to
edge hosts South Africa 2-0 in the next match. But the English are far
from impressive, as they struggle to rebuild a team for the Olympics and
World Cup Qualifiers.
Skipper S. Kuhan has had an exceptional tournament, and his confidence
is fast latching itself onto K. Gobinathan and Amin Rahim at the backline.
"The Champions Challenge has brought out the best in most of the
players, and even though we have only a draw and a defeat to show after
two matches, the team, as a whole, has shown tremendous progress.
"(S.) Kumar, who is normally a little shaky in goal, displayed a very
cool attitude when fielded against New Zealand. And the young forward line
of Tajol, Ismail and Azlan (Misron) no longer hold back when they come
face-to-face with burly defenders.
"They have started using their speed to get around, and I am sure we
will have a very good time in the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur (in
September)," said Lissek.

Malaysia outplayed by 13-man South Africa


THIS column is not to provide an excuse, but to clear the air on
Malaysia's performance in the first match against South Africa.
The fact is that the national hockey players were ready to maul the
hosts. And after skipper S. Kuhan scored the third minute penalty corner
goal everyone at the stadium, including both umpires, knew that the South
Africans were in for a hiding.
Every pass, stop, and attacking formation of our young forwards was
flawless - until German umpire Markus Meyer decided that he has to do
something to bail out the hosts.
National chief coach Paul Lissek, after the match, just shook his head
and said: "I know the umpire (Meyer). Maybe he was under tremendous
pressure to prove to everyone that he has nothing to do with Paul Lissek.
"That he was very neutral. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was the gut feeling
that I got during the entire match."
In the span of five minutes after Malaysia's opening goal, Meyer started
handing the South Africans dubious decisions, which even shocked some of
the local supporters.
The most glaring was in the 12th minute when he gave the South Africans
a penalty corner because the ball hit Madzli Ikmar's foot in the semi-
However, the truth is that South Africa were rewarded a free hit just
outside the semi-circle, and as Madzli was walking into the semi-circle
with his back to the ball, the free hit was swiftly taken and it struck
his foot.
Instead of blowing for a retake, Meyer blew for a penalty corner and
this blew the top of the Malaysian players.
Kuhan protested vehemently, and to a certain degree, the Malaysian
players were too angry to think clearly. Then Justin King levelled the
score with a low penalty corner flick.
Malaysia forgot about the goal and went on the offensive, but Meyer had
other plans. Malaysia lost the match because they played against 13
At the other end, umpire Murray Grime from Australia picked up the tempo
for the hosts by sending Madzli to the sin bin - yes, docile Madzli who
will hesitate to swat a fly even if it was threatening his life.
After that, it was time for Chua Boon Huat to be taken out. Chua was
shoved from the back by Ken Forbes, and on his way down, his stick hit the
face of the South African.
While Chua deserved a technical red card, the South African should have
at least been handed the yellow. He walked away scot-free without as much
as a verbal warning from Grime.
The hosts' win was worth a single column in the local Sunday Times
newspaper. The heading read: SA hold up against fiery Malaysia.
The Times reporter wrote: "The Malaysians, although more defensively
inclined, scraped for everything and showed technical finesse. Indeed
there were many unforced errors from the Malaysians, a team with men of
goatees, pony tails and tempers perpetually threatening to come to the
The temperature was a cool 10 degrees Celsius but things were really
heating up at the Randburg Hockey Stadium yesterday because South Africa
fielded 13 players and the FIH officials turned a blind eye.

Randburg misery continues


Malaysia ..................1 New Zealand .....................1
South Korea ...............3 Spain ...........................2
England....................2 South Africa ....................0
RANDBURG: Malaysia held New Zealand to a 1-1 draw in the Champions
Challenge at the Randburg hockey Stadium here in South Africa yesterday to
keep their hopes alive.
The match belonged to the Malaysians but Tajol Rosli, who normally takes
his chances well in the circle, missed four sitters, forcing Malaysia to
share the points.
Malaysia adopted a defensive approach by fielding four players at the
back - Amin Rahim, K. Gobinathan, S. Kuhan and Nor Azlan Bakar - and the
gameplan worked as the Kiwis became extremely frustrated as the match
It took New Zealand 18 minutes before they could test Malaysia's second
choice goalkeeper S. Kumar as Roslan Jamaluddin, who had a poor game
against the South Africans on Saturday, was benched yesterday.
Everything went well for Malaysia from the start with coach Paul Lissek
opting for Amin instead of striker Azlan Misron.
The Kiwis, who did not field penalty corner specialist Hayden Shaw who
is down with a stomach strain, were awarded a penalty corner in the first
half but Ryan Archibald's attempt was palmed away by Kumar.
However, a defensive error in the 32nd minute saw the Malaysians trail
by a goal.
It started when New Zealand were awarded a free hit outside the semi-
circle and just as all 11 Malaysians clamoured for position, Gareth Brooks
took advantage of the situation by taking a quick shot over Kumar's
Malaysia had four open chances at the New Zealand goalmouth but Tajol
Rosli, Riduan Nasir and Saiful Azli blew it.
And five minutes after resumption, Fairuz Ramli took the full force of a
clearance and had to be stretchered out. The medical team took almost five
minutes to strap a neck brack before taking him to hospital.
It took Ismail Abu to score for Malaysia in the 55th minute with a
reverse stick shot which sailed past goalkeeper Paul Woolford for the
face-saving equaliser.
In other matches, South Korea stunned Spain 3-2 while England defeated
South Africa 2-0.
Lee Jung Seon was the toast of the Koreans as he rallied his team-mates
in a tough encounter against the Spaniards and then notched a hat-trick to
keep their hopes alive.
The Spaniards, fresh from their 6-2 demolition of England on Saturday,
found the Koreans in an uncompromising mood.
But on the rare occasion that they did cross the 25-yard line in the
fifth minute, Eduard Tubau dribbled past goalkeeper Ko Dong Sik and tucked
in the ball.
But that was as far as they went in the first half as the Korean
defenders closed ranks.
The Koreans piled on the pressure and received their third penalty
corner in the 47th minute.
Lee Jung Seong's flicked the ball past the goalkeeper. And when the
Koreans were awarded the fourth penalty corner eight minutes later, they
celebrated first before Lee flicked it home to give them a 2-1 lead.
The Spaniards clawed back into the game through Xavi Ribas in the 65th
minute with a low flick from a penalty corner.
South Korea made the most of the attacks after that, and Lee notched his
hat-trick when he pounced on a penalty corner rebound in the 64th minute.
England's win over South Africa has thrown the tournament wide open.

Spain bent on title


SPAIN will stop at nothing to win the Champions Challenge gold medal, as
they crave to join the world's elite six hockey playing nations.
Unlike the rest of the five countries in Randburg, South Africa who want
the experience to prepare for the Olympics and World Cup, Spain are hungry
for the glitter of gold.
"We are not here for exposure, but to win the gold medal and rejoin the
elite six in the world. Our objectives are clear from the onset, and the
players know their mission," said coach Francisco Cortes.
The 6-2 hiding they handed England was a clear warning for the other
teams which harbour any hopes.
And though they lost 3-2 to South Korea yesterday, their aspirations
would appear to remain intact, given the open field at this stage of the
On the European Championships, Cortes was more realistic: "It is our
dream to beat the best in Europe, but we will leave it at that.
Realistically, we are still far behind Germany and the Netherlands."
Before the Challenge, Spain played a series of matches against Germany,
the Netherlands, Argentina and India.
"Believe me, we got our butts kicked in most of the matches. But that is
the only way to improve, we need to play more matches against Champions
Trophy teams.
"The only way to get that exposure is to win the Challenge in South
Africa," said Cortes.
Spanish skipper Juan Escarre, 33, is still as fit as ever and rallied
his team-mates to play like champions.
"We have the best team available for the Challenge, and we had to leave
three more budding players back home because only 18 can be fielded here.'

Nightmare for Malaysia


IT was a nightmare beginning for Malaysia in the Champions Challenge as
they were greeted with one red card, one yellow and two soft goals - which
presented hosts South Africa the perfect opening match at the Randburg
Hockey Stadium yesterday.
Malaysia had a good grip of the match until Madzli Ikmar was flashed the
yellow, followed by a red card for Chua Boon Huat minutes later. And the
match was lost.
Chua received a one-match suspension and will not feature against New
Zealand today.
The Malaysians entered the pitch oozing with confidence, and after a
long spell, looked like they were going for a win.
The young forwards - Tajol Rosli, Azlan Misron and P. Prabahkaran -
ripped the South African defence apart, but good goalkeeping by Dave
Staniforth stood in their way.
After numerous pressing attacks, Malaysia took the lead from a penalty
corner in the third minute.
Skipper S. Kuhan sent a low ball, which went crashing into the net and
silenced the 1,000-odd fans.
While the forwards became bolder, Malaysia's defenders cracked under
pressure, allowing the South African strikers too much space for which and
they were punished with a penalty corner.
Justin King sent a low flick on the left of goalkeeper Roslan Jamaludin
and South Africa were back in the match.
Malaysia had 70 per cent possession in the last few minutes of the first
half but the umpire failed to check on dangerous stick-checks employed by
the South Africans, and the score remained.
After the restart, the national team kept up the pressure and got their
break in the 39th minute. But K. Gobinathan's low shot did not connect at
the other end.
The South Africans became frustrated started shoving our players around.
In the 49th minute, Charl van der Merwe was sent to the sin-bin for a bad
tackle on Madzli Ikmar and Malaysia started pressing forward more
But just as Merwe came back into the match, Madzli Ikmar was sent to the
sin-bin. South Africa were awarded with a penalty corner which was tucked
in by King for the lead.
To make matters worse, Chua Boon Huat was flashed the red card after he
lifted his stick too high, which caught the face of South Africa's Ken
Malaysia, reduced to nine players, now had a mammoth task of finding the
South Africa pulled further ahead in the 53rd minute when Emile Smith
sounded the board after a mistake by Malaysian defenders.
In the first match of the day, South Korea were held 0-0 by a fighting
New Zealand but there was an element of good news for Malaysia, who face
the Kiwis today.
The towering Kiwi penalty corner specialist Hayden Shaw was used
sparingly in the first half due to a stomach strain.
"We will field him against Malaysia today, because the strain is not too
bad. Today (yesterday) we rested him as a precautionary measure," said
In the second match, Spain beat England 3-1 to sound an early warning in
their title quest.
The Spaniards scored off a fifth minute penalty corner when Xavi Ribas
sent in a crackling flick.
But England drew level with a 12th minute penalty corner by Dave
Spain were not in a compromising mood and surged ahead with two goals in
two minutes. Ribas was on target again in a 34th minute penalty corner and
just after restart, Pol Amat sounded the board with a superb field goal
for a comfortable lead.
After the breather, Spain hammered in three more goals via Eduard Tubau
(40th, 68th) and Amat (44th).
England scored a 70th minute goal off Jerome Goudie but it made no

Malaysia.........1 South Africa....... 3
New Zealand......0 South Korea........ 0
England .........2 Spain ..............6

Malaysia ready to push back when shoved


AFTER months of training and preparing for the big day, the Malaysian
hockey team is finally exuding an air of confidence unseen for a long
The Champions Challenge starts today at the Randburg Hockey Stadium in
South Africa, and Malaysia have the unenviable task of starting their
campaign against the host country.
And the fact that South Africa are ranked 13th in the world while
Malaysia are 10th, will not count, as it is the norm for the host country
to plan the fixtures in a way that they play, who they perceive as the
weakest team, first.
The South Africans picked Malaysia as their first opponents because in
the last Champions Challenge in Malaysia, they beat us to reach the final.
Malaysia played a friendly against the South Koreans yesterday
(Thursday) and did the country proud by making a gallant comeback in the
last 10 minutes to hold the Olympic silver medallists 3-3 after trailing
The young Malaysian players showed that they are ready to push back when
they are shoved.
Chief coach Paul Lissek used Jiwa Mohan, Chua Boon Huat and K. Keevan
Raj as a defensive midfield and, finally, strike trio Tajol Rosli, Ismail
Abu and Azlan Misron started receiving the ball more regularly.
Malaysia always had problems in midfield but it looks like Lissek has
finally found the right recipe.
South Korea's coach Jeon Jaeng Han, while impressed with the Malaysian
team's progress since the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in January, still feels
Malaysia will struggle in the tournament because they do not have the
physique to challenge the bigger built players from New Zealand and
"Malaysia now have some very exciting and young forwards (Azli Misron,
Ismail Abu, Tajol Rosli and Azlan Misron) who are very skillful with the
ball. But they don't have the build and it will be very easy for big
defenders from Europe to shove them aside," said the experienced coach.
But on the Malaysian front, the morale is very high and it looks like
the opponents will have to bring out their best to shove aside our
`petite' strikers.
South Africa are resigned to the fact that they will finish in mid-
table, but they have set their sights on beating Malaysia in the opening
England and New Zealand played a friendly yesterday and neither side
looked impressive in the 1-1 draw - a good sign for Malaysia.
Malaysia have beaten all five teams in the Challenge in the past, and
with South Korea targeting the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September as
their No 1 goal for this year, a good finish can be expected from the
young Malaysians.
Skipper S. Kuhan made it clear that they will fight tooth-and-nail to
boost hockey's sagging fortunes.
"We have been training very hard for tomorrow (today) and my team-mates
are physically and morally very upbeat. This is a good chance for Malaysia
to break into the top-six bracket in the world and we are not going to let
it slip," said Kuhan.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Slow pace of life permeates entire South Africa


MALAYSIANS, who complain about slow counter service at home, should pay a
visit to South Africa.
Everything here moves at a snail's pace, with even the Internet
connection being agonisingly slow and fragile - so much so that one has to
keep redialling to stay connected.
The locals are not complaining though, as this is the lifestyle they
have been accustomed to for generations.
But for a journalist rushing to send his copy to Malaysia, what with the
six-hour time difference, it can be a very trying and frustrating
experience when met with red tape at every corner.
The South African Hockey Association has left everything to the last
minute, and work is still ongoing even though the Champions Challenge
starts in less than 24 hours.
The media centre is still not ready, the artificial pitch, which has
huge patches of black fungus, is still being cleaned with a high-powered
hose. Teams are moving around in the dark as liaison officers take their
sweet time going about things.
Nevertheless, the country is well planned, with superb highways
connecting every small town from Johannesburg to Randburg.
The police force is also very efficient, as every 10 minutes one can see
the flashing lights of a police car moving slowly past the hotel - giving
one a secure feeling.
At every traffic light, there are locals carrying rubbish bags scurrying
from car-to-car asking if there is any rubbish to be dumped. They then
sift through the rubbish by the roadside and keep what can be used for
recycling. Quite a large number of people make money this way, and it
helps keep the country squeaky clean.
But it saddens the heart to see these vagrants going about their tasks
in the cold weather, with very young children in tow, while thinly
attired. A mother and son team, with the boy being about three years old,
have set up a permanent base at the traffic light near our hotel, and can
be seen hard at work from dawn to dusk.
The mother scampers from car to car asking for rubbish, while the boy,
runny nose and all, sits patiently by the curb and guards the day's meagre
Life is very hard on the streets of Johannesburg, but affluency abounds
in the chic shopping complexes where the upper class mingle and sip their
But everywhere, the pace of life is maddeningly slow and the Malaysian
journalists here just can't wait for the Champions Challenge to start so
that, finally, they can see some action.

South Africa still sleeping


IS the Champions Challenge really being held in Randburg, South Africa?
Everybody keeps wondering because there is hardly any information about
the tournament as the hosts frantically try to get the Randburg Stadium
playable in time for the opening match tomorrow.
The turf is being scrubbed and there is a lot of last minute hammering
and drilling going on at the stadium.
And all those who were approached don't have a clue that the Champions
Challenge starts tomorrow. Even the hotel staff were caught unaware as
teams and officials arrived from all over the world.
No, the Champions Challenge is not a second-class tournament, but hockey
is a third class citizen in South Africa, where the newspapers and
television channels are awashed with cricket, rugby and soccer news.
Hockey, if its lucky, gets a single column in the newspapers and a
passing mention on TV.
But the South African Hockey Association (SAHA) has drawn up an
ambitious programme to take their team to the top - with the first step
being the hiring of a fulltime professional coach.
Paul Revington, 29, has been on the job for less than a year as he has
been employed as South Africa's first, fulltime professional men's coach.
The former coach of the national under-21 squad has managed to secure a
contract with SAHA until 2006, making heads turn as hockey gets the much-
needed boost in a sport loving country.
And Revington was "satisfied" despite his team finishing their three-
match series against South Africa `A' with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw at
St John's College.
After losing the first match 2-0, Revington's charges bounced back with
a 4-1 victory in the second and then the 2-2 draw.
"There is a long way to go for South African hockey, but I'm certainly
satisfied. Our preparation has been good but I want better," said
At the inaugural Champions Challenge in Malaysia two years ago, South
Africa made the final only to lose the gold medal to India.
"Realistically, two or three wins and a mid-table finish would be good.
The mood has been good and the guys have been working hard for Saturday
tomorrow)," said Revington.
And the South Africans have picked Malaysia as one of the teams to beat
for a mid-table finish.

Malaysia concerned, but won't lose sleep over it


SOUTH Africa, ranked lowest in the six-team Champions Challenge which
begins tomorrow at the Randburg Hockey Stadium, held South Korea 3-3 in a
friendly match yesterday, and it looks like Malaysia will face their
toughest hurdle in the opening match itself.
This is a new South African team, robust like the New Zealanders and
committed like the South Koreans - and their new coach Paul Revington has
plans to take his team to the top level before his contract expires in
Malaysia's chief coach Paul Lissek watched the South Africa-South Korea
friendly yesterday, and was all smiles as he detected a chink in South
Africa's defence.
"The South Africans have improved much since we last played them in the
2001 Champions Challenge in Kuala Lumpur. This set of players are very
dedicated, hard runners and their defence is very stout," said Lissek
"But I detected something which we can capitalised in our opening
encounter against the hosts. We (with assistant coach Yahya Atan) reviewed
the video recording of the friendly and have come up with a plan on how to
get off to a winning start."
South Africa were awarded four penalty corners in yesterday's friendly
and scored from three of them, signalling their ambitions to make the most
of home turf advantage.
"From what I saw, our players will have to release the ball early
because every time a South Korean had the ball, three to six South
Africans surrounded him and forced a back pass," said Lissek.
"The South African players are also very quick on the counter attack,
something our defenders (Nor Azlan Bakar, S. Kuhan, and K. Gobinathan)
will have to be very careful with."
The national players went on a morning jog and then had a friendly match
with South Korea in the evening to acclimatise themselves with the weather
and the artificial pitch in Randburg.
"None of the players displayed any signs of being nervous or of being
unwell or are injured. The team doctor has placed a `no business' sign on
his door, and this is a very good start to our campaign in South Africa,"
said team manager Zulkifli Abbas.
Malaysia finished fourth in the inaugural edition of the Champions
Challenge at the Bukit Jalil Hockey Stadium.
Malaysia won three-in-a-row in the pool matches, even beating eventual
champions India 2-1, and needed only a draw against either South Africa or
Argentina to reach the final but blew their chances with a pathetic
display at the final hurdle.
In South Africa, Malaysia open their campaign against the hosts tomorrow
and then take on New Zealand on Sunday.

More than just hockey opponents in Joburg


MUGGINGS, snatch thieves, pick-pockets and the such in Johannesburg, or
better known as `Joburg' by the locals, is there for all to read about on
the internet.
The official Johannesburg website even advises motorists to run red
lights on lonely roads, as car-jacking is a rampant practice here.
But Malaysian journalists on board a flight to Johannesburg to cover the
Champions Challenge kept an open mind and adopted a wait-and-see attitude
- until advice started pouring in from Joburg residents on the same
Mohamed Azzemier, a cape Malay seated next to us, had this to say:
"Joburg is a very nice place to visit, but I hope your visit is not marred
by muggings or snatch thefts."
Azzemier is a resident of Cape Town, and when we got off at Johannesburg
airport, he took a connecting flight, but not before trying to persuade us
to head for Cape Town, instead of Joburg.
"Cape Town is a much safer place to visit in South Africa, why don't you
guys stay there a few days as the tournament only starts on July 17?"
We already had our reservations in Joburg so we politely declined, but
nevertheless, started looking over our shoulders more often.
Three elderly ladies, who sat behind us in the same flight, must have
felt a littly sorry for us first-timers in Joburg, and while queuing up
behind us at the immigration counter, decided to warn us.
"Don't keep your wallet in the back pocket. Always carry travellers'
cheques. Never walk along lonely lanes by yourself. Make sure you have a
local guide if you plan to go out at night. Never display your cell
By now, we had a pretty scary picture of Joburg in our minds, but as we
travelled to our hotel, which was about 45 minutes from the airport, the
sun was out and we felt safer.
Joburg is a sprawling city, but the traffic jams are worse than in Kuala
Lumpur as cars crawled along the highways, even though it was only 6am.
Everywhere, the grass was brown and the trees had shed their leaves as
winter was approaching. The temperature was six degrees, and people from
all walks of life were rushing, presumably, to their places of work.
Highways criss-crossed in a maddening manner, until we reached Randburg,
where the pace was slower, but still lines of people could be seen walking
briskly to keep themselves warm.
Our thoughts of Joburg softened somewhat when we reached the hotel and
were warmly welcomed at the reception, with the manager bending backwards
to meet our every need.
Maybe Joburg is not such a bad or scary place after all. We will know
for sure in the next few days.

Malaysia eye top-six bracket


THE Malaysian hockey team got a cold reception when they arrived at
Johannesburg's airport in the wee hours of yesterday morning for the nine-
day Champions Challenge which starts on Saturday.
The temperature was six degrees Celsius and the biting wind did not help
either as the 18 players and eight officials did their best to squeeze
their luggage and themselves into a tiny 22-seater bus.
If all that was not bad enough, on reaching the hotel South Korea's Jeon
Jae Hong had more bad news for them.
"The artificial pitch at the Randburg Sports Complex is too slippery for
good hockey. We had a friendly match against the New Zealand team on
Tuesday and my boys suffered to find their footing," said Jeon.
The Korean also said that workers were still busy trying to wash dirt
from the artificial pitch.
"They are trying to wash away the dirt with high pressure pumps. But
still, the pitch is not suitable for good hockey," said Jeon.
The Koreans were held 2-2 by the Kiwis in the friendly and it looks like
Jeon has his work cut out.
"I have brought the same team which played in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh
with three changes. I expect a tough fight in this tournament," said Jeon.
Korea are more interested in the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September,
because the top finisher is assure of an automatic berth in the 2006 World
Cup, while teams finishing second to fourth will earn call-ups to the
World Cup Qualifiers.
"That (Asia Cup) is our priority. We will be using the Champions
Challenge to expose some young players and groom a strong team for the
Asia Cup," said Jeon.
The Malaysians, after a restless 10-hour and 45-minute flight, went to
bed straight after checking into their hotel in Randburg.
"The boys need a few hours rest after which we will go for some light
training. Maybe we will also watch the South Africa-South Korea friendly
in the evening," said Malaysia's chief coach Paul Lissek.
The last time Malaysia played in the Champions Trophy was in 1993 when
we hosted it. Malaysia has never made the top six in the world since their
fourth-placing in the 1975 World Cup, also on home soil.
So, the Challenge in Randburg will be for the Malaysians to beat South
Korea, South Africa, Spain, New Zealand and England to break into the top
six bracket for the first time since 1975.

Amin, from mediocre to role model


MOHAMED Amin Rahim, a hard-working lad who made his debut in the 1999 Sea
Games, is a model example of the kind of player Malaysian hockey yearns
for in these trying times.
Amin started off an average player. Despite being in the 2002 Kuala
Lumpur World Cup training squad, he was dropped because, other than being
hard-working, there was nothing special about his game.
Many in his shoes would have stayed away from the pitch, but Amin never
gave up and kept attending training.
His persistence paid off and he got his break when a handful of seasoned
players retired just before the Busan Asian Games, leaving chief coach
Paul Lissek with no option but to call-up Amin.
"Amin is always early for training and his hard-working attitude won me
over," said Lissek.
And now he is in South Africa to help Malaysia clinch a Champions Trophy
berth for only the second time.
Amin, who has been capped 50 times, went to Busan and helped Malaysia
win an Asian Games bronze medal after a lapse of 12 years.
Such was the improvement Amin showed that he was among one of four
Malaysian players who were named to the Asian All Stars team at the end of
the Asian Games. The others were skipper S. Kuhan, midfielder K. Keevan
Raj and forward Chua Boon Huat.
Amin's fortunes turned for the better when he played for Bank Simpanan
Nasional in the Malaysia Hockey League last year, and coach C.
Paramalingam used him in penalty corners alongside Pakistani wizard Sohail
"That was the turning point in my playing career. I picked up a few
pointers from Sohail and now I have been entrusted to take penalty corners
and strokes during matches," said Amin.
Against China in the last friendly, Malaysia won a penalty stroke.
Amin's subsequent flick was so powerful that many at the Tun Razak Stadium
thought the ball had gone out, only to realise that the ball had torn the
side netting when the umpire blew for goal.
A one-time nobody, Amin is now together with Kuhan, a key figure when it
comes to penalty corner executions.
In fact, Amin scored a penalty corner goal in the last Azlan Shah Cup,
when Kuhan notched a first by not scoring a single goal in the tournament.

Lissek: Top-three target in Randburg


NATIONAL chief coach Paul Lissek has set a top-three target for the
Champions Challenge in Randburg, South Africa on July 19-27.
And for the first time since the German started coaching Malaysia, he
had problems selecting players, as there were two or three players
fighting to fill every position.
"I have been in a very unique position in the past week, because never
before have I had the luxury of such a dedicated pool to select from. Some
of the choices were very difficult to make, and it augurs well for the
future of Malaysian hockey," said Lissek.
Malaysia, fielding a team whose average age is 22, will be up against
South Africa, South Korea, Spain, England and New Zealand in the Second
Edition of the Challenge.
Going by the last World Cup rankings, a top-three target is not too far
off as South Korea and England are the two teams who finished better than
Yesterday, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) Selection Committee
named the 18-man squad to South Africa, and 18-year-old Azli Misron from
Chemor, Perak, got his much-awaited break.
"I have been watching Azli in training with the junior squad and he has
impressed me with his talent. Not only has he got talent, but he is also
clever enough to get himself out of tricky situations.
"The other thing I like about him is that he is always willing to learn,
and able to put theory into practice. He has also been marked for the
Olympics Qualifiers in Madrid next year," said Lissek.
Defender Madzli Ikmar, who fractured his wrist seven months ago, was
also selected after he put up a good show in the last friendly match
against China.
Four players who helped Malaysia win bronze at the Busan Asian Games
were left out from the Challenge squad, but they will continue training
for a shot at the Asia Cup in September.
Megat Azrafq, Redzuan Ponirin, Nor Azlan Rahim and Rodhanizam Radzi will
have to fight their way back into the team, as their form had dipped after
the Asian Games.
Going by the list, the Challenge squad is much stronger than the Asian
Games team as Nor Azlan Bakar and Tajol Rosli - both opted out of Busan
due to studies - are back to boost the squad.
Malaysia - goalkeepers: Roslan Jamaluddin, S. Kumar.
Defenders: K. Gobinathan, S. Kuhan, Madzli Ikmar, Nor Azlan Bakar, Amin
Midfielders: Shaiful Azli, Jiwa Mohan, Azlan Misron, P. Prabahkaran, K.
Keevan Raj.
Forwards: Riduan Nasir, Ismail Abu, Tajol Rosli, Fairuz Ramli, Chua Boon
Huat, Azli Misron.

Azli Looking good


THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will name its Champions Challenge
squad today, and the surprise inclusion is expected to be youngster Azli
Malaysian hockey has very often seen brothers playing alongside each
other - K. Keevan Raj and Logan Raj, Jiwa and Jivan Mohan - and the
Champions Challenge in Randburg, South Africa on July 19-27 is also likely
to see brothers Azli and Azlan Misron playing side-by-side as the other
pairs break up.
Keevan is a sure bet for Randburg and so is Jiwa, but they will be
without their brothers in this tournament.
Azli, 18, made his debut with the seniors in the last friendly against
China and he has impressed chief coach Paul Lissek. Having played up
front, instead of his usual midfield position, Azli had made a big
The brothers, who started their hockey careers under Anderson School
coach Mokhtar Baharuddin, will be the players to watch in the next five
Even if Azli does not make the cut for Randburg today, he is a sure bet
for the Junior Asia Cup in Karachi next year where Malaysia will attempt
to qualify for the Junior World Cup.
Azlan, 20, will help in the qualifiers, but he will not be eligible to
play in the 2005 Junior World Cup.
Twenty-five players underwent a gruelling two-week training stint, which
saw a fair share of absentees due to injuries or sickness. But the past
three days were different.
"It is amazing how everyone seems to be free from injuries and illness
as the tournament draws closer," lamented Lissek.
K. Gobinathan only played two matches against China because he was
injured, but the defender has since recovered and will be on the plane to
South Africa.
Sixteen players have made their mark in training and in the four
friendlies against China, and it looks like the MHF selectors will have to
decide on only two more.
Goalkeepers Roslan Jamaluddin and S. Kumar, skipper S. Kuhan, Nor Azlan
Bakar, Gobinathan, Chua Boon Huat, Jiwa Mohan, Keevan, Azlan Misron, Azli
Misron, Riduan Nasir, Ismail Abu, Tajol Rosli, P. Prabhakaran, Madzli
Ikmar and Amin Rahim are the sure bets.
So the MHF will deliberate on the fate of Norazlan Rahim, Redzuan
Ponirin, Shaiful Azli, Fairuz Ramli, Rodzhanizam Radzi and Redza Maadun

Deadly South Africa


MALAYSIA open their Champions Challenge campaign against hosts South
Africa at the Randburg Hockey Stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg on
July 19, and the retirement of the hosts' star striker Greg Nicol (pic)
comes as a small consolation.
Nicol, who decided to retire due to recurring injuries, holds a
phenomenal record of scoring 209 goals in 165 matches.
The South Africans still have their most capped player, the skilled
Gregg Clark, but he lacks Nicol's deadly finishing.
"I have heard that South Africa, South Korea and Spain will be parading
young players for the Challenge. But we will not know their true strength
until we face them, or see them in action in Randburg," said national
chief coach Paul Lissek after putting his charges through a gruelling
sand-pit workout.
The sand-pit exercise is to enhance muscular endurance, something which
is dearly needed by the national players.
"I did not get enugh time to prepare them physically because they were
playing in the Malaysia Hockey League. That is why I had to cramp a
gruelling schedule which will end this Friday (tomorrow) when the team is
named," said Lissek.
While Lissek has yet to name his squad, an 18-man South Africa squad
were assembled in Johannesburg on Monday for a gruelling 12-day training
"There has already been an improvement in the first two days. The
purpose is to spend as much time on the field understanding each other,"
said South Africa coach Paul Revington on the website.
"Realistically, I would be thrilled if we could finish mid-table, but we
have to overcome the likes of Spain, Korea and New Zealand to do that.
It's not going to be easy," he added.
Fixtures - July 19: South Korea v New Zealand; England v Spain; Malaysia
v South Africa; July 20: Spain v South Korea; South Africa v England; New
Zealand v Malaysia; July 21: Rest Day; July 22: Malaysia v England; New
Zealand v Spain; South Korea V South Africa.
July 23: Spain v Malaysia; South Korea v England; South Africa v New
Zealand; July 24: Rest Day; July 25: England v New Zealand; Malayaia v
South Korea; South Africa v Spain; July 26: Rest Day.
July 27: Final and placing matches.

MTBC needs more support


THE Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) yesterday unveiled the 15th
World Championships Logo at a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur, but they are
still off the RM1.6 million budget to host the event.
The World Championships, on Sept 9-20, has only netted about RM900,000
with the bulk coming from the Sports Ministry.
MTBC president Datuk P.S Nathan, while grateful that the Sports Ministry
has given them strong backing, was at a lost for words on why sponsors
have been keeping away from the prestigious event.
"Bowling has never failed to return from a tournament without a medal,
and we have produced world champions over the years, but still, we are are
finding it hard to get sponsors," said Nathan after launching the logo.
Deputy Sports Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat, who officiated yesterday's
function, said: "Malaysian bowlers have continuously brought glory to the
country over the years, winning numerous medals at national, Asian and
international tournaments.
"I am sure that they will continue to make us proud in the World
Championship, especially since they will be holding court amidst their own
fans," said Ong.
Nathan said the main objective of bidding, and winning the right to host
the World Championships was not to break even, but to make money for MTBC
grassroots development.
"We had some strong sponsors before the Iraq War and the SARS (Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome) broke out. Some of them kept away after
recording some losses in the last few months.
"We are still working with a few sponsors, and hopefully, we will not
only break even, but also fill the MTBC coffers for future development
programmes," said Nathan.
The World Championships will see the participation of at least 2,000
foreign bowlers, supporters and officials from over 65 countries.
At the last World Championships four years ago in Abu Dhabi, 73
countries confirmed their entries but only 67 turned up.
The World Championships will be held at two venues. The men's event will
be held at the 48-lane Sunway Pyramid Megalanes and the 32-lane Ampang
Superbowl in Summit, Subang Jaya will host the women's event.

Bigger schools league


THE second edition of the Kuala Lumpur HA-Kuala Lumpur Schools Sports
Council League, which will start on July 12, has received overwhelming
The KL Schools League, which started with 14 boys' teams last year, will
have two more boys teams this year, while nine girls' teams will be making
their debuts.
KLHA president Tan Sri Noordin Hassan said the main aim of the Schools
League is to have a wider base of players for State tournaments.
"We have always been accused of pinching players when it comes to State
level tournaments eventhough it is not our fault that players from other
States decide to either study or work in Kuala Lumpur.
"By organising the Schools League, we hope to nurture our own talent in
the long run, and do our bit in promoting hockey in the country," said
The league will be an Under-16 affair this year, as the Under-18
students will be busy preparing for their SPM examinations.
"Last year, it was an Under-18 tournament and it was very difficult to
convince teams to take part because of the SPM examinations. So this year
the KLHA and MSSKL decided on Under-16 and we received good response,"
said Noordin.
Yesterday, the KL Schools Leagus logo was unveiled, and three sponsors
were welcomed.
Boys - Group A: SMK Seri Titiwangsa, SMK Seri Hartamas, SMK Sungai Besi,
SMK Seri Petaling, SMK Kepong Baru, SMK Batu Lima, SMK Tinggi Setapak, SMK
Victoria; Group B: SMK Wangsa Maju, SM Taman Seri Rampai, SMK St Johns,
SMK Vivekananda, SMK Seri Pantai, SMK Raja Ali, SM Teknik Cheras, SM
Methodist Sentul.
Girls - Group A: SM Sek 5 Wangsa Maju, SMK Vivekananda, SMK Convent
Bukit Nanas, SMK Petaling; Group B: SMK Taman Seri Rampai, SMK Sungai
Besi, SMK Seri Pantai, SMK Raja Ali, SMK Tasik Selatan.

Lissek ready to name names


MALAYSIA beat China 3-1 in the last friendly at the Tun Razak Stadium
And now that coach Paul Lissek has seen all his players in action, the
selection for the Champions Challenge will be finalised on Friday.
Malaysia, preparing for the Champions Challenge in Randburg, South
Africa on July 19-27, started the friendly on a shaky note and were held
In the second, Malaysia scraped through to a 1-0 win but won 3-1 in both
their last two matches.
China will head for Pakistan today for a 10-day playing tour and coach
Khwaja Junaid was glad he played Malaysia first.
"China had plans to send the team to Europe, but they would have been
slaughtered there. Playing a Malaysian selection which is preparing for
the Champions Challenge was a better option, because my boys could pick
out some pointers here.
"We did not play the full Malaysian side in any of the matches as the
German coach was still trying out all his players. This was good for team
morale, because it would have become very difficult to recover from a
drubbing," said Khwaja.
Lissek benched K. Gobinathan and tried out Chua Boon Huat for the second
time at the back-line - where the only Chinese in Malaysian hockey looked
most comfortable.
Madzli Ikmar was on the starting line-up after a long break as he was
recovering from a fractured finger, but gave a good account of himself.
"The metal plate is here to stay, but I am gradually coming to terms
with it. The reverberation (after hitting a ball) still stings a little,
but otherwise, I have recovered," said Madzli.
Lissek said Madzli has made a strong comeback: "It is not easy to make a
strong return in the first match after a long lay-off, but Madzli showed
no signs of pain and did not hold back today (yesterday)," said Lissek.
While the first 11 could be named today, Lissek will have a tough time
selecting the rest.
"Overall, after the four matches, most of the players gave a good
account of themselves. Winning three matches against a physically fitter
team like China is not an easy task and a lot of work was put in by the
"I have the Champions Challenge team, roughly, in my mind, and only need
to discuss the fate of a handful of players with the team management and
coaches before the final 18 can be named," said Lissek.

MALAYSA..............3 CHINA..........1
Riduan Nasir (24th) Xiang Fei (53rd)
Tajol Rosli (61st)
Amin Rahim (64th)

Malaysia thump moody Dragon


CHINA were in a mean mood in the first half of the third friendly,
probably because the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) forgot to arrange
for transport, and the players had to travel by taxis to the Kuala Lumpur
HA Stadium.
MHF liason officer S. Karunakaran was nowhere to be seen, and the match
started 30 minutes late as the Chinese needed time to warm up. And when
the match started, the Chinese practicaly camped in the Malaysian semi-
circle for 35 minutes - looking very dangerous and angry.
China became bolder as the match progressed, and had a field day with
plenty of shots at goal but the shots whizzed to the left, right and hit
the post three times.
Malaysia were in a daze as coach Paul Lisek benched striker Tajol Rosli
and pushed Chua Boon Huat to the backline with S. Kuhan.
Midfielder P. Prabahkaran was tried out as a striker and it worked as he
deflected in the crucial equaliser.
Chua played much better in the backline, and now Lissek has more options
in his hands for the Champions Challenge in Randburg, South Africa on July
China's Song Yi scored a field goal in the 42nd minute, and suddenly the
sleeping Malaysian side woke up and started to take control of the match.
And hardly a minute later, Prabahkaran deflected in Malaysia's first
penalty corner, and the tide turned.
The Malaysian attack became sharper and they started winning penalty
corners. In the 57th minute, Kuhan sent the ball into the top of the goal
and broke China's fighting spirit.
And seconds before the final horn blew, Malaysia won a penalty corner
and Kuhan made it 3-1.
Newly-appointed China coach Khwaja Junaid could not have asked for
better players to take charge of, but he might not be too long with the
Pakistan, who went into turmoil after their coach Shahnaz Sheikh
resigned, are said to be looking towards Khwaja to save them.
"I have not heard anything to that effect from back home. But personally
speaking, I will not leave the Chinese in a lurch as they have just hired
me. I am a professional and I will finish my job with China first before
looking at other options," said Khwaja
Shahnaz stepped down recently citing "personal commitments" after being
charged with instigating players Sohail Abbas and Waseem Ahmad to play in
the professional league in Germany.
It was alleged that Sohail and Waseem went to Germany after a go-ahead
from Shahnaz who was later elevated as manager. Shahnaz has vehemently
denied the charges and resigned.
Khwaja has been entrusted to lead China to a top-four finish in the Asia
Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September but when he was pushed harder on the
clarion call for help from back home, Khwaja finally set a condition for
his return.
"I will only return to Pakistan as a coach on one condition, if the call
is from my employers (Allied Bank) and the Pakistan Hockey Federation find
a capable replacement, of the same standard as I, to take over the
Chinese," said Khwaja.

MALAYSIA.................3 CHINA.............1
P. Prabahkaran (43rd) Song Yi (42nd)
S. Kuhan (57th, 70th)

China rising for Beijing 2008


NEWLY-appointed China coach Khwaja Junaid feels that it is time Asian
countries bank on their own people to coach hockey as there are no
shortages of qualified hands.
Khwaja, with a mission to help China finish top-four in the Asia Cup in
September in Kuala Lumpur, has very little to do as his charges are super
fit and have mastered the basics. All he has to do is work on tactics and
China will be the team to watch in the Asia Cup.
"Asia have qualified coaches and China has started a good trend by
hiring one from the pool. In the long run, Asia wil benefit from the move
more than the present trend of hiring Australians or Europeans," said
German Paul Lissek (pic) has started to impart his knowledge and the
attachment programme which Sarjit Singh, Arul Selvaraj and Tai Beng Hai
underwent is the first step in helping Malaysians handle their own players
in the future.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) coaching committee, pleased with
the initial results of the attachment programme, will name six more
coaches to understudy Lissek before September.
China have embarked on a long term project to win a medal in the 2008
Olympics in Beijing.
Malaysia were held 2-2 in the first friendly and barely won 1-0 in the
second, signalling the `birth' of professional hockey in China.
"When I went to China to help select players for the present national
squad, I was impressed by their willingness to learn. And as you can see,
fitness is not a problem as the players are willing to work long hours on
their own. All I have to do is work on set-pieces and tactics, and we will
have a fighting chance to finish top-four in the Asia Cup," said Khwaja.
Malaysia, on the other hand, have always had problems with fitness, but
now, it looks like the players have also forgotten their basics.
Some of them have forgotten how to stop a ball hit from 50 yards, while
more than 40 per cent of the free hits are normally rising shots.
The Malaysian midfield is still not moving as nobody looks confident
enough to stake a claim in that position.
"Tomorrow (today) there is no more room for excuses and the borderline
players must start claiming their place in the Champions Challenge, as I
will not hesitate to drop anyone from the Challenge squad," said Lissek.
Malaysia play their third friendly against China at the Kuala Lumpur HA
Stadium today and only a clear win will boost Malaysia's hopes in the
Champions challenge in Randburg, South Africa on July 19-27.
The final friendly is tomorrow at the Tun Razak Stadium, after which
China will head for Pakistan for a 10-day training-cum-playing Tour.

Malaysia improve


MALAYSIA played much better in the second friendly against China at the
KLHA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday even though they only managed to
score one goal and prevented the Chinese from scoring any.
Jiwa Mohan scored a field goal in the 13th minute, and Malaysia held on
to the slim lead by frustrating the speedy Chinese players by taking the
lion's share of ball possession.
There were plenty of back and square passes, unlike the first friendly
where the ball was pumped upfront. And this caught China by surprise.
Chief coach Paul Lissek was impressed with Shukri Mutalib who was
playing only his second international but sadly, the 17-year-old will not
be available for the Champions Challenge in South Africa on July 19-27.
Yesterday, Malaysia were in total control of the match in the first half
and it took China nine minutes before they could break into the Malaysian
25-yard line.
The backline of K. Gobinathan, S. Kuhan and Nor Azlan Bakar made very
few errors but in the second half, China were unlucky not to have scored,
especially in the last 10 minutes of play.
Skipper Kuhan was a spent force in the last 15 minutes after Lissek
utilised him for 70 minutes without rest.
The third friendly will be held at the KLHA Stadium tomorrow starting at

Junior Asia Cup in Karachi


THE Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) has decided to hold the fifth Men's
Junior Asia Cup in Karachi on April 21-30 next year.
The Asia Cup, doubling up as a qualifier for the 2005 Junior World Cup
in Holland, will be held one month after the Madrid Olympic Qualifiers.
"The AHF has also decided to introduce a SEA Cup (men's and women's) in
Singapore from Aug 30 to Sept 7 because we felt that the omission of
hockey from the Vietnam Sea Games has deprived countries in this region of
one tournament," said AHF secretary Tan Sri P. Alagendra yesterday.
"And since hockey is unlikely to be included in the next Sea Games in
2007 either, this tournament can help maintain interest and assist in the
development of the game in this region."
The Junior Asia Cup will feature all the top hockey-playing nations in
the continent including India, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and China. The
top four teams qualify for the Youth World Cup in 2005.
Pakistan fared miserably in the previous edition of the Junior Asia Cup
in Kuala Lumpur in 2000 and did not qualify for the 2001 World Cup in
Hobart, Tasmania.

China hold Malaysia


CHINA displayed great fighting spirit, as they held Malaysia to a 2-2 draw
in the first friendly at the Tun Razak Stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
And they were helped greatly by schoolboy mistakes commited by Malaysian
hockey players, eventhough some of them have more than 100 caps under
their belts.
Chief coach Paul Lissek said the Chinese players showed that they were
ready to be called professionals.
"From what I saw today (yesterday), the Chinese players are very
motivated and physically in very good shape. I am very happy that we
arranged for friendlies against them before we head for the Champions
Challenge (South Africa on July 19-27) because these matches will help me
select the best Malaysian players for South Africa," said Lissek.
When asked if it means the Malaysian players were not professional and
not motivated enough: "I will never say that about my players because they
always give their best but we were let down by some silly mistakes.
"And the fact that China scored two goals off the four penalty corners
showed that they have done their homework well on the Malaysian team and
we need to utilise more set-pieces."
Azlan Misron deflected in the first goal in the 35th minute but Shong Yi
equalised in the 39th minute off a penalty corner. S. Kuhan took the
Malaysian team ahead in the 42nd minute off a penalty corner but Song
equalised in the 43rd minute and the score remained.
Yesterday, Lissek was forced to drop a few players who walked in late
for the briefing session.
"I have 20 players to select from for the Champions Challenge and will
try out a few more for the match tomorrow (today). I have no patience for
those who give excuses that they could not make the team briefing because
they overslept," said Lissek.
China coach Wang Yang was, naturally, pleased with the draw.
"Before the match the percentage was 60 for Malaysia and 40 for China.
But my men played their hearts out and we ended on equal terms. I believe
they will improve in their next three matches," said Wang via an
China have hired Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid to beef up their
preparation for the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September and he was
equally impressed with the determination of his charges.
"All the players are willing to learn and they give 100 per cent during
training. I am very sure that in a short time, China will be among the top
teams in the world, and then Asia will have six strong teams," said
China are preparing a side for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and all
their players are professionals in the sense that their government pays
them to play hockey 365 days a year.
China Tests - Today: Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium; Sunday: Kuala Lumpur
Hockey Stadium; Monday: Tun Razak Stadium.
* Note: All matches start at 6pm.

China bare fangs


MALAYSIAN hockey officials are in two minds and still can't string a
decent side, as China prepare themselves to beat Malaysia for the third
time in 21 years.
The last time China beat Malaysia in a tournament was at the inaugural
Asia Cup in Karachi in 1982. The score then was 2-1, and at the Busan
Asian Games, the Chinese came close but lost 1-2.
But during the last Five Test series held in Beijing in September last
year, the gap looked very thin as Malaysia won two, drew two and lost one.
China won 3-2 in the last Test and are looking for at least one win in
this series.
The Malaysian team list was supposed to be ready yesterday, but
according to team manager Zulkifli Abbas: "We have two injured players
(Azlan Misron and Saiful Azli) who will undergo a final test tomorrow
(today) before we can name players for the China Tests."
While Malaysia are still finding it hard to name a side, China played a
friendly against Malaysia Hockey League side Bank Simpanan Nasional at the
Tun Razak Stadium yesterday.
BSN coach C. Paramalingam, after the match, said while not much could be
read from the friendly as China arrived on Tuesday and still looked tired,
there was no noticeable shape in their attack.
"Even after giving them the benefit of adapting to the surroundings and
jet-lag, I notice that they do not have a system of play. But I may be
proven wrong tomorrow (today)," said Paramalingam.
Although China did not have shape yesterday, their players have mastered
the proper basics and were dangerous in deflections in the semicircle.
China have hired Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid and his test will be the
Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September.
Khawaja, who has yet to handle the team as he only arrived in Malaysia
yesterday and could not make it to the stadium, will be retained by the
Chinese if he can guide them to a top-four finish.
"Khawajaa will handle the team for the first time in Malaysia and his
target is to take us to a top-four finish in the Asia Cup. His contract
extension depends on it," said China team manager Wang Tong.
China Tests - Today: Tun Razak Stadium; Tomorrow: Kuala Lumpur Hockey
Stadium; Sunday: Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium; Monday: Tun Razak Stadium.
* Note: All matches start at 6pm.

Kiwi problem


NEW Zealand are among the most improved hockey teams in the world, and
that spells trouble for Malaysia who will play them on July 20 in the
Champions Challenge in Randburg, South Africa.
The last time Malaysia played the Kiwis was at the Azlan Shah Cup in
Ipoh, and the hosts went down 2-4.
Amin Rahim and Riduan Nasir scored for Malaysia in that match while for
the Kiwis, the scorers were Hayden Shaw, Mitesh Patel and Umesh Parag who
have all been selected for the Challenge.
After the Azlan Shah Cup, New Zealand headed for Canada where they
played Five Test matches and won 4-1. But history was writen in Wellington
for the Canadian team as it took them 36 matches and almost 30 years for
them to beat New Zealand.
New Zealand are currently ranked ninth in the world while Malaysia are a
rung below.
And in naming the Champions Challenge squad, New Zealand coach Kevin
Towns made only slight changes to the team who played Canada.
On the New Zealand hockey website, Ryan Archibald, Darren Smith and
Mitesh Patel were named in the experienced midfield, along with the up-
and-coming Bryce Collins, who was introduced to the side against Canada.
The team will be strenghtened with the return of Gareth Brooks, who was
playing for Dutch club Rood-Wit.
"Gareth has been playing in midfield in Holland but we will be looking
for him to attack the circle and improve his goal scoring," said Towns on
the website.
New Zealand have set their sights on a top-three finish at the Champions
Challenge on July 19-27. The teams competing are England, South Korea,
Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and South Africa.
The New Zealand squad: Goalkeepers: Paul Woolford, Kyle Pontifex.
Backline: Dion Gosling, Hayden Shaw, Dean Couzins, Wing halves, Casey
Henwood, Wayne McIndoe, Blair Hopping.
Midfield: Simon Towns, Ryan Archibald, Darren Smith, Bryce Collins,
Mitesh Patel.
Strikers: Phillip Burrows, Umesh Parag, Bevan Hari, Gareth Brooks, David