Monday, March 19, 2007

Juniors salvage some pride


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart

HOBART: For Malaysia, it was a face-saving draw but as far as Germany
coach Uli Forstner is concerned, the 2-2 draw in their Junior World Group
D match yesterday was gifted to the national team.
While Malaysia, after the 5-0 whipping by Argentina, played reasonably
better, Forstner couldn't be blamed for feeling piqued at his players as
Germany led 2-0 at one stage.
Still, it seemed that the Germans brought out something extra from the
Malaysians who played with more urgency and cohesion at the Tasmanian
Hockey Centre.
Perhaps whatever consultant coach Paul Lissek told them upon arrival
here did something to the players.
But Lissek's magic was not instantaneous, because when the first half
ended, Malaysia were down 1-0 and by the 43rd minute, they were two down
and looked to be heading for another whipping.
But the juniors, after flattering only to deceive, finally showed
fighting spirit to come back and snatch a point, something Forstner, who
is normally calm and composed, found hard to accept.
Germany won their first penalty corner in the 11th minute and Max
Landshut scooped high into the roof of the net to beat goalkeeper Firdaus
Razali, who replaced Saiful Azhar who was rested after bad outings against
New Zealand and Argentina.
If anything, the goal resulted in Malaysia defending better with Firdaus
making a number of good saves.
In fact, the defenders and Firdaus have to work extra hard as the
forwardline was out of the match for long periods and play was
concentrated mostly in the Malaysian half.
After the break, Florian Keller hammered in the second goal off a
penalty corner set-piece in the 43rd minute.
But the Germans couldn't find a way past Malaysia again after that and
to their credit, the Malaysians played much better this.
In the 47th minute, Malaysia won a penalty corner in one of their rare
forays into the German semicircle.
Skipper Chua Boon Huat made no mistake with a well placed push and
Malaysia were back in the game.
The Malaysians showed more maturity in their game after that and started
attacking with vengeance.
There were plenty of misses before Jivan Mohan sent the ball to his
brother Jiwa, who had the simple task of slotting past goalkeeper Ulli
Bubloz in the 62nd minute.
The Germans were lost for ideas after that and Malaysia took the
opportunity to control the match but could not find the winner and walked
away with their first point in the World Cup.
"Last night (Friday), Paul Lissek showed us a video of the German team
and pointed out weaknesses in individual players and we capitalised on the
information and performed better," said Chua.
"There was intense pressure on the team to do well after a long and
costly preparation, so during the first two matches we could not focus."
"There was intense pressure on the team to do well after a long and
costly preparation, so during the first two matches we could not focus.
Maybe now that we are more settled, ninth placing will not be a problem
to achieve," said Chua.
It is a pity that the players are now loking forward to ninth placing
when a top-four was what most expected.
HOLLAND ....... 2 FRANCE .......... 0 GROUP D
MALAYSIA .... 2 GERMANY ......... 2

Spectacular Argentina polish off New Zealand


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart

HOBART: The first round of the Junior World Cup ended yesterday at the
Tasmanian hockey centre and Malaysia were the only team that upset the
formbook by not making the second round.
Australia, India, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Argentina, England and
Holland all moved into the second round while the other eight teams
"advance" to the losers pool.
Yesterday, Argentina polished New Zealand 3-0 with Lucas Cammareri, who
dribbled past three New Zealand defenders, opening accounts with a cheeky
field goal in the 11th minute.
Then in the 37th minute, Juan Gilardi, who had missed a penalty flick in
the first half, made amends when Argentina were awarded a second stroke.
In the 49th minute, Gilardi scored from the spot again as Argentina, who
thrashed Malaysia 5-0 on Thursday, brought their first round campaign to a
spectacular end.
"My boys played with character and they enjoyed themselves on the pitch
so much that the goals came without much effort.
"It is our style to play for fun and see what happens and it has worked
so far. We will play the same against India tomorrow (today)," said
Argentine coach Alejandro Verga.
India have an impressive record of three wins in their group but
Argentina are no pushovers and their form suggests that they could go all
the way in Hobart.
India coach Rajinder Singh feels the match could go either way.
"After watching them play against New Zealand, we are going to treat the
match against argentina like the final," said Rajinder.
In yesterday's other matches, South Korea edged a stubborn South Africa
4-3 to make the second round while Holland nailed france 2-0 to advance.
Today, Holland play champions Australia who limped into the second round
and are expected to face a tough time defending the crown they won in
Milton Keynes in 1997.

Juniors' journey of shame


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart

HOBART: From aspiring to be among the best in the Junior World Cup before
they set out on their journey to Tasmania, Malaysia now have been dumped
with the dubious option of aspiring to be the best among the rest.
With a top eight finish out of the question now, Malaysia will have to
look at the 9-16 places reserved for mediocre and below average teams.
And only the Juniors and their coach Yahya Atan can determine which of
these two categories they want to belong to. Given the options, being
mediocre might help lessen some of the flak that's awaiting them.
Their mediocre journey in the tournament begins today against Germany
when they wrap up their Group D fixtures in what will be a face-saving
match after a disastrous campaign.
After losing 3-2 to New Zealand and being whipped 5-0 by Argentina, the
match against Germany will not have any bearing except to decide whether
Germany or New Zealand top the group.
For Malaysia, their job is to stop Germany and the rest from here from
wiping their boots all over them after they had spread out the "Welcome
mat" against Argentina on Thursday.
Now they face the ignominy of having to play in the classification
matches at the second pitch which gets waterlogged even if it rains for
five minutes.
Yesterday, there was a steady cold shower throughout the day and the
second pitch could not even be used for warm-up.
After the Argentine whipping, Yahya and goalkeeper coach Zulkifli Abbas
gave the boys hell at the Valley Lodge Motel and are expecting them to
give their best today.
Paul Lissek, the seniors coach, reached Hobart early yesterday morning
to give a helping hand to lift the team's spirits. But since he did not
watch their earlier matches, he was in no position to comment on how they
But he will be going through the videotapes the night before the match
and "knock some sense into their game".
"I asked the boys what went wrong and why did they play like they did
not know the game at all, and they said they were lost without a leader to
call the shots and set the tempo of the match," said Yahya.
It looks like skipper Chua Boon Huat's absence was sorely felt and S.
Shanker, who wore the skipper's armband in the match against Argentina,
could not rally the boys behind him.
In fact, Shanker who plays as a right fullback, did the most number of
mistakes and was responsible for allowing in three easy goals.
Chua has served his sentence for abusing the match umpire when playing
against New Zealand and will be back in action against the Germans today
and if the boys play well or hold the Germans to a draw, it looks like the
Malaysian Juniors are a one-man team.
If that's true, this is not good for the future of the junior side
because when Chua, 21, makes the senior squad in a few months time, the
Juniors will be crippled without a backbone.
For the Germans, it will be more like a warm-up match and they might
field their reserves in the second half because they have already made the
second round, which might be good news for Malaysia but makes no
difference to their campaign.
"We are now focusing, on the ninth spot right now, and hopefully the
players forget the past and play like they did during the tours and
friendlies that we had over the year."
The local paper, The Mercury, again headlined the Malaysian malady in
their sports pages today. It was a hard hitting article which criticised
our national team for faring badly after spending close to RM2 million
ringgit and training for more than a year.
True, they were were provided with everything, but at the end of the day
they will have to fight their own war. And this team has so far shown that
it doesn't have that `scrotal gumption' for it. Junior World Cup Hockey Results
Group A
Ireland ..... 4 Chile ....... 1
England ..... 0 Australia ... 0
Group C
Scotland .... 3 Canada ...... 1
India ....... 3 Spain ....... 0

India cruise into second round


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart

WITH three wins and 15 goals in the bag, India cruised into the second
round yesterday with a stunning 3-0 win over Spain at the Tasmanian Hockey
Centre yesterday.
Playing in the cold rain, Indian skipper Ajit Singh Gagan, who played in
the 1998 Commonwealth Games as a 17-year-old budding star, ran circles
around the Spanish defenders and amazed the 200-odd crowd with his skill
and composure in controlling his teammates.
Spain were totally outpaced and there was never a moment when they
looked like they could have made a comeback.
India scored in the seventh minute off a Jugraj Singh penalty corner and
as the rain got heavier and the wind stronger, they too grew in strength
and were unlucky not to have increased the lead further in the first half.
In the second half, a move involving Bimal Lakhra, Arjun Halappa, who
also played in the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Thakur Sonkhla mesmerized
the Spanish defenders and Thakur sounded the board.
And India confirmed there would be no Spanish comeback in the 48th
minute when Ajit made a dash from the left and dribbled past three players
before slotting home.
India finished as Group C champions while Spain join them in the second
In Group D, Germany and New Zealand are assured of a second round ticket
and the Germany-Malaysia match today will decide who tops the table.
England and Australia played to a draw yesterday which means England top
Group A with seven points while Australia are second with five.
"After the first goal, which unsettled my players, I knew that India
would be hard to beat. So when we were 3-0 down, I sent in some
substitutes to expose them," said Spain coach Salvador Indurain.
Indurain said he won't be surprised if India make the final.
In the 1997 edition in in Milton Keynes, England, India finished second
behind champions Australia and have retained most of the players.

Lost souls in Hobart


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart
HOBART: Seven Malaysian students came to watch Malaysia play a crucial
match against Argentina in the Junior World Cup in Hobart yesterday, and
they even brought along the Jalur Gemilang, but never got a chance to
"raise" the flag because the national juniors played like a group of
clowns, and got whipped.
Argentina 5 Malaysia 0, read a scoreline that emphatically reflected not
only the quality of their game, but also their mental ability to deal with
There was no shape in the team at all, and for eighty percent of the
match they looked like lost children trying to find some reason to
continue running aimlessly in the playground.
In the absence of their skipper Chua Boon Huat, who was serving a
suspension for abusing the umpire after the New Zealand match, S.Shanker
wore the skipper's armband.
But it looked like the responsibility weighed too heavily on his lean
shoulder, as he made the most number of errors, one of which resulted in a
goal. And he could hardly rally his team mates to put up a decent show.
Coach Yahya Atan said after the match that Argentina were a far better
side, but from the media stand, it didn't look that way at all. It was
Malaysia who made them look like champions with their silly mistakes, and
giving them too much room to move around.
The shock started in the very first minute when Lucas Cammareri scored
after goalkeeper Saiful Azhar made a save and the ball landed in front of
the unmarked Argentine who looked surprised at how easy it was to get his
name on the score sheet.
That was a clear signal for all to see but the 11 Malaysian players on
the pitch were still brooding over the disallowed goal against New Zealand
on Wednesday and continued playing like lost souls.
And when Marcelo del Negro sored the second in the 16th minute off a
penalty corner set-piece, it was clear that the Malaysian juniors will not
be playing in the second round, but in the losers pool for the remaining
part of the Junior World Cup.
They proved everyone right as the third goal, a result of a comedy of
errors in defence, was scored by Argentine skipper Rodrigo Villa and the
first half ended with Malaysia trailing 3-0, and in no position to put up
a decent fight for the rest of the match.
Except for the penalty stroke which Shaiful saved in the first half, the
rest of the juniors played with a heavy heart as the sky became overcast
and the chilly winds started howling a sad tune.
Those who had any notion that the second half will be different, were
proved wrong just two minutes into the match when a stick-check in the
semicircle awarded Argentina their second penalty stroke. And this time,
Juan E Garreta made sure when Shaiful dived in the wrong direction.
Malaysia continued playing like they were the team with the four-goal
cushion as the Argentine side attacked in numbers. For a good 20 minutes
Malaysia did not have a single look at the Argentine goal because they
were busy defending. Only luck, coupled with some poor finishing by
Argentina made the situation bearable.
And in the 60th minute, del Negro scored his second goal after some fine
dribbling to hammer in the last nail in a sad episode of the Malaysian
juniors history.
"Without Chua Boon Huat, the team lacked a capable leader and played
badly, but credit is also due to the Argentine side which played a superb
attacking game," said Yahya.
"It is a sad day for Malaysian hockey because we have been training for
years but failed to get into the second round. But the boys are still
young and this, although a bitter pill to swallow, should make them into
better players in the future."
Even Argentine coach Alejandro Verga was surprised with the huge margin
: "We did not expect the match to be so easy because Malaysia are a good
side. Maybe the absence of their skipper made the difference for us
today," he said and stopped short of thanking New Zealand for it.
The seven Malaysian students studying in Hobart will be back to watch
Malaysia play Germany on Saturday, and hopefully this time they will get a
chance to wave the national flag.

Juniors - from men to boys


By Jugjet Singh in Hobart
TIME and again, Group D in the Junior World Cup has been dubbed "the Group
of Death" by coaches from Argentina, Germany and New Zealand. But as they
live to battle on, Malaysia's campaign for top honours in Hobart, lies
It no longer matters how Malaysia play their last match in the Group
against Germany on Saturday. The damage was done yesterday by Argentina
and now Malaysia will play in the losers pool and hope for a decent
placing in the tournament.
The death knell, it appears was the third goal against New Zealand that
was not only disallowed but left Malaysia beaten 2-3, losing their skipper
Chuah Boon Huat and their confidence as well.
The cold and windy nights of Hobart are not kind to losers, and most of
the juniors must have gone to bed that night as kids feeling dejected and
sore with the umpire's decision.
Sadly, they didn't wake up as men the next morning ready and eager to
set things right. And as it turned out, they were easy meat for an average
Argentine side who were themselves surprised by their 5-0 win.
Which makes one wonder if mental strength was ever packed into their
survival kits for major tournaments like this.
Being young professionals, they should have been taught by now how to
handle situations like these.
After three years of intensive preparations for the Junior World Cup,
which included playing tours and numerous friendlies and competitions, the
juniors did look like a side good enough to make the second round and
maybe go even further. But they cracked under the first signs of adversity
and failed to recover.
Watching the juniors from South Korea, Germany, Spain, Holland and India
play here makes one wonder where we went wrong.
India hammered Canada 5-0 in their opener and then whipped Scotland 7-1
yesterday. They are really riding high in this tournament and eventhough
some say that they have been placed in an easy group, their skills have
mesmerized many and they look like a good bet to go the distance.
We have the best facilities in the region, good coaches and a supportive
hockey federation which does not mind pumping in the money at the drop of
a coin if it is for the betterment of hockey.
The Tasmanian Hockey Centre can only sit 5,000 fans with no seats at all
behind both the goalmouths. The fans there sit on the grass on a hillock
and for comparison, their main pitch looks worse than the second pitch at
the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium.
The second pitch in Tasmania gets waterlogged five minutes after a
slight shower and looks like a paddy field back home.
But it looks like facilities do not matter if one has the desire and the
mental strength to succeed. Two Tasmanian players are with the Australian
juniors while another is with the New Zealand team. All three are budding
world class players and the Tasmanian papers proudly write about their
connection in the Junior World Cup almost daily.
But yesterday, the main paper in Tasmania, The Mercury, had the
Malaysian sob story as their sports lead and the heading said it all
"Bitter Blast At Umpires."
Australia hammered Chile 7-1 on the same day but only made the inside
lead because the Malaysian story took centrestage while footage of
incidents showing Chua and Jiwa Mohan having a shoving match with the
Kiwis were shown time and again on national television.
It was a sad episode of Malaysian hockey beamed to the world for all to
see, but all is not lost yet because we do have a good team made up of
skillful players.
What they need is courage, resilience, and the will to fight back and
win when they have been abused.
Hopefully, the Tasmanian lesson will teach them all that. And don't we
know players like Chua, Jiwan, S.Shanker and K.Logan Raj can do with that
when they come on for Malaysia in the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Juniors robbed in opener


HOBART: The Malaysian Juniors showed their true colours in the opening
match at the Junior World Cup at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre in Hobart
For most of the match they played like champions, but when the
aggressive Kiwis got the better of them, Chua Boon Huat and Jiwa Mohan
received the marching orders and all hell broke loose.
Chua was hauled up for abusing the umpires after the match ended and
received a one-match suspension while team manager Arrifin Ghani was
issued with a formal warning by tournament director Peter Cathouses for
refusing to sign the match sheet at the end of the match.
The match was 63 minutes old and Malaysia were traling 3-2 when Jiwa
Mohan found K. Logan Raj all alone on the goalline and played a pass to
him. Logan pushed the ball back in and Chua rushed in and scored the
equaliser with a reverse stick flick.
Dutch umpire Rob Cate blew for goal and pointed to the middle of the
field, the Malaysians players and a handful of fans on the stands danced
with joy for about a minute and just when the match was about to restart,
the second umpire, David Wallis from Scotland and who was in the Malaysian
half of the field, blew his whistle and stopped the game.
Wallis consulted the Dutchman and after a few seconds Cate blew for no-
Even the Kiwis were taken aback by the umpire's decision to overrule the
goal which he had awarded earlier as none of them had protested the goal.
Cate pointed to his leg, indicating that Chua had stopped the ball with
his leg before scoring the goal. When the goal was scored, Chua's back was
towards Cate and he could not see the infringement but Wallis was a good
50 yards away and many wondered how he could have spotted the fault from
that distance as there was a circle of Kiwis around him when he scored.
The match was robust from the start and there was a lot of pushing and
shoving in which the smaller built Malaysians were constantly bullied by
the towering Kiwis. It was plain from the first whistle that New Zealand
were out to agitate the Malaysians.
So in the 65th minute when Chua was prodded from behind by defender Shaw
Hayden, he turned around to confront the towering Kiwi who instantly
raised his stick violently and hit the face of Jivan Mohan who was
standing behind.
Elder brother Jiwa lost his cool and pushed Hayden and it almost became
a free for all with some serious shoving and pushing going on between both
sides while both the match umpires stood rooted to the ground without
lifting a finger to cool things down.
Coach Yahya Atan had no choice but to enter the pitch and pulled Jiwa
and Chua away from the mayhem. Right after Yahya managed to cool down his
players, Cate hauled up Chua, Jiwa and Shaw and showed them the yellow
The Malaysians took some time to settle down while New Zealand, led by
skipper Ryan Archibald, took their chances well and Dean Ritani sounded
the board in the 11th minute which awoke the Malaysian juniors from their
Four minutes later, Malaysia won a penalty corner and Jiwa slammed in
the equaliser.
And in the 18th minute, Jiwa was again on target off a field goal with a
well placed shot to the top of the roof and the scoreboard read; Malaysia
2 New Zealand 1.
But a defensive error in the 25th minute, coupled with bad judgment from
goalkeeper Shaiful Azhar, saw Blair Hopping equalising for New Zealand.
After the breather, play became more robust and just three minutes into
the match, Zaharin Zakaria pushed a New Zealand player and was shown the
yellow card. He was out for a good 10 minutes while Malaysia struggled to
defend with 10 men.
In the 53rd minute, P. Prabahkaran gave away the ball to Phillip Burows
who cooly slotted in the third goal.
Malaysia lost the match and their skipper and today they face a stubborn
Argentinian side who lost to the Germans yesterday. They must beat
Argentina or it's all over for them in Hobart.
"We were unlucky that the Dutch umpire overruled the goal and we lost an
opportunity to share points with New Zealand. But I am just wondering,
would that goal have been overruled if, say, Holland or Germany were
playing against New Zealand?", pondered Yahya Atan in the post match
"Malaysia are not going to file a formal protest on the way both the
umpires handled the game but for hockey's sake, I would like to make a
"If the FIH are serious about developing hockey among the lower ranked
teams, they should do something to stop biased umpiring. The top countries
in the world should not be allowed to play with 13 men on their side while
we struggle to make headway," said Yahya.

We keep losing at mind games


NEW ZEALAND coach said that he knew the Malaysian juniors better than
coach Yahya Atan and team manager Arifin Ghani put together. In fact, one
day before the match Timesport reported that Anthony Thornton knew the
juniors like the back of his hand, and yesterday everyone found out that
he was not kidding.
He knew that most of the Malaysian players had a short fuse and if his
boys could discreetly prod them without getting caught by the umpires, he
had a better chance of walking away with three points.
After the match, most of the Malaysian juniors reported being poked with
the hockey stick at their backs especially if they are in the semicircle
and this made them lose concentration and the ball as well.
Losing the match is not the problem here, the problem is with attitude
and temper.
And of all the boys in the team, Chua Boon Huat and Jiwa Mohan should
know better and should have avoided the trap set by the Kiwis. Instead,
they were the ones who were flashed with the yellow cards and for the last
seven minutes, Malaysia had to play with nine players and could have lost
by a bigger margin if not for some sterling running and defending by those
who were left to do battle on the pitch after the suspensions.
Robust play should have been expected by all as before the match, the
New Zealand team did a splendid hakka and teased the Malaysian juniors
with their "act of war."
The hakka is actually to show respect and admiration to the enemy but
for those who do not understand, the dance looks like an insult and
temperatures can rise as a result.
But Chua, wearing the skipper's armband, should have been more aware of
this tactic because he has played in the senior ranks where pushing and
shoving are part and parcel of the match. And the only thing a player can
do is to avoid close marking and try to avoid falling into the trap
because matches have been lost before by teams who lost their cool after
being constantly harassed.
In the end he not only lost command of the team in the crucial seven
minutes before the whistle but also let the team down by getting suspended
for a match. Against Argentina today, he will be warming the bench while
the rest of the team suffer because he lost his cool for a few seconds.
Jiwa Mohan, the other senior player who received the yellow card, should
have also held back a little and not let emotions get the better of him
after seeing his younger brother Jivan being hit on the face with a hockey
stick for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
He should have taken revenge on the Kiwis by scoring a hat-trick instead
of becoming carried away by pushing and shoving New Zealand players. Jiwa
played a superb match in the first half by scoring two goals but he too
got trapped by New Zealand's tactic and was no longer in the thick of
action when the second half resumed.
The damage has been done, the juniors in Hobart today are the future of
Malaysian hockey and if they can learn from the mistakes they made against
New Zealand, they will become better players when they join the senior
ranks in a few year's time. If not, the Kiwi lesson would go to waste and
the future would look bleak for Malaysian hockey.
Former national team manager K. Kali Kavandan, down in Hobart to support
his son K. Logan Raj, made another observation worthy of mention.
He noticed that the team played better in the last seven minutes
although they were only playing with nine players after Chua and Jiwa were
suspended. They were in total control of the match and even won a penalty
corner in the last minute but because the two flickers were warming the
bench, they were a little lost and could not do the damage.
Why didn't they play like that from the first whistle. Why wait for a
handicap to wake up. Why start scoring after being a goal down and why
relax when the team only has a one-goal cushion?
The match against New Zealand has shown many shades of the juniors and
it is not too late to mould them into better players because they are
still very young and receptive towards change.
On the umpires, not much can be done there and even if they did close an
eye when the Malaysian players were being harassed, it should not be the
issue because they come in many colours and shapes and are only human and
make mistakes.
So, the Malaysia Hockey Federation should start working on attitude
because we already have a well rounded team in the juniors and forget
about match officials and umpires because it is out of our hands.
Only time will tell if the Kiwis did Malaysia a favour yesterday with
their polished display in Tasmania.

High stakes in Hobart


HOBART: If Malaysia lose their first match against New Zealand today inthe Junior World Cup in Hobart, they might as well head to the airportstraight from the Tasmanian Hockey Centre and catch a flight back home. That is how high the stakes are in Group D. At 6am Malaysian time today, Argentina and Germany, the other two teamsin the group, will get into action and the outcome is expected to be infavour of the Germans. Two hours later, Malaysia face New Zealand in what will be a crucialtie. But have faith in the Juniors, for they seem to have an awesomereputation in Hobart, with even the Germans picking them to besemifinalists. "We are not worried about Argentina and will get a better picture ofthem after the first match but the New Zealand side is capable of playingwithout any set pattern and that might upset the formbook," said coachYahya Atan after watching Ireland hold champions Australia to a 1-1 draw. Yahya has been busy watching recordings of the Argentinians play for thelast two days and feels they will not pose much of a threat to Malaysiawhen they meet tomorrow. In fact, the Argentina match can be used to run up Malaysia's goal tallyin case it comes to that at the end. "New Zealand do not have many good individual players but they work wellas a team. Their defenders are good and if Ryan Archibald, their skipper,is in form, they could do some damage." So what is Yahya going to do about Archibald? "Tight marking. I will have to put a man on him to make sure he does notget the ball as often as he would like. If we shut him out of the match,half the battle is already won." It did not rain yesterday and it was good hockey-playing weather as theclouds rolled past slowly gently over the Tasmanian Hockey Centre. Buteven if it rains today, Yahya is not worried as the boys have clocked insome good practice time in the icy-cold rain. "New Zealand did beat the daylights off Australia in the qualifier, butthat can't be used as a yardstick because only four players are availablefrom that squad as the rest are now overaged. "But since the Kiwis are an aggressive side and some of them tower aboveour players, the first half could go either way." And as the team headed back to their hotel yesterday, most were sportingsmiles. And the reason was Ireland. "Ireland just proved that anything can happen on the field if you putyour heart into the match. Nobody gave then even half a chance but theysilenced the Australian crowd with determination and discipline. "If Ireland can hold the champions to a draw, why can't Malaysia dreamof bigger things," said skipper Chua Boon Huat. Why not indeed but for that to happen, Chua and his teammates mustbelieve in themselves for it is going to be a tough war to win here. JUNIOR WORLD CUP RESULTS GROUP A England 5 Chile 2 Australia 1 Ireland 1 GROUP C Spain 8 Scotland 0 India 5 Canada 0.

Irish fight gallantly to hold Aussies


THE sun shone brightly on the Irish lads at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre
yesterday as the Junior World Cup got underway, but dark clouds loomed
over the heads of Australians, players and fans alike, as the final
whistle blew.
After a gala opening ceremony where teams stood on the artificial pitch
holding placards with the name of their countries written on it and
speeches were the order of the day, the Aussies took to the pitch full of
confidence by virtue of being the defending champions in Milton Keynes
four years ago and having the solid backing of the home crowd in their
quest for a second consecutive title.
But hardly five minutes into play, they found that the Irish lads were
made of much sterner stuff than their rankings indicated and Australia
were pushed deep into their own semicircle with disbelief clearly written
on their faces.
Even the crowd could not believe what they saw and most were sceptical
on how long Ireland could hold on to their act and bets flew around
predicting that they will crumble when Australia score the first goal.
Only a small section in the 800-odd crowd had faith in the Irish boys
and waved and cheered them on. The rest of the crowd were solidly behind
And those who bet that Australia will score inside of 15 minutes were
rewarded when Australia went 1-up in the 13th minute off a weak penalty
corner attempt by Nathan Eglington.
The goal should have opened the floodgates but Ireland had different
plans. They defended like champions for the next 15 minutes and denied
Australia a bigger margin in the first half.
In the second half, Ireland came back stronger and again pinned
Australia in their own half most of the time.
They were not to be denied when Michael Harte scored off a well executed
penalty corner in the 46th minute to silence their critics as the crowd
around the stadium started sharpening their knives for the defending
"What kind of hockey were they (Australia) playing? They look like a
bunch of novices playing for the first time," lamented a fan.
In the other match England beat Chile 5-2, but will be aware of the
threat that Ireland is capable of when they meet today.

Ponz gives our players a home away from home


HOBART, Tasmania, is a very cold place, and I am not talking about the
The perception of the place is such that a first time visitor,
especially one who has lived in the hustle and bustle of the KL city, will
immediately feel lonely and unwelcomed after a few minutes.
The shops here close at 7pm and there is nothing to do except go pub-
hopping to keep one warm in the cold summer of Hobart which averages about
11 Celsius in midday and dips to about 5-7 Celsius at night.
But everything changed when I met a bargain.
Ponz Sabas is the state manager of Bargain Car Rentals and he has taken
upon himself as the manager of the Malaysian hockey team as well. Coach
Yahya Atan and manager Arrifin Ghani and their boys would have been a lost
and lonely group if not for Ponz, for he takes care of everything from
transport to food to arranging for an alternative artificial pitch where
the boys could train without the `enemy' spying on them.
Ponz left Malaysia 17 years ago to read law in Hobart and never left,
but his heart very much belongs to Malaysia.
"I used to play hockey in Klang when I was young and Arrifin used to
train the under-15 team in Klang. So when I found out that the Malaysian
team was coming down for the Junior World Cup in Hobart, I offered my
services," said Ponz.
Ponz is of mixed Indian and European parentage and speaks fluent Bahasa,
German and Mandarin. His first love is motorsports but could not make
headway in Malaysia because when he was serious about the sport, it was
still at an infant stage in Malaysia. So now, he helps out when Malaysian
motorsport enthusiasts drop by in the place that he calls `almost at the
end of the world'.
Not only did he offer his total commitment to the Malaysian team, he
also drives them around town and buys food for them so that they do not
feel lonely in the place where he has put up roots.
The immigration rules in Australia are very rigid when it comes to
bringing in raw food so most of the meat and food stuff that the Malaysian
team brought along was confisticated and they were left with nothing upon
arrival. But it was not a big problem as Ponz took them around town and
replenished their supply in a jiffy.
The Malaysian team were a bit down when they arrived in Hobart because
they received a culture shock in every corner they took in this city of
200,000 people. But they are slowly getting used to it and, by the time
they play New Zealand tomorrow, they should have overcome the initial
setback and be better prepared mentally.
The hotel that the Malaysian contingent chose, the Valley Lodge in Lenah
Valley, resembles a ghost Villa and has an eerie feeling about it. The
place is so lonely and desolate that even a pin drop could be heard for
miles around.
Even the caretaker of the lodge, only known as Mike, looks like a
character from one of the Frankestein movies, but he is a helpful person
who looks after their every need.
They played two friendlies since coming to Hobart on Oct 3 and got
soaked to their underwear on both occasions but it did not dampen their
spirits as they huddled in coach Yahya's room, packed with every known
electrical apparatus, and watched recordings of New Zealand playing
against South Africa and South Korea.
As the overhead projecter hummed away and the images on the wall, which
doubled as the screen, told them what to expect when they play their first
do-or-die match against New Zealand, Ponz was busy making bookings for
them to train at an alternative venue in Hobart so that the other teams
could not spy on Malaysia.
It is indeed nice to have a familiar face to help when one is so far
away from home.

Little to separate our gatekeepers


SAIFUL Azhar Afandi, 20, and Mohamed Firdaus Razali, 18, both live inSerdang, Selangor, and both are gatekeepers of the National Junior Squadin Hobart for the Junior World Cup on Oct 9-21. They are the best of friends when off the pitch and have been literallyeating, sleeping and playing together for months. The similarities end there unless you count assistant coach ZulkifliAbbas, who played as a goalkeeper in the first Junior World Cup inVersailles in 1979 where Malaysia finished fourth. Zulkifli has been polishing the duo well and feels they have almost thesame qualities. Very little separates them. "Saiful has been with the squad for the last two years and saw action inthe Junior Asia Cup in May where he did well, together with S. Kumar (whois with the seniors now), to keep the scores down and Malaysia finishedthird. But he is not vocal. "Firdaus can command the backline and is loud and clear with hisinstructions," said Zulkifli. That is what separates them, Saiful has more experience but is the shytype and goes about his business without bothering the defenders muchwhile Firdaus calls the shots at the backline. "Very little separates them and that is good for our campaign in Hobart.We can depend on both because they have a `safe pair of legs'," saidZulkifli. Right until the time when coach Yahya Atan left for Hobart on Wednesday,he was still undecided about who will play in the first-11 and knowingthat, Saiful and Firdaus have been kept on their toes with a promise thatonly the best will make the grade. Which means they will have to go all out to impress the coach when theyplay a friendly against Canada on Saturday. Saiful has seen more action at the international level than Firdaus, whoonly joined the juniors about six months ago because Timothy Lopez wasdropped from the squad. "I have more to prove than Saiful because I came into the picture late.Saiful has a slight edge because he has seen more international actionwhile I am still a little nervous when a match begins. But once I getmyself going, I try not to let anyone score against Malaysia," saidFirdaus. Zulkifli, who played alongside Foo Keat Seong, Stephen van Huizen andCollin sta Maria, in the 1979 Junior World Cup, has ranked them as amongthe best in the region and, whoever makes the grades, will have to makesure he lives up to it.

NSC prepared to help scout for talent


THE Malaysian Juniors left for Tasmania, Australia, yesterday full ofconfidence for the Junior World Cup in Hobart on Oct 9-21. And as the last van ferrying the juniors rolled off towards the KLIAafter receiving the Jalur Gemilang from National Sports Council directorgeneral Datuk Mazlan Ahmad at the NSC office in Bukit Jalil, the wheels oftalent scouting were put into motion by Mazlan. NSC played a vital role, albeit silently, in selecting and grooming thepresent batch of juniors and they are ready to fund and assist theMalaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) to make sure there is continuity. "Personally, I do not want to see the junior squad miss another WorldCup or for that matter, fail to qualify for any tournament because we havegood players in the country and if we put in some extra effort, we willdiscover them," said Mazlan. The only time the juniors failed to make the World Cup was in MiltonKeynes in 1997, and by the way things look now, we should be thankful fornot qualifying. "I have been closely following the progress of the juniors and what wehave today is a solid team, and they will do the nation proud, if not now,when they join the senior team in a few years time. "We are looking at continuity from now and are ready to help MHF scoutfor talent," said Mazlan. This is where States play a big role in the initial process ofidentifying players and making them available when scouts visit theirbackyard, but by the look of things that is a tall order. Paul Lissek had a harrowing experience in the east coast recently. "It took me seven hours to travel by car and the roads were narrow andtraffic was exceptionally heavy, but I didn't mind because I was supposedto watch some promising players in action. "And when I finally reached there, no arrangements were made and I wasnot informed that the trials have been cancelled because the players werepreparing for an examination which was to be held in a week's time," saidLissek. Lissek returned to Kuala Lumpur empty handed but he did not loseanything, the big losers were the players whom he was supposed to watch inaction and the culprits were officials who failed to do their duty. When the NSC initiated the junior development programme in 1997, whichincluded the Under-15 and Under-18 squads as well, the budget was RM3.8million and the product that will be on display at the Junior World Cup isworth every cent spent. Coach Yahya Atan and his assistant Zulkifli Abbas have done all thegroundwork and now it is up to the players. "Like any teacher, I have been preparing my students for years for thefinal examinations, and when the test begins in Hobart on Oct 9, they willhave to come up with the right answers. "If they fail, I have failed too," said Yahya.

Cruel blow for Vhinodhan


V. VHINODHAN, 21, was dealt a cruel blow yesterday when he was droppedfrom the national juniors squad who will head for Hobart, Tasmania, todayfor the World Cup. No, not that coach Yahya Atan found out in the 11th hour that he was notgood enough for the team, just that fate was not on Vhinodhan's side whenhe came down with chicken pox. The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have named Mohamed Redzuan Nasir,18, to take his spot. "He was not feeling well for the past few days and when he went for acheck-up on Monday, the doctor told him that he had chickenpox and willnot be able to heal in time for the Junior World Cup. "After consulting with Tan Sri P. Alagendra, chief coach Paul Lissek andother MHF officials we decided on Redzuan," said Yahya after the juniorsplayed their final friendly against the senior side at the National HockeyStadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. The match ended 3-3. Vhinodhan was one of the borderline cases when MHF named the squad andhis absence will not be sorely felt by the team. "He was one of our capable substitutes and he played in the midfieldposition. But since we already have capable defenders in the team, wedecided on Redzuan who is a striker," said Yahya. Redzuan was dropped exactly a week ago and he was told to report backfor training on Monday with the senior squad preparing for the 2002 WorldCup in Kuala Lumpur because MHF did not want to lose the player. "I went back home to Ipoh to dwell on my future in hockey after beingdropped last week and was about to return to Kuala Lumpur on Monday when Ireceived the call from Yahya saying that I have been included in thejunior squad because Vhinodhan was down with chicken pox. "Although I sympathise with Vhinodhan, I will take this opportunity torepay the faith the coaches have in me by going all out in Hobart," saidRedzuan. Redzuan was in the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games team which won the gold medaland has seen some action in the Korea Tour in June. He was named as the2001 Junior League man-of-the-tournament. Yesterday, the juniors held back a little during their friendly matchbecause most of them were afraid of getting injured. But even then, theymanaged to hold the senior squad to a 3-3 draw and impressed senior K.Keevan Raj in the process. "They have started playing well as a team, and I notice that they arebetter than the junior squad (which is now the senior side) which I usedto play in. I wish them all the luck in Hobart," said Keevan. Keevan was in the junior squad which failed to qualify for the 1997World Cup in Milton Keynes when they were piped on goal difference byBangladesh, so, he should know. In Hobart Malaysia are in Group D with with Argentina, Germany and NewZealand. Malaysia meet Germany on Oct 13, their toughest match in thegroup, with some heartening news. Lissek, who is in Germany now, has made arrangements to be in Hobart onOct 12 to give Yahya a tactical hand. And news in the grapewine is that"Lissek is going to go all out to make sure Malaysia emerge as winners inthe encounter."

Feeling the World Cup jitters


THE Malaysian Juniors have started feeling pre-match jitters as the Oct 9-21 Junior World Cup in Hobart draws nearer, and joining them is coachYahya Atan. Yahya, as a player, never saw action in the Junior World Cup, butstarted with a bang in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. "After returning from their two-day break, I noticed that they are alittle nervous about playing in the World Cup, but that is normal for anyplayer who is facing a big challenge in their career." Fancy this, except for team manager Arrifin Ghani who played in the 1979Junior World Cup in Versailles, none of the juniors have seen action atthat level including their coach because Malaysia failed to qualify in thelast edition held in Milton Keynes in 1997. Yahya started his coaching carer by assisting Australian master TerryWalsh in the Hiroshima Asian Games in 1994 and has been playing secondfiddle all along. Hobart will be his first major assignment as chiefcoach. "But I take it as a challenge and together with assistant Zulkifli Abbasand team manager Arrifin, we hope to bring out the best in the boys," saidYahya at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil after the juniorsfinished their friendly match against the senior side. The seniors won 2-1. After a two-day break, the juniors did look a little slow in picking uploose balls and making a dash for the goalmouth, but that is to beexpected because in Yahya's words, "it's embeded in the Malaysianculture." "National coach Paul Lisek asked me why was I only giving them a two-daybreak when it would be better to release them for two weeks prior to theWorld Cup with instructions on how to train and what to eat. "He said, in Germany he gives his charges a two-week break and theyregroup two days before the tournament and normally do well. "I told him I can't do the same here because the players will take theword `rest' literaly and after they return it will be back to basics,"said Yahya. This dilemma is faced by every coach in Malaysia and it is not somethingnew. "The Germans, Koreans and Australians can be left alone for long periodswith a programme to follow, but I have to be on top of my players all thetime to see results, and I am not complaining because that is what I dowell." The Malaysian culture aside, the juniors are expected to pick up steamafter another friendly against the seniors at the Bukit Jalil Stadiumtoday. And in Hobart, to keep them on their toes, a friendly match againstCanada has been arranged on Oct 6. Leaving no stone unturned, the Malaysia Hockey Federation have evenengaged the services of a Malaysian cook to make sure the juniors have abalanced diet. Malaysia meet New Zealand first on Oct 10 and on Oct 11 they play anunknown Argentinian side. On Oct 13 they wrap up the first round fixtures against Germany.

Chua a natural born leader


PARENTS who have to deal with 18-year-olds will definitely sympathise withwhat National Juniors skipper Chua Boon Huat will have to undergo inHobart, Australia, from Oct 9-21. Handling one or two teenagers, who are normally at the threshold oftheir rebellious stage, can be a harrowing experience for most parents,but handling 17 of them in one go, and that too in a foreign land, couldprove to be disastrous for a weak leader. But Chua is not worried, because under his care are a disciplined lotwhich makes his job that much easier. "When we are not playing or training, we are friends and I am just oneof them. We joke, and have fun just like any 18-year-old. "But when we are on the pitch, they know that I call the shots and thereis no room for fooling around," said Chua. When the team was named on Tuesday, the good news came with a sternwarning from Malaysia Hockey Federation deputy president Tan Sri P.Alagendra. "In Hobart, there will be no room for those who breach camp discipline.Anyone found to be detrimental to the team's target, will be sent homeimmediately. I trust coach Yahya Atan's judgement on that matter and therewill be no room for appeal," said Alagendra. But there is no need for such a stern reminder, as the National Juniorsknow what is expected of them on the pitch. Chua has been a regular with the senior squad and the boys look up tohim because he has a steady head on his shoulders. "We are all alone when we play a match because the coach can only tellus what to do before the match and when the opponents swith play, or donot follow a normal pattern, the players will look up to me to lead them. "And since they are easy to handle, and follow my instructions, I haveno problems whatsoever," said Chua. So what happens when Chua is not available, for some reason or theother, to lead the team in Hobart? "Jiwa Mohan is a capable replacement in case Chua gets injured. Andsince the boys are a disciplined lot, they will have no problems takinginstructions form anyone who wears the skipper's armband," said Yahya. Chua has been in the thick of action, together with Jiwa, K. Logan Rajand S. Shankar, since August where he competed in three internationaltournaments within a month. They first was when he played for the seniors in the Azlan Shah Cup inBukit Jalil, which ended on Aug 12. Then it was off to Poznan, Poland, right after the Azlan Shah Cup ended,for a Six-Nation junior tournament. And after Poznan, he led Malaysia to a second place finish in the Five-Nation at Bukit Jalil where they held defending Junior World Cup championsAustralia 1-1 in the preliminaries before losing 2-1 to the Aussies in thefinal. "It has been hectic, but I am not complaining, and neither are the boys.We are all looking forward to a favourable outing in Hobart after having agood time in the Five-Nations Cup," said Chua. Chua is a versatile player, and Yahya has used him in defence, midfieldand he played as a striker in the Azlan Shah Cup. If anyone can be trusted to keep 17 teenagers all fired up and ready forbattle with minimal problems on the sidelines, it is definitely Chua.

Brothers Jiwa and Jivan are fierce rivals on the pitch


JIWA Mohan, 20, and Jivan Mohan, 18, love each other very much, but on the
artificial pitch, the love is lost and they go all out to make the other
`look bad'.
No, theirs is not artificial love, but the Bukit Mertajam High School
brothers' passion for hockey and playing for the country overshadows
everyting, and they went all out to outdo each other right till the final
list for the Junior World Cup in Hobart on Oct 9-21 was named on Tuesday.
And as fate would have it, the selectors were so impressed with their
dedication and skills that both were selected for the World Cup and so
they notched a first for Malaysia.
"Jiwa and Jivan are the first brothers to play for Malaysia in the
Junior World Cup history. While Jiwa is an all-rounder, Jivan is good in
midfield," said juniors coach Yahya Atan in Port Dickson yesterday.
"I started playing hockey in Standard One and my brother (Jivan) used to
tag along until he got `hooked' three years later. And since then, we have
been training and playing together but when there is a selection, weather
at School, State or Junior League level, we try to outdo each other.
"But so far, I can't seem to shake Jivan off my back!," said Jiwan.
And silently encouraging this brotherly competition from the sidelines
is father Y. Mohan, 42, and mother Chua Cheok Kooy, 40.
"My father, a bus conductor in Bukit Mertajam, played a major role in
our development as hockey players. He used to ferry us to the Bertam
Sports Complex near Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, so that we would
not be left behind on the game," said Jivan.
"We are truly indebted to him and are in the World Cup squad today
because of his tireless efforts to keep pushing us to the limit even when
we almost gave up because state-level competition in penang was very
keen," said Jiwan.
Jivan is the timid one while big brother Jiwan likes to bully him around
when they are in a group. But on the pitch, they are known to shed their
playful image and don't tolerate mistakes made by the other.
The other member of the family is only five-years-old but has shown keen
interst in hockey.
When asked weather they will encourage their youngest brother to take up
the sport: "No way!," was their loud and synchronised reply.
"We would rather he played golf and become famous like Tiger Woods,"
said Jivan.
One never really knows when the brothers are serious or when they are
joking but, hockey's lost could one day become become golf's gain.

Juniors primed for last waltz


THE stage was erected in 1999 and the musicians have been playing the sameold tune of skills, discipline and never-say-die attitude into the mindsof the juniors. Even the magician, Balbir Singh, has waved his magic wand in the two-dayPort Dickson motivational camp and lifted their spirits to a certaindegree, so now, the onus is squarely on the juniors when the Junior WorldCup begins in Hobart, Australia, on Oct 9-21. And as the waves from Straits of Malacca came crashing continuously onthe Tanjung Tuan Resort beach, Balbir, coach Yahya Atan and team managerArrifin Ghani were busy drilling some last minute instructions to theircharges on the 20th floor of the Resort. The sessions were very informal, with the players sitting on the floorwhile instructions were given to them on how to play the various `teamgames' devised specially for them. The atmosphere was calm and friendly,like the breathtaking view from their room balcony. And after listening attentively, they broke into four groups andstarted, quietly at first, then the noise level raised above the crashingwaves outside as they earnestly tried to score points for their groups. "I conducted a motivational course before the World Cup Qualifier andmost of them were very shy, timid, and had a low level of self esteem.Today (yesterday) you can see for yourself that they have come out oftheir shells are are not awed or afraid to take on any assignment," saidBalbir who holds a PhD in Sports Science. And to decide the winners of the motivational camp, the top two groupswere required to play a game of chequers. It was more like war as everyoneon the sideline had a better move than the two players trusted with thegame. In the end, the winners and the losers gobbled down some tea and cakesand hastily went to change for the beach jog. "They have been doing some light training and jogging on the beach twicea day to keep fit, but playing hockey was strictly not allowed because thecamp is like a brief holiday before they head for Hobart on Oct 3," saidYahya. After jogging, the juniors played a game of beach volleyball as the sunset over the horizon in brilliant hues of colours. And after dinner, it was time for a karaoke session and the juniorscroaked away their favourite tunes into the night. They are no longer afraid of the stage, and as coach Yahya graduallystops playing his tactical music, they boys have grown in confidence andare all set for the last waltz in Hobart.

Knocking on seniors' doors


THE Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) have, over the years, steadilygroomed young players to fill the vacuum left by those who retire, or areforced to retire due to injuries and work commitment. Nothing new here, they are just doing their job. But there seems to be a flurry of activity around the juniors, on andoff the field, this time around and the reason is the 2002 World Cup whichMalaysia will host. While some of the seniors have rooted themselves steadily in the seniorteam, like S. Kuhan and Maninderjit Singh, to name a few, the MHF havekept the door open for the juniors with a promise that those who do wellin Hobart will definitely see action in the KL World Cup as well. And leading the pack right now are S. Shanker, Chua Boon Huat, JiwaMohan and K. Logan Raj. A handful of other junior players are alsoknocking on the seniors' door and this augurs well for Malaysian Hockey inthe long run. "We decided on this overlapping pool so that the players do not feel toocomfortable with their positions and start taking things for granted. "Right now, only the best will see action," said MHF deputy presidentTan Sri P. Alagendra. So in Hobart from Oct 9-21, the juniors will not only be fighting for atop-four placing but also for a spot in the senior squad for the 2002World Cup. The National Juniors went to Port Dickson yesterday for a two-daymotivational camp and according to team manager Arrifin Ghani they areenjoying the well deserved break. "After three years of preparing for the Junior World Cup, the final 18were named on Tuesday and it was a relief for some of the borderlinecases. That is why we decided to give them a break from hockey. "In Port Dickson, they will be motivated by Dr Balbir, who is a part ofthe MHF development committee, and do some light training. Playing hockeyis strictly banned in PD. After the motivation session, they will breakcamp for two days before heading for Hobart on Oct 3 to get acclimatised,"said Arrifin. Meanwhile, defending champions Australia, who returned victorious from arecent Five-Nation held in Malaysia have also named their squad and coachColin Batch believes the outing could be an important boost for his teamto defend the title they won in Milton Keynes in 1997. "We improved significantly in Kuala Lumpur and made giant stridesforward throughout the tournament. It is difficult to estimate the valueof success (at the Five-Nation), but the team has a real focus on theWorld Cup," Batch said on the official website for the Junior World Cup. There are three injury concerns for Batch. Sydney Olympian Craig Victoryis recovering from a stress fracture, Lachlan Vivian-Taylor will beincreasing his training after a 14 week absence from the game with afractured patella, and Seyi Onitiri is undergoing rehabilitation for aknee injury. The rest of the Australian players who saw action in the Five-NationsCup in KL are fit and ready to defend the title.


MHF finalise Hobart-bound team


THE National Juniors put up a 30-minute show against the senior side atthe National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday, and at the standswere the members of the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) SelectionCommittee. Ho Koh Chye, Roy Rajasingam, Poon Fook Loke and Datuk R. Yogeswaran kepta keen eye on the boys but everyone knew that they had already made theirpick much earlier. And the juniors also knew that their 30-minute performance made littledifference to sway 11th-hour votes in their favour, because the selectionprocess started in 1999 and yesterday was only a formality. So, when the team for the Junior World Cup in Hobart, Australia, wasnamed, there were no surprises as Chua Boon Huat was handed the skipper'sarmband while regulars in the senior side S. Shankar, Jiwa Mohan and K.Logan Raj made up the core side which will try and improve their fourthplacing finish in 1982 in Kuala Lumpur. "After failing to qualify for the last World Cup in Milton Keynes(1997), we started scouting for talent in 1999 and today, we have namedthe best 18 available in the country to lead the Malaysian charge," saidMHF deputy president Tan Sri P. Alagendra yesterday. And while MHF refused to set targets for the team, citing unneccessarypresure on the youngsters, skipper Chua was confident that the boys willmake the semifinals. "We have trained hard and played many matches against some good hockeyplaying countries since January and I can safely say that the team is goodfor the semifinals," said Chua. For those who saw, and read the report, on the playing Tour of India onSept 8-17, vouch that this junior side is the best they have ever seenassembled. And chief coach Yahya Atan, who normally does not comment on suchmatters, agreed wholeheartedly. "We have good defenders, a solid midfield and forwards who have proventhemselves. In short, this is a well balanced side and the best I haveseen so far. Barring any serious injuries, we will do well in Hobart,"said Yahya, who stopped short of setting a target for his boys. The team head for Port Dickson today and after a motivational session,they head back to Kuala Lumpur the next day where a series of matchesagainst the seniors have been arranged before they depart for Hobart onOct 3. In Hobart, Malaysia meet New Zealand on Oct 10 and should have noproblems overcoming the Kiwis. Argentina are next on the menu and not muchis known about the side but the juniors should come out tops. The final Group D match is against Germany on Oct 13 and it will decideour fate in the group heading into the second round. The early indications are that the juniors will definitely improve ontheir fourth finishing in 1982. Junior World Cup Team: Saiful Azhar Afandi (gk), Mohamed Firdaus Razali(gk), Reduan Ponirin, S. Shankar, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Norhanafpe Omar,Norazlan Rahim, Chua Boon Huat (skipper), P. Prabahkaran, Jiwa Mohan,Jivan Mohan, Tajol Rosli Mohamed, K. Logan Raj, Azlan Misron, MohamedFairuz Ramli, Zaharin Zakariah, V. Vhinodhan, Maswadi Shaharudin.

D-Day for Junior squad


THE National Juniors will know who goes Down Under today when theMalaysian Hockey Federation Selection Committee meet at the NationalHockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil to name the final squad for the Junior WorldCup in Hobart, Australia, on Oct 9-21. Few surprises are expected in the final list as core players in the teamhave been consistent and are sure bets for Hobart. And tomorrow, those who are selected will head for Port Dickson for afour-day motivational camp and frolicking on the beach will be upmost onthe agenda as they psyche up for the World Cup. Skipper Chua Boon Huat, who had a good outing in the recent playing Tourof India, will surely wear the armband in Hobart where Malaysia are inGroup D with Argentina, Germany and New Zealand. M. Jiwa, Azlan Misron, Fairus Ismail, Tajol Rosli Mohamed and ZaharinZakaria, who all scored in the India Tour, also look good and theSelection Committee will not have a difficult time placing their names onthe list. In Hobart, Malaysia open their campaign against New Zealand on Oct 10and meet Argentina the next day before the final cruncher against Germanyon Oct 13 to see who top the table in the group. For the first time the Junior World Cup has been expanded to involve 16countries, and the FIH has allocated teams to four pools for the firstround. The top-two teams in each group will meet in the second round. Australiawon the last World Cup in 1997 in Milton Keynes and look set to top GroupA with only England expected to trouble them in the early round. Group A: Australia, Chile, England, Ireland. Group B: France, South Korea, Holland, South Africa. Group C: Canada, India, Scotland, Spain. Group D: Malaysia, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand.


Malaysia in `lightweight' group


HOSTS Malaysia have been given a `kind' draw for the 10th men's World Cupin Kuala Lumpur from Feb 24 to March 9 next year. The draw, released by the International Hockey Federation (FIH)yesterday, pits Malaysia in Group B with South Korea, Australia, England,Cuba, Poland, India and Japan. In Group A are the heavyweights of hockey - Holland, Pakistan, Germany,Argentina, Spain, South Africa, Belgium and New Zealand. Canada, France and Wales are the reserve teams should any of thequalifiers drop out. But to reach the semifinals, Malaysia will have to lift their game as inGroup B, the fight for the top two will be among Australia, Korea, Indiaand the hosts. Japan could pull off an upset or two but England, Poland and Cuba shouldnot be a problem if Malaysia can raise their fitness level before theWorld Cup. Group A is definitely the `group of death' because Holland, Pakistan,Germany, Argentina, Spain and South Africa look to be evenly matched. The group is so tight that even Olympic and world champions Holland andSpain are not assured of a top two finish because Argentina and Pakistanare capable of turning the tables on their day. That is how the draw is going to look to the man-on-the-street, saidnational team manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. "At a glance, the draw looks a bit tough for those in Group A and easierfor the Group B teams. But that is not the reality, judging by recentmatches," he said. "Traditionally, Cuba, Poland and Japan used to be the weak teams butthat is no longer the case. Cuba have beaten Argentina, the recent WorldCup qualifier champions, who beat Spain to top the group, and Canada inthe Pan-American Games. "As for Japan, I have received reports from those who were in Scotlandfor the World Cup qualifiers that they are the most improved side and willtrouble those who are over-confident in Group B. "Even in Osaka (last year's Olympic qualifiers), we were lucky to beatthem 2-1 and reach the Sydney Olympics." According to Yoges, Australia, Korea and India are in a league of theirown and will be hard to catch in the short period leading to the WorldCup. "India, even though they paraded a young side in the Azlan Shah Cup, areno pushovers as they have the skills and determination to trouble even thebest." The last World Cup held on grass in Kuala Lumur in 1975 saw Malaysiafinish fourth and since then, we have yet to better that record. But despite Yogeswaran's cautious approach, Malaysia have a good chanceof making the last four if they can play to their strength. "The draw was made according to the rankings and FIH have agreed to atwo-pool format of eight teams each, which means the top two finishers ineach group will play for the first to fourth placings while the third andfourth team in each group will play for the fifth to eighth placings,"said Malaysian Hockey Federation secretary S. Satgunam. "Likewise, the fifth to sixth team will crossover to play for the 9-12thposition and the last two teams will play for the 13th-16th position." In the recent Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia finished last of seven teamsafter a pathetic display and the critics have all but given up hope on thenational side. 2002 World Cup Hroupings Group A - Holland, Pakistan, Germany, Argentina, Spain, South Africa,Belgium and New Zealand. Group B - South Korea, Australia, England, Cuba, Malaysia, Poland, Indiaand Japan.

Time again for Malaysia to send shudders


DID you know that India will have to qualify for the World Cup for thefirst time in their history? They will play in the 10th Men's World Cup Qualifier in Edinburgh fromJuly 17-29 for the 2002 World Cup, Kuala Lumpur. The past decade has not been kind to the Indian Continent where Pakistanand India have seen a steady decline in their standard while the rest ofthe world, particularly Europe, have been improving. The root of the cause is definitely a decay in grassroots development. And if Malaysia were not hosts, playing in the 2002 World Cup would haveremained a distant dream. That is why when the Seventh Edition of the Junior Hockey League startstoday, the players must excite the Malaysian Hockey Federation selectorsenough to be counted. For Malaysia, the day Bangladesh beat them to the fifth placing play-offin the Prime Minister's Gold Cup, hockey almost choked to death on theartificial pitch of the Maulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka. The 2-1 win was a first for Bangladesh against Malaysia at theinternational level. Nevermind that they had a senior side while Malaysiafielded a make-shift team which is preparing for the 2001 Junior World Cupin Hobart and the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup. There was a time when even the mention of Malaysia, junior or senior,sent shudders among the Asian hockey playing nations. But neglect ingrassroots level has changed all that. We have almost been reduced to a punching bag. Old La Sallians Association of Klang who lifted their fourth Overalltitle last year will be the main contenders as in the last four years. But Tenaga Nasional's win in the League last year has added competitionin the Junior League and there is a likelyhood that a bigger pool has ashot at the two titles at stake this year. Among the early contenders are Anderson, Malacca Municipal Council,Bukit Jalil Sports School and probably Seberang Prai Municipal Council whoare the new cover for Electrical Switchgears Automation. But the Junior League should no longer be about winning titles andparticipation but how the titles are won and how much of effort is putinto preparing a decent team. The newcomers to the League are Sungai Petani Municipal Council and theArmed Forces. Pahang Sports Council will be making a comeback aftersitting out last year. And it is highly likely that these three teams will be among the`whipping boys' in the League. But that does not mean they should beforgotten and the selectory shy away from their matches. The fact that national juniors are not allowed to play in the Leagueshould spur those who aspire to don national colours. MHF secretary S. Satgunam has promised that national selectors will bearound to watch and take note of the potential. The new aspect in the League is the introduction of a quarterfinalstage. This home and away match-up will mean that eight teams will nowmake the grade to the knockout stage. Previously there was only thesemifinals after the preliminary round. To take the Junior League lightly is disastrous, and India will readilyvouch for that.

MHF did well to include ESA players


MALAYSIAN Juniors fared badly at the Prime Minister's Gold Cup in Dhaka,but back home the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) won a Gold Cup, handsdown, when they accommodated players from Electrical SwitchgerasAutomation in the Junior League. There was some micommunication between MHF secretary S. Satgunam and ESAManager S. Sanjilatheeban which almost led to 18 boys being put on ice forthe 2001 Malaysia Junior Hockey League, but the MHF Standing Committee, intheir second sitting, decided to give the boys a new lease of life, and anew outfit too. ESA players will now play as Seberang Prai Municipal Council and all iswell for junior development in the country. But the national juniors, with the World Cup in Hobart their end target,started on a bad note at the Gold Cup. In the first match they lost to Egypt 2-4, then went a notch lower whenIreland beat them 1-0. They salvaged some pride when they beat China 1-0 but by then it was toolate for a good finish in the tournament. Pakistan hammered the last nailin the coffin with a 3-1 win. So what went wrong? Coach Yahya Atan and Stephen van Huizen said they are trying out newplayers and new positions for some and that was the main reason they faredbadly in the first two matches. And since this is part of their preparation for the road to Hobart, itis better to lose now and find out where the chinks are in the outfit toprepare a formidable team for the Junior World Cup because next year theboys, some of whom are regulars in the senior side, will have three majortournaments to deal with - the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, the CommonwealthGames in Manchester, England and the Asian Games in Pusan, Korea. Hopefully the excuses of today will form a gold winning team of tomorrowbecause the rest of the world are moving further ahead. Japan were not a last four contender when the Dhaka Gold Cup started,but then made the elite company of India and Pakistan in the semifinals. They scored a 1-0 win over Scotland and sounded a warning that they arenot finished yet. After failing to qualify for the Olympics in OlympicsQualifier in Osaka more than a year ago, many left Japanese hockey fordead. In the semis, India hammered Egypt 8-0 and Pakistan beat Japan 5-3. The Prime Minister's Gold Cup slipped out of our grasp because an S.Kuhan-inspired junior side only found that zest they were so lacking inprevious matches aginst China. Let's hope they keep up the momentum and coupled with MHF's zest towardsjunior developent, cram Malaysia's cabinet with Gold Cups.

For sport's sake, include ESA


WHEN they should have been behind the sport and anything that wouldnurture youth development, sadly, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF)stood by their secretary S. Satgunam and axed 1996 double championsElectrical Switchgears Automation (ESA) of Penang from the Malaysia JuniorHockey League starting on March 30. Satgunam said he will not tolerate late entries but ESA have a differentstory to tell. ESA team manager S. Sanjilatheeban yesterday agreed that he sent in hisentries late but it was not done on purpose and he was in constant touchwith Satgunam on the matter. "I personally faxed the team confirmation to participate on Feb 25 andKeevan Raj (national hockey player) paid the entrance fee to MHF. I latercalled Satgunam and he confirmed that he had received our entries. "Part of the reason we delayed submitting the entry forms until the lastday was because there was a company which was interested in sponsoring theoutfit but pulled out on the eleventh hour. However, with the interest ofhockey and our boys in mind, we confirmed our participation and proposedto raise funds later," said Sanjilatheeban. ESA posted the team list via Post Laju on Feb 27 to the address statedon the form, the MHF office at the Bukit Jalil Hockey Stadium, but totheir dismay the letter was returned with sudah pindah (moved) stamped onit. "When I was informed that the letter was returned, I posted it back toSatgunam's residence in Seremban." After the SPM results were released, ESA found that they had lost agoalkeeper whose parents stopped him from playing hockey because he didnot do well in the examinations. "We were again in a fix bacause a goalkeeper is not easy to replace, Iagain called Satgunam and informed him about our latest problem. "As time was running out, I registered a new goalkeeper, event though hewas just picking up the game and position. We posted the team list againon March 9 (closing date Feb 23 but extended until March 9) at 8.40am viaPos Laju and caled Satgunam to say that we will definitely be taking partand told him that we have posted the letter again and are confident thatit will reach him on time. Satgunam sent ESA a telegram on March 9 to tell them that they are outof the Junior League. "I called Satgunam the next day and said that he should have receivedthe list by now and his reply was that he was travelling in his car toKuala Lumpur from Seremban and if ESA were interested, they could appealto MHF vice-president Datuk Seri P. Alagendra. "I faxed an appeal to Alagendra, with the boys in mind, with the PosLaju slips to support our claims. I then called and confirmed withAlagendra that he has received the fax and he will discuss the matter withSatgunam." And on Friday, MHF secretary Satgunam, who is also tournament committeechairman, said MHF are disappointed with ESA as they did not show anyinitiative despite being given an extended deadline. The MHF Standing Committee met on Saturday and threw ESA out in the coldfor `their lack of initiative and interest in submitting entries'. Penang are no strangers to hockey and they have sound developmentprogrammes which have seen the likes of the Raj brothers - Keevan andLogan - making a name in the international scene. ESA have been regulars in the League and did a double in 1996. The Junior League is the base of hockey in Malaysia, and by denying theESA boys a chance to take part because administrators of the sport failed,the MHF Standing Commitee did no justice to the sport and country. As it stands, Malaysian hockey took another nose-dive when they, made upof mostly national juniors preparing for the Junior World Cup in Hobart,lost to Egypt 2-4 in the ongoing Prime Minister's Gold Cup in Bangladeshon Sunday. In this case, the MHF Standing Commitee should have stood by the boysand the sport, instead of their secretary. (

Param: Don't blame the players


THE national hockey trainees need a long break to recuperate, mentally and
physically, if not they might as well stop preparing for the Junior World
Cup in Hobart as well as the 2002 World Cup.
Bank Simpanan Nasional head coach C. Paramalingam, a respected figure in
the hockey circle for his brilliant management of teams, feels the reason
why the national players are jaded and lack fitness is because they have
hardly had any rest since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
And this could spell trouble in the long run.
"They trained hard for the Olympics and after a gruelling time in
Sydney, they immediately started playing in the Malaysia Hockey League.
Some of the players were carrying injuries, such as hamstring, shoulder
and knee problems after the Olympics and did not have enough time to
"The first half of the MHL was not so interesting as most of the players
limped around and were not interested in chasing for balls. But the break
during the fasting month did the trick and so, the second half was much
more interesting and the quality of play was better."
On Friday, national coach Stephen van Huizen had said his charges are
physically not ready to face the challenges and requirements of
international hockey.
He lamented that even though most of the players have just come out of
the MHL, they are finding the twice-a-day routine punishing and this does
not speak well for the standard and quality of the League.
Van Huizen questioned: "Maybe the League is not serving its purpose."
Paramalingam begs to differ.
"Why blame clubs in matters pertaining to fitness? It is a well known
fact that clubs are not solely responsible for fitness as individual
national players have been given their training programmes and are
supposed to follow them.
"At club level, corporations like BSN, Tenaga Nasional and Sapura are
more interested with results. Which is only fair because they are pumping
in the money for the League."
Paramalingam said the root of the problem is neither clubs nor the
players. He blames it on the tight schedule and lack of recuperating time.
"In Europe and even in Korea, the players get long breaks, some for
three months, after the League ends and they are given training programmes
to follow. This way, they are treated as adults and the responsibility of
keeping fit solely lies with them.
"If after the break, they check into camp unfit to last 70 minutes of
hockey, then they deserve the boot.
"Our players are also too much into hockey. During the break maybe they
should take up alternative sports like tennis, golf and cricket to build
their reflexes and keep fit.
"This way, they will not be jaded and lack motivation when they check
into training camps. They will also have ample time to recover from
Paramalingam is no stranger to hockey and many a time has made judgments
which produced results like when he snatched the overall title from Tenaga
Nasional to deny them the MHL double.
Maybe van Huizen should give his boys a break from hockey by breaking
camp and regroup for training in a month's time.
Then, the onus will be solely on the players to follow the training
programme religiously and report fit for training.
But then, some may stray to Hard Rock Cafe, like the infamous soccer
trio, innocently thinking that `The Harder The Better' refers to partying
and not training.

Forget Lissek, we can do with Van Huizen


IS Paul Lissek coming or not?
THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) and the National Sports Council
(NSC) have been playing a cat-and-mouse with the German coach for as long
as one can remember. To be precise, it all started after Terry Walsh left
Malaysian hockey to stand on its own.
Lissek sent his student Volker Knapp who had not seen any World Cup
action, and naturally it turned out to be a disaster that was on Malaysian
hockey's expense account.
Then Lissek rode in and with an iron-fist, instilled discipline and
respect in the national players and the amazing result was a silver medal
in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
Thanks for the glory Lissek, but it's time that we stood on our own
For Malaysian hockey to thrive in the long run, and not just panning for
a silver flash, local coaches must be given the reins today.
Tomorrow, next month and next year should no longer be the excuse for
The MHF are more than keen to allow locals to run the show, but the NSC
are not convinced of a made-in-Malaysia product, hence their concerted
effort to land Lissek. NSC have offered him a four-year contract but the
hockey grapevine has it that that Lissek is more comfortable plying his
trade in Europe and one reason is his 86-year-old mother who prefers the
climate there.
MHF took a bold step when they entrusted Stephen van Huizen to handle
the Sydney Olympics squad and although the team could only manage 11th
place after some good performances earlier, fans accepted it because the
opposition are light years ahead at the moment. South Korea, relatively
new to the game but silver medallists in Sydney, are a case in point. The
man behind their meteoric rise is Kim Sang-ryul, who went to India to
learn the finer points of hockey and is now among the the world's best
So, why not let Van Huizen and the string of local coaches that MHF have
now handle the 2001 World Cup side for good?
The worst that could happen is they will be wiser and more capable and
able to work without depending on a consultant.
Germany have dumped Lissek because his style of hockey is said to be
`old fashioned'. So why hire a `discard' and pay him an astronomical
On another note, hockey has declared 2001 as the International Year of
the Youth but this seems to have been missed by both MHF and NSC.
The Champions Schools tournament that ended on Jan 21 in Ipoh saw
brilliant play from top scorer Mohamed Zamzuhairi Abdul Wahab from SM
Sains Tengku Mohamed Faris Petra of Kelantan, his teammate and goalkeeper
Mohamed Nazri Rahman, Anderson's goalkeeper Fitri Abdul Aziz and the Most
Promising Player of the Tournament R. Rama of St David's, Malacca.
But overall, there were some disturbing signs as 10 teams, last year's
champion schools in their respective States took part this year but
missing were Kuala Lumpur, where some of the traditionally top hockey
schools are located. Someone must answer for their absence as St John's
Institution of Kuala Lumpur were the first winners in 1987 and defended
their title the following year.
Other States that did not bother to field a side were Sabah, Sarawak and
Perlis. Are the State HAs serious about development?
When we can't get the State HAs to be actively involved in the
development of the game, Lissek or any foreign maestro coaches won't be
able to put our shattered hockey pieces together.
So Lissek, please do Malaysia a favour by accepting Spain's offer.

Time for Malaysians to be champion Ironmen


Triathletes are a special breed of athletes, and some say you have to be
half-crazy to even think of competing in an ironman, and crazy to complete
it in a record time. Words written at the back of a Japanese triathlete T-
shirt sums the crazy situation of the sport: Finishing Second is First
Among The Losers.
The 2001 Malaysia Ironman Triathlon which ended in Langkawi on Sunday
saw a vast improvement in the Malaysian entries with Mohamed Razani Husain
clocking a sizzling 10:31:42 to finish 21st overall in the men's
professional category.
And many at the finish line at Dataran Lang thought that he will be the
last of the 35 malaysians who will breast the tape inside of 14 hours. But
they were soon proven wrong when policeman Zulkifli Shamsudin came in at
11:45:05 followed by six other athletes who dipped below 14 hours in the
gruelling race made tougher by the scorching mid-day island sun.
Malaysian wonderwoman Fiona Lim, who clocked 12:56:24, and Zulkifli
earned themselves a wildcard to the Ironman Triathlon world championship
in Kona, Hawaii on Oct 6 together with 30 other foreign athletes who
clocked top times in their respective age-groups.
Last year, 56 Malaysians took part in the Langkawi ironman and 26
completed the race. This year, only 35 took part and 26 completed the
While the foreign athletes, especially the men's profesional winner
Bryan Rhodes who bettered last year's mark (Kaoru Matsuda, 8:49:12) by
clocking an overall 8:43:54, were in a class of their own, it looks like
Malaysians might catch up with them in the near future.
The weather, for one, is on their side. World number one Lothar Leder of
Germany failed to become the leader, eventhough he is the only man who has
clocked below eight hours in the '96 Ironman Europe, and world's best
woman triathlete Natascha Badmann had a bad day because they could not
cope with the heat and humidity. Defending champions Matsuda and Susan
Peter from Australia also caved in to the heat.
Malaysian competitors should use this as an added advantage in the 2002
ironman in January in Langkawi. But first, they must be serious in their
preparations for the race and train at least a month earlier in Langkawi.

`Birthday boy' Rhodes gets the biggest cake


"HELLO! I won mom! yes, I led from the start to finish for my first Iroman
title...what? Yes, It was a great birthday gift for me, mom."
The first thing that Kiwi, Bryan Rhodes, who turned 28 yesterday, did
after winning the Ironman Malaysia Triathlon in Langkawi was call his
mother back home in Wellington because nobody from his family came to
Malaysia to watch him run.
On the other end of the line, mom Wilma was choked with emotion and
could not stop crying for joy: "My mother is my "rock", my pillar of
strenght and I dedicate the race to her," said Bryan.
His joy is understandable because in his 13 years of taking part in the
triathlon, only the land of legendary Mahsuri was kind enough to let him
win eventhough world's best Lothar Leder was hot on his heels the entire
How did he hear about the Langkwai Ironman?
"Well I was reading a magazine and the Ironman advertisement caught my
fancy because the race day coincided with my birthday, even then I had a
lucky feeling in me.
"I came to langkawi to preparre for the World Ironman championships in
Kona, Hawaii but when I heard that Leder had also registered for the
event, my heart sank a little. But today (yesterday) was my 28th birthday
and there was no way that I was going to let anyone else steal the cake
from me."
Rhodes was first out of the water in 48 minutes 45 seconds and from
there onwards he knew that he had it in him to win the race.
"The water was stifling hot and the only thing that kept me going was
that it was my birthday. The only doubt that I had about losing out to
Leder was during the cycling event around the 21km point when my wheel
became loose, I lost some time tightening the wheels but after that it was
smooth sailing for me.
"But the eight water/food points could do with a little bit of sprucing
up because they either did not undersand what we signalled for or the
volunteers there kept getting in my way when I went in for supplies."
"The water that they supplied was also too hot to drink and I almost
vomitted out after taking my first sip. Next year maybe they can improve
on the logistics."

Underdogs rule the day


THE underdogs ruled the day as champions and favourites found the going
too hot at the 2001 Malaysia Ironman Triathlon in Langkawi yesterday.
In the men's professional category, `Birthday Boy' Bryan Rhodes from New
Zealand who turned 28 yesterday, pipped the world's best, and the only man
to have dipped below 8 hours in triathlon, Lother Leder of Germany for the
Rhodes clocked a total of 8:43:54 in the swim (3.8km), cycle (180.2) and
marathon (42.2km).
"The number 28 has been lucky for me, as today was my 28th birthday and
the race was also on the 28th of January."
Leder followed the Kiwi closely throughout the race but never got a
chance to overtake him and finished second in 8:47:25.
In the women's professional category, Belinda Cheney from Australia
surprised all when she clocked 9:44:12 to beat a tired looking world
champion Natascha Badmann from Switzerland, who clocked 9:57:25.
On the Malaysian front, Mohamed Razani Husain carried the Jalur Gemilang
high when he completed the race in 10:31:42 to become the 21st finisher in
the men's category. Overall he finished 24th because three women overtook
him in the marathon run.
"I had a good feeling throughout the day, but in the second half of the
marathon I started having slight cramps and walked quite a distance before
I could continue running again. If not, I would have met my target of
finishing in 9 hours and 30 minutes," said the first timer in the Ironman.
Razani, who has taken part in numerous half-marathons, said he did not
feel too tired after the race and he never thought about quitting.
"All along the route I kept saying to myself that I have to finish the
race no matter what happened, and I achieved it in good time too.
"Next year I will be better prepared and hope to clock a better time but
I need professional coaching and if possible some monetary help so that i
can train fulltime without worrying about my bread and butter," said
Belinda, also a newcomer, won the coveted ticket to Kona, Hawaii on
sheer determination.
"I never thought of winning, not with Natascha in the same race, but
strange things do happen in this endurance sport as I overcame pain and
mental fatigue along the way for a sweet victory."
Champions don't always win in triathlons, and the legendary islands of
Mahsuri is testimony to that.
Results: Swimming - 1 Bryan Rhodes (NZ) 48 minutes 45 seconds, 2 Glen
Gore (S Africa) 48:49, 3 Andrew Robertson (Aus) 51:20, 4 Lothar Leder
(Ger) 51:26, 5 Jane Fardell (Aus) 51:28, 6 Raynard Tissink (S Africa)
51:30, 7 Belinda Cheney (Aus) 51:32, 8 Jamie Patrick (US) 51:35, 9 Jason
Shortis (Aus) 51:37, 10 Matt Stephens (Aus) 52:225, 11 Stephen Farrell
(NZ) 54:59, 12 David Herman (US) 55:11, 13 Alfi Caprez (Swit) 55:13, 14
Kaoru Matsuda (Jpn) 55:17, 15 Matt Koorey (Aus) 55:20.
Cycling - 1 Rhodes 5 hours 36 minutes and 14 seconds, 2 Tissink 5:38:03,
3 Shortis 5:43:54, 4 Garrett MacFadyen (Can) 5:43:55, 5 Leder 5:44:06, 6
Robertson 5:44:58, 7 Stephens 5:47:41, 8 Farrell 5:52:41, 9 Glen Gore (S
Africa) 5:58:41, 10 Caprez 5:58:41, 11 Matsuda 6:05:07, 12 Konrad von
Allmen (Swit), 13 Belinda 6:08:25, 14 Jerome Prigent (Fra) 6:08:32, 15
Florian Balluais (Fra) 6:09:42.
Marathon - 1 Rhodes 3:07:40, 2 Leder 3:03:19, 3 Tissink 3:18:06, 4
Macfadyen 3:14:51, 5 Glen Gore (S Africa) 3:03:26, 6 Robertson 3:40:40, 7
Stephens 3:38:31, 8 Balluais 3:08:44, 9 Von Allmen 3:04:12, 10 Belinda
Overall men - 1 Rhodes 8:43:54, 2 Leder 8:47:25, 3 Tissink 8:56:08, 4
McFadyen 8:58:45, 5 Gore 9:02:07, 6 Von Allmen 9:12:21, 7 Balluais
9:18:26, 8 Robertson 9:25:38, 9 Stephens 9:26:21, 10 Nobutaka Maki (Jpn)
Overall women - 1 Belinda 9:44:2, 2 Natascha 9:57:25, 3 Susan Peter
(Aus) 10:26:53, 4 Clara Roldan (Sp) 10:52:24, 5 Florens Daniel (Mari)

No favourites in the land of the Ironmen


THE Ironman Malaysia triathlon 2001 rolls off today and it would be
foolish to place your money on the big names before they come out of the
water at the Dataran Lang jetty.
The men's professional defending champion Kaoru Matsuda from Japan,
Lothar Leder from Germany, who comes with an impressive resume of having
finished third twice in Hawaii in 1998 and 1999, and the women's pros
favourites Susan Peter from Australia and world's top woman triathlete
Natascha Badmann will have to swim, cycle and run like their lives
depended on it to reach the finish line.
This is because almost all the 320 triathletes assembled in Langkawi
have only one goal, and that is to dip below 8 hours and 40 minutes.
And after they emerge from the 3.8km swim, seen as the most gruelling
stage for most Ironmen, a clearer pattern will emerge on the eventual
champions of their respective categories.
Bryan Rhodes from New Zealand, yet to win any Ironman title after four
years of competing, has a special reason to topple champion Matsuda and
Ironman Europe 2000 champion Leder.
"I will be turning 28 tomorrow (January 28) and since the race is also
on the 28th, I hope to celebrate my birthday by reaching the finish line
first," said the Kiwi.
Natascha, who said she would not sleep until her bicycle arrives from
Switzerland, finally went to bed at 10am yesterday when her second bike
arrived in Langkawi. The handle of her bicycle broke while she was in
training on Friday.
The professionals, numbering 24 men and 12 women, are expected to finish
the race ranging from 8-10 hours after the 7.0am start but the rest of the
age group and special athletes are expected to trickle in at around
Last year Matsuda clocked 8:49:12 for the title while Susan clocked
9:55:17 for the woman's crown.
As for the Malaysian athletes, Mohamed Razani Hussain is the only entry
in the professional category.
Since it is his first full triathlon, he might find the going tough.
Razani arrived at midnight on Friday and will only have one full day of
training on the island as compared to most foreign triathletes who have
been in Langkawi for the past two weeks.

Zaba `the Ironman' behind the scene


PHYSICALLY, he is not built like an endurance athlete, but when the soft-
spoken Zaba Aman began talking about the Ironman Malaysia Triathlon, he
transformed into an incredible hulk.
If points were awarded for passion and dedication towards organising the
Ironman Triathlon on Jan 28, then Zaba, deputy chairman of LIEM (Langkawi
Ironman) would win hands down.
The quest to bring Ironman to Malaysia started in 1996 and, Zaba,
together with LIEM president and Chief Executive Director Datuk Sri Ram
Sharma, went to Germany, Switzerland, Cheju Island (South Korea), Hawaii
and Australia to set up booths and sell Langkawi as another haven for the
Inevitably, the most asked question was: Where is Langkawi?
After four years of canvassing and setting up hospitality booths at
various countries, they finally secured a 10-year franchise from World
Triathlon Corporation (WTC) to host one leg of the circuit every year.
TimeSport's Jugjet Singh spoke with Zaaba on the present and future of
Ironman in Malaysia.
Q: Ironman is not a stadium sport where tickets can be sold and profit
made, so why select this event?
A: We are not into it to make a quick buck. Our commitment is long term
as we have secured a 10-year franchise from the WTC to host a leg of the
circuit every year.
We are more into it because it is a healthy sport where the runners do
not smoke or drink alcohol, in fact they spend most of their free time
training and eating healthy food.
It is a sport where the human mind pushes the body to its limit to
strive for excellence. This relates to the common man who `breaks his
back' daily to place food on the dinner table.
For the 2001 Langkawi Ironman, we have received 330 entries worldwide
out of which only 30 are professionals, the rest range from elite age
groups to determined weekend warriors who squeeze in strange hours of the
day and night to be in top shape by race day.
Q: You associated Ironman with the daily life of the man-on-the-street,
elobrate please.
A: The culture of Ironman is the strenght and ability to go the distance
when it matters most. Even when the body is unwilling, the mind must be
sharp enough to get up and continue with the mission until we cross the
`finish line'. It is like life itself because the first phase of swiming
is like our early life, the cycling stage is like the working years where
we strive to keep going and accomplish things. The finish is like our
retirement years where we can sit back and savour our accomplishments
after a gruelling life.
Q: Why select Langkawi for the event?
A: Hawaii was our model when we made the proposal so Langkawi was the
natural choice when we won the bid. We discovered that the Ironman focuses
tremendous national and international media attention on Hawaii, and it is
a known fact that, via television, it brings the event to the homes of
more than 200 million views worldwide.
A key element of Hawaii's success was its location, climate, beauty and
We have it all and more in Langkawi. Its exotic beauty is what we want
to show to the rest of the world via this sport-tourism. Facilities-wise,
Langkawi has the best with a good road system, reliable transportation,
world class hotels and the people are warm and friendly.
In the near future, we want to make the island paradise a household name
around the world.
Q: How is Langkawi and its people going to benefit from Ironman?
A: This is the only sport in the world where competitors pay for
everything, starting with the entrance fee of US$300 (RM1,140). The
competitors will also have to pay for their accommodation, air travel and
Tickets are through Malaysia Airlines, we anticipate hotels to be fully
booked and since the athletes will arrive about 10 days before the race
and most will go sightseeing after the race proper, Langkawi is assured of
roaring business for 15 days at least.
Since it is an expensive sport, where the specially built bicycles cost
around RM10,00, the athletes have the spending power so Langkawai should
(THE most recent statistics compiled by Hawaii's Department of Business,
Econimic Development and Tourism show that Ironman generates US$14.9
million in direct sales to out-of-State visitors specifically travelling
to the Big Island for the annual event. Not included in this figure are
the millions the event brings the State in television exposure and visitor
travel throughout the rest of the year).
Q: This year, you have 330 athletes competing. What would be the ideal
number if Langkawi wants to rival Hawaii in the near future?
A: The ideal number of athletes should be around 2,000 to 3,000 as this
will really generate income for the Island as all the facilities and rooms
will be fully booked because most athletes come with their families and
for some it is a vacation-cum-competition.
The first Ironman in Langkwai was held in May last year and we had about
100 athletes. After seven months of diligent promotions and planning, we
now have managed to convince 32 athletes from the United States to enter.
The US is very important because each year more than 2,500 triathlons are
held there alone, with a million people competing worldwide.
So the market is gigantic and even if we can tap a small percentage of
it, it will be a home run for sure. Tourism through sports is the in-thing
today and we hope to make this event a top revenue earner for Langkawi and
Q: The race starts and ends at Dataran Helang. Can you elobrate briefly
on the swimming, cycling and running part? (see accompanying graphics).
A: The clock will start with the gun at 7am and run non-stop until the
end of the race which will officially end 17 hours later. Rest stops,
transitions etc will be included in the total elapsed time. In addition to
the 17-hour overall cut-off time, there are cut-off times for each segment
of the race.
The cut-off time for the swim segment (3.8km) is two hours and 20
minutes after the start and any competitor still in the water after this
will not be permitted to continue.
For the biking part (180.2km), the cut-off is 10 hours and 30 minutes
after the start. The length of marathon race is 42.2km and all three
segments must be completed within 17 hours.
The top runners normally finish in eight hours but for some of the
weekend-devils, 17 hours will not be enough as many will find the route
too gruelling.
This 226.2km race will test their physical limits, and take them through
an unprecedented range of emotions.
Q: Since you have a 10-year franchise, what are some of your future
plans to make the race more exciting?
A: The first race in May did not have a special segment for the disabled
athletes, this year we have included it and three disabled athletes have
confirmed their entries. Their determination and courage is simply awesome
and puts many an able bodied person to shame.
Over the years several physically challenged athletes have successfully
competed in the Ironman beginning in 1982. Heroes have emerged from the ranks including Joseph Raineri, a blind athlete from the US, who became
the first physically challenged athlete to complete the race. The first
deaf competitor, Michael Russo from New York, competed in 1984.
We also hope to hold two to three Half-Ironman around Malaysia to
familiarise locals with this endurance sport and toughen them enough to
compete in a full Ironman and maybe have a local champion in the near
future. Development programmes with coaching clinics are also in the