Thursday, March 29, 2007

Suryani best bet for Manchester


NUR SURYANI Taibi of Perak, 19, shot down her first gold in the Tun Haniff
Trophy at the Subang Shooting Range yesterday.
Although her grand total of 489.1 points in the air rifle is still far
off Nurul Hudda Baharin's national record of 496.7 done in February this
year, Suryani is almost a certain bet for the Manchester Commonwealth
Games next year.
The Tun Haniff Cup is part of the selection process for the Commonwealth
Games and there will be three more local tournaments next year for Suryani
to consolidate her position in the Commonwealth Games squad.
Air rifle record holder Nurul could only manage a poor 476.7 points
yesterday and she finished eighth in the event.
At the Tun Tan Siew Sin Trophy and the SportExcel-NSC-NSAM-JSA Junior
championships at the Subang Shooting Range recently, Suryani bagged a
total of seven gold medals and a smallbore rifle three position record
with 566 points. The old mark of 565 was done by Lim I Vern of Selangor in
April this year.
Yesterday, top-notch shooter Irina Maharani from Selangor also failed to
shine as she was pipped to the sport pistol gold by Sarawak shooter
Bibiana Ng.
Bibiana fired a grand total of 671.8 points while Irina had 671.6.
However, Irina's national record of 679.5 done in April last year still
In the men's event, Mohamed Imran Zakaria of Armed Forces is slowly
getting back into form as he fired 682.4 for gold in the air rifle. But he
is still far off the national mark of 692.3 done by Abdul Mutalib Razak in
RESULTS: Men - Free Pistol Individual: 1 Baharuddin Hashim (Kel)
620.6pts, 2 Mohamed Hashim Desa (Police) 614.8, 3 Mohamed Rahimi Yassin
(Armed Forces) 609.4.
Free Pistol Team: 1 Police 1,539 points (Mohamed Hashim Desa 527, Abdul
Rahim Rajuli 506, Marzuki Man 506); 2 Kelantan 1,511 (Baharuddin Hashim
529, Wan Abdul Rahman 493, Zakaria Ishak 489); 3 Armed Forces 1,496
(Rahimi Yassin 523, Alais Neek Sulong 489, Norazhar Mat Nawi 484).
Air Rifle Individual: 1 Mohamed Emran Zakaria 682.4, 2 Mohamed Zainul
Akmal Azmi (Kel) 681.4, 3 Mohamed Hameleay Mutalib (Sel) 679.8.
Air Rifle Team: 1 Armed Forces 1,734 (Emran Zakaria 585, Azahari
Abdullah 576, Mohamed Sabiki Din 573); 2 Selangor 1,727 (Hameleay Mutalib
580, Ivan Jayavenkatesh Rao 578, Wang Wen Chuen 569); 3 Kelantan 1,707
(Mohamed Zainul Akmal Azmi 582, Khairulnizam Sidek 569, Asri Mohamed 556).
Women - Air Rifle Individual: 1 Nur Suryani Taibi (Pk) 489.1, 2 Lim I
Vern (Sel) 485.5, 3 Joanne Ng Sook ee (Sel) 483.6.
Air Rifle Team: 1 Selangor 1,141 (Lim I Vern 388, Mashita Ramli 382,
Norhidayah Ramli 371); 2 Police 1,140 (Nur Ain Chew Abdullah 384, Nurul
Hudda Baharin 378, Asmayuzie Mat Amin 378); 3 Perak 1,133 (Nur Suryani
Mohamed Taibi 388, Nur Husna Sharuddin 377, Nik Nur Amir Mat Taha 368).
Sport Pistol Individual: 1 Bibiana Ng (Sar) 671.8, 2 Irina Maharani
(sel) 671.6, 3 Kamisah Abdul Jalal (Police) 661.1.
Sport Pistol Team: 1 Kelantan 1,658 (Norshita Mohamed 567, Rohayu Yusof
549, Suzana Mohamed 542); 2 Police 1,630 (Kamisah Abdul Jalal 561,
Rohayati Mohamed 547, Norazlina Abdul Manan 522); 3 Perak 1,622 (Leong Wai
Si 542, Noor Asmah Ishak 540, Nur Fatihah Zolkefie 540).

Women take the lion's share


THE National Shooting Association of Malaysia (NSAM) surpassed their four-
gold target for the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games, but that does not mean they
had a great year.
They need to do something, fast, because the men have been firing blanks
and it is their women shooters who have been doing well at the range.
Though the team had exceeded the target set by the National Sports
Council (NSC) by winning six gold medals in the Sea Games, five came from
the women shooters.
Irina Maharani, Bibiana Ng and Suefarinawaty won, among them, four gold
Malaysia's women rifle squad - Nurul Hudda Baharin, Roslina Bakar and
Nur Suryani Taibi - won the gold medal in the three position 50m event.
Hasli Izwan Amir saved the men's squad the blushes when he won the gold
medal in rapid fire pistol by setting a Games record.
Before the Sea Games, the national shooters returned from the South-East
Asian Shooting Association (SEASA) tournament in Bangkok with eight gold
medals and expectations were high.
The week-long regional tournament saw shooters, preparing for the Sea
Games in September, winning eight gold out of 17 events offered so their
performance at the KL Sea Games was nothing to shout about.
It was not a productive year for the shooters and they hope to do better
next year when they compete in the Manchester Commonwealth Games and the
Asian Games in Pusan.
NSAM have already named their training squad for the Commonwealth and
Asian Games next year.
They are Mohd Emran Zakaria, Mohd Zaki Din, Mohd Hameleay Mutalib, Hasli
Hizuan Amir, Azmi Osman and Hamdan Rahmat, Roslina Bakar, Suryani Mohd
Taibi, Nur Daliah, Nurul Hudda Baharin, Nur Suefarinawati Affendy, Irina
Maharani and Bibiana Ng.
All the shooters were in the Sea Games squad, except for Azmi and Hamdan
who were selected based on their outstanding performance at several
championships including the Langkawi Full Bore Challenge 2001 at the
Langkawi International Shooting Range (Lisram) in September.
Azmi and Hamdan are from Unit B of the Special Assault Forces Team.
The two will join six other shooters and train at Lisram for the
Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester, England, from July 25 to Aug
The shooters will also compete in the New Zealand National Shooting
Championships from Jan 4 and the World Full Bore Championships in South
Africa in April as well as the Bisley Championships in England in July.
They will continue their training in England until the Commonwealth
Games begins.
Participation in these championships would give them wide exposure and
prepare them adequately for the Manchester Games.
Hopefully, they would yield better results next year.

Games gold nothing to shout about


CAN a Sea Games gold be considered as success for the hockey squad?
We will be the laughing stock of the world if we decide to gloat on the
Kuala Lumpur Sea Games gold because Malaysia have regularly seen action at
the World Cup and Olympics level.
So, while millions of ringgit have been pumped into hockey, for
tournaments and overseas Test and friendly matches, the year 2001 can be
considered as a big flop.
And some see it as a bad omen leading to the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup
on Feb 24-Mar 9.
The most humiliating moment for the fans was when Malaysia finished
bottom of the table in the Azlan Shah Cup in August.
Malaysia were so pathetic that the fans just refused to travel to the
stadium and watch them play and although it was a star-studded tournament,
the stands remained empty.
The Azlan Shah Cup failed to draw crowds despite the presence of six of
the top seven teams in the world.
No one will argue about the quality of performance by the teams, except
for Malaysia, with big names like Sohail Abbas and Oliver Domke. Still,
hockey fans in the country preferred to stay away.
Except for the first weekend which featured the Malaysia-India and
India- Pakistan matches, the other fixtures, including the exciting final
involving Germany and South Korea, received lukewarm response.
At the recent Champions Challenge, it was the same story. Malaysia
started well by winning three matches against Japan, Belgium and India,
but lost their remaining matches against Argentina, twice, and South
Africa to finish fourth.
The fans, numbering around 200, except for the Malaysia-India match
where around 5,000 turned up, stayed away from the National Hockey Stadium
in Bukit Jalil again even though good hockey was played in the Challenge
and the tickets were only priced at RM3 and RM5.
Money does not matter when the team is doing well, but the fans have
been disappointed on so many occassions, that they simply refuse to
support the team and don't be surprised if the stands remain empty even if
the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) decides to open the gates for the
Six-Nation in January involving the likes of Australia, New Zealand,
Pakistan and defending World Cup champions Holland.
Just when everyone thought that the under-18 team, hastily assembled for
the Asian Youth Hockey tournament, sank to an all-time low by losing to
Uzbekistan in the semifinals, the national juniors decided to go one-up by
playing like novices in the Junior World Cup in Hobart, Tasmania in
Our future was on display at both the Asian Youth and the Junior World
Cup, and while not many expected them to do well in both the tournaments,
a bigger number did not expect them to land flat on their faces - on both
In the under-18 Asian Youth tournament, Uzbekistan with no previous
experience playing on artificial turf, beat favourites South Korea and
held Bangladesh to a draw in their run to the final.
The squad, which is made up entirely of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Sports College students from the State of Andijon, came into the
tournament with zero expectations, and only one set of jerseys, but went
home feeling like champions.
The team is more accustomed to playing on an 18-year-old bumpy and
grassless pitch at their college but hit the ground running when unleashed
at the Azlan Shah Stadium's astroturf pitch in Ipoh.
Uzbekistan humiliated Malaysia in the semis when they won 4-2 on
penalties as the match was tied 2-2 after regulation time.
It does not matter thet Uzbekistan were hammered by India in the final,
they still celebrated like champions, and they deserve heavy praise for
putting up a spirited display while Malaysia, pampered with state-of-the-
art training facilities at their doorstep, had to bury their faces in the
sand like an ostrich.
In the Junior World Cup, yet again the future of hockey in Malaysia took
a severe beating when they finished 12th in the 16 team tournament.
Ireland, Scotland, Chile and Canada were the teams which finished below
Malaysia in the Junior World Cup while the Indian juniors notched another
milestone in their comeback into mainstream hockey by clinching the gold.
So, undoubtedly, Malaysia were the whipping boys in the year 2001 and,
many feel, that if they were not the hosts of the 2002 World Cup, Malaysia
would not have qualified for the prestigious tournament.
But all is not lost yet, they have shown that they can win three matches
in a row in the Champions Challenge, and must now show the world in
February that they are not destined to be the whipping boys in hockey for
the next 10 years because the rest of the world's juniors are miles ahead.
India's juniors, for one, had a good year because they won the under-18
Asian Cup, the Junior World Cup and ended the year by being promoted into
the elite Champions Trophy.
On Jan 18, when the Six-Nation begins, we can only keep our fingers
crossed and hope that Malaysia will make a resounding comeback.
If not, the World Cup will be another feather in Malaysia's
organisational capabilities, while the Sea Games gold will become their
performance yardstick.

MHF expects ticket sales to pick up soon


THE countdown to the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup reads 62 days, but local
ticket sales have been anything but encouraging.
There has been numerous enquiries from the local fans but hardly any
made bookings to watch 16 of the world's best battle for the coveted
"Yes, ticket sales has been very slow but we expect sales to pick up
after the festival season ends. The World Cup came back to Malaysia after
27 years and I am sure hockey fans in the country will not want to miss
out on this golden opportunity to watch top grade hockey at their own
backyard," said Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary S. Satgunam
Axcess tickets, the company entrusted to sell the World Cup tickets,
were unwilling to disclose the total sales conducted after two months, but
a source in the company said the situation was bad.
"I fail to understand why the Malaysian public is still holding back
although the World Cup is only two months away.
"Normally, an event of this magnitute would have been almost sold out by
now," said the source.
He said the overseas bookings have been good with Holland and Hong Kong
making group enquiries.
"We have had more enquiries from overseas fans than Malaysians
eventhough we gave a 40 per cent discount on bookings for local fans
untill the end of December," he said.
Seven days more and the offer will no longer be valid, but still, it
looks like the Malaysian public is adopting a wait-and-see atitude before
making a commitment.
The cheapest ticket to watch one match in the KL World Cup is RM25
(behind both the goalposts) but for a family of four, it will mean RM100
to watch one match.
But the poor response to watch hockey is nothing new as even during the
Azlan Shah Cup in August, where six of the top seven teams in the world
were down in Malaysia, the stands of the National Hockey Stadium were
empty for most of the matches, including the exciting final between
Germany and South Korea.
The ticket prices for the Champions Challenge on Dec 7-15 at the
National Hockey Stadium in Kuala Lumpur were set at RM3 and RM5 to draw in
the crowd, but only a handful of fans saw most of the preliminary matches
and the final between India and South Africa saw only about 5,000 fans.
The MHF failed to make any money out of gate collections for the
Challenge so they are hiking the ticket prices for the Six-Nation on Jan
18-26 at the National Hockey Stadium to RM5 and RM10.
Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan and World Cup
champions Holland will play in the Six-Nation to warm-up for the World Cup
and forking out RM5 to watch the top teams play is not too much to ask
from the local fans.
But if they still choose to keep away from the stadium during the Six-
Nation, the prospect of having capacity crowds during the World Cup is
surely a doomed one.

Nadri sets Megalanes on fire


MOHAMED Nadri of Selangor was yesterday crowned as the Boys' Open champion
in the Grand Finals of the SportExcel-Milo-NSC Junior bowling at the
Megalanes in Sunway Pyramid.
Nadri challenged round robbin leader Aaron Kong of Penang and walked
away with the crown after rolling down 258 pins in the step ladder sudden
In the Girl's Open, Denise Hee of Penang upset round robbin leader Voon
Kim Ling, also of Penang, when she knocked down 196 pins in sudden-death.
Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) secretary Sidney Tung said he
is quite happy with the performance of the juniors.
"We had tremendous response in the six legs leading into the Grand
Finals and we actually had to turn away some young bowlers because they
were not up to the mark.
"We started the SportExcel circuit in 1994 and it has been steadily
growing in number and quality over the years. At some of the legs, there
were about 270 bowlers and their standard was very encouraging," said
To overcome the problem of overcrowding, MTBC will hold a qualifying
round next year to trim down the number of bowlers.
"Since the response has been overwhelming, we might have to hold an
elimination round before the actual tournament next year to make things
logistically more realistic because some of the bowling centres in the
country cannot accommodate too large a number," said Tung.
And to make sure the winners of the Grand Finals keep themselves active
in bowling, SportExcel will hand out personal grants.
"We have been supporting bowling over the years and their circuit has
shown tremendous success because all the present national bowlers had
grown up with SportExcel.
"Nadri, the winner of the Boys Open, can expect our support to make him
a better bowler in the future," said SportExcel executive director Teng
Mui Ngee after the prize presentation ceremony.
Nadri, 16, will take one step at a time and his next target is to make
the Selangor Malaysia Games squad.
"I still have a long way to go before I can dream of making the national
squad. My next target is the Malaysia Games gold," said Nadri.
Nadri, who won the Penang, Selangor and Johor legs of the SportExcel
circuit, might also be enrolled into a special MTBC-National Sports
Council project.
"We do not wan't to lose budding talent like Nadri, so we will propose
to the NSC to have an elite junior squad for bowlers like him. The elite
squad will be a feeder for the national juniors and in that way, we will
always have a steady stream of young bolwers for the future," said Tung.
RESULTS - Boys' Open Round Robbin: 1 Aaron Kong (Pg) 4,252 pinfalls, 2
Hafizul Hafiz (PK) 4,158, 3 Poh Yee Min (Pg) 4,117, 4 Mohamed Nadri (Sel)
Step Ladder Grand Finals Champion: Mohamed Nadri bt Aaron Kong (258-
Graded Round Robbin: 1 Hazri Hazali (KL) 3,923, 2 Mohamed Khairul (Kel)
3,860, 3 Mohamed Hafiz (Ked) 3,844, 4 Johan Jamaluddin (Sel) 3,840.
Step Ladder Grand Champion: Hazri Hazali bt Johan Jamaluddin (194-140).
Girls' Open Round Robbin: 1 Voon Kim Ling (Pg) 3,985, 2 Zandra Aziela
(Sel) 3,888, 3 Denise Hee (Pg) 3,874, 4 Esther Cheah (Sel) 3,784.
Step Ladder Grand Champion: Denise Hee bt Voon Kim Ling (196-160).
Graded Round Robbin: 1 Sharon Koh (Sel) 3,768, 2 Tay Li Neo (KL) 3,576,
3 Vivien Kelly (Sab) 3,557, 4 Farah Asilah (Joh) 3,555.
Step Ladder Grand Champion: Sharon Koh bt Farah Asilah (188-182).

Kong streaks ahead for early lead


AARON Kong of Penang rolled a total of 2,625 pinfalls in first round of
the SportExcel-NSC-Milo 2001 Grand Prix Finals to become the early
favourite for Boys Open title at the Megalanes in Sunway Pyramid
Aaron, who won the graded title last year, was surprised with the way he
played yesterday as he did not do too well in the earlier six legs leading
into the Grand Finals.
"It is amazing at the way I rolled today (yesterday) because I never
expected to be at the top going into the round robin tomorrow (today). But
it is too early to celebrate because I have to perform better if I want to
stand at the top of the podium," said the Penang lad.
The best finish for Aaron was in the Penang leg early this year where he
finished second.
"My target is to do well enough in the SportExcel circuit that national
selectors will notice me and I will be able to fulfill my dream of donning
national colours," said the 16-year-old Aaron.
Another surprise package of the day was Voon Kim Ling, 16, also of
Voon rolled a total of 2,299 pins to top the Girls Open category.
"I never did well in the six legs leading into the Grand Finals. My best
finish was second in the Pahang leg, but now that I am at the top after
the first round, anything is possible tomorrow (today)," said Voon.
The top eight finishes from round one will battle for the Grand Finals
title today and by the look of things, Aaron and Voon, who led the first
round field by more than 200 pins, should be able to make it to the top of
the podium if they keep their composure.
BOYS' OPEN - Round One: 1 Aaron Kong (pg) 2,625 pins, 2 Poh Yee Min (Pg)
2,377, 3 Mohamed Noer Said (sab) 2,367, 4 Mohamed Nadri (sel) 2,366, 5
Karry Chang (Sar) 2,354, 6 Jackie Ting (Sar) 2,353, 7 Hafizul Hafiz (Pk)
2,345, 8 Adrian Ang (Pg) 2,327.
Graded - Round One: 1 Melvin Lai (Sel) 2,375, 2 Mohamed Hazri Hazali
(KL) 2,317, 3 Johan Jamaluddin (Sel) 2,300, 4 Mohamed Khairul (Kel) 2,288,
5 Mohamed Hafiz (Ked) 2,284, 6 Mohamed Zaim Said (Sab) 2,200, 7 Steven Yam
(Pg) 2,156, 8 Poon Cha Ling (Sar) 2,125.
GIRLS' OPEN - Round One: 1 Voon Kim Ling (Pg) 2,405, 2 Denise Hee (Pg)
2,299, 3 Esther Cheah (Sel) 2,284, 4 Zandra Aziela (Sel) 2,282, 5 Lim
Jiachyi (Sel) 2,238, 6 Lee Sze Hui (Pah) 2,188, 7 Elaine Lam (Pk) 2,177, 8
Saw Bee Bee (Pg) 2,144.
Graded - Round One: 1 Sharon Koh (Sel) 2,246, 2 Farah Asilah (Joh)
2,160, 3 Yap Pui Yee (KL) 2,110, 4 Ziran Nadiah (Sel) 2,100, 5 Vivean Kely
(Sab) 2,097, 6 Tay Li Neo (KL) 2,091, 7 Lim Wai Jun (Bandar Penawar Sports
School) 2,076, 8 Lye Siew Lih (Mal) 2,057.

SportExcel get ringgit boost from PanGlobal


PANGLOBAL Insurance yesterday became the latest Charter Members of
SportExcel with a three-year pledge of RM45,000 and also sponsor the Grand
Finals of the SportExcel Junior golf on Dec 27-28 at Kelab Golf Negara
PanGlobal Insurance CEO Edwin Wong said they decided to become a charter
member after reading SportExcel's plight in TimeSport.
"We share a common goal with SportExcel, that is nurturing world class
sportsmen for Malaysia. So when we read about SportExcel's difficulty in
securing Charter Members, we came in wholeheartedly," said Wong.
PanGlobal Insurance (PGIB) are no strangers to sport and they have
sponsored Malaysia's first Formula One driver Alex Yoong to realise his
"PGIB has until now, been extensively involved in extreme sports, in
particular motor sports and were the official sponsors of the Arrows F1
team during the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999.
"But our latest involvement with SportExcel signals our entry into the
sponsorship of mainstream sport and we aim to make a lasting impression,"
said Wong.
SportExcel chairman Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar was received a
mock cheque of RM45,000 from PlanGlobal at a simple ceremony at the Royal
Selangor Club in Bukit Kiara yesterday.
"I am very happy that PanGlobal has decided to become a Charter Member
of SportExcel and they have given us a bonus by sponsoring the Grand
Finals of the golf circuit at the end of the month.
"The junior golf circuit was a pioneering effort by SportExcel and when
we initiated it 10 years ago, it was with a dream of providing junior
players from all over the country with an organised platform to polish
their skills through a sustained period of competition," said Tunku Imran.
The members of the Malaysian team which recently won the Sea Games gold
were all SportExcel graduates.
"Our under-15 golf representatives have also made the nation proud by
winning the Hong Kong Junior Open titles for the past five consecutive
"Ben Leong, who won an Amateur Open at the age of 13, and will be
pursuing his golfing career at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in
Florida next year is also a fine example of SportExcel's success at the
junior level," said Tunku Imran.
Eighty-one juniors, ranging from eight to 18, will play in the Grand
Finals after making an impression in the five legs of the tournament over
the year.
In the Boys' Under-18 category, champion Khor Kheng Hwai will find it
tough to defednd his crown as he is expected to be keenly challenged by
Leong and Kemarol Baharin Huda who have been playing well in the five legs
leading into the Grand Finals.

Japan latest entry for Six Nations tournament


THE Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) have accepted Japan's request to play
in the Six-Nation on Jan 18-26 at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit
Earlier, the MHF had planned to make it into a Five-Nation when India
decided not to field a side in the tournament as it was too close to the
2002 World Cup on Feb 24-March 9.
"Japan wrote to us (MHF) and requested that they be included in the Six-
Nation because they need more practice matches to get ready for the World
Cup. We have included them in the fixtures and taken out India who
declined our invitation," said MHF secretary S. Satgunam yesterday.
India coach Cedric D'souza, when met at the recent Champions Challenge
in Kuala Lumpur, said: "The Six-Nation is too close to the World Cup and I
fear that my players might get injured or get too exhausted and will not
be able to perform well in the World Cup. That is why we have declined
MHF's invitation and will intead play a few Test matches to get ready for
the World Cup."
India won the Champions Challenge and will now play in the Champions
Trophy next year in Cologne, Germany.
For the Six-Nation, Malaysia open their campaign against Japan on Jan 18
and it is expected to be a tough encounter because the last time the two
teams met in the Champions Challenge, Malaysia edge them 1-0.
Japan had a bad start in the Challenge but recovered towards the end of
their fixtures by scoring a total of 11 goals against Belgium in two
Malaysia's preparations towards the World Cup begins with the Four-
Nation tournament in Spain on Jan 3-5 and then play hosts to the Six-
Nation at Bukit Jalil on Jan 18.
The teams for the Six-Nation are defending World Cup champions Holland,
Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Pakistan.
Tickets are priced at RM5 and RM10.
All the Six-Nation teams will also feature in the World Cup, and since
Malaysia will be opening their World Cup campaign against Australia, the
tournament is seen as a preview of what Malaysia are capable of when they
become hosts in February.
Six-Nation fixtures - Jan 18: Australia v New Zealand (4.05pm), Japan v
Malaysia (6.05), Pakistan v Holland (8.05).
Jan 19: New Zealand v Holland (6.05), Japan v Australia (8.05).
Jan 20: Malaysia v Pakistan (6.05).
Jan 21: Pakistan v Japan (4.05), New Zealand v Malaysia (6.05), Holland
v Australia (8.05).
Jan 22: Japan v Holland (6.05).
Jan 23: Australia v Malaysia (6.05), Pakistan v New Zealand (8.05).
Jan 24: Holland v Malaysia (4.05), New Zealand v Japan (6.05), Australia
v Pakistan (8.05).
Jan 25: REST DAY.
Jan 26: 5th-6th classification (4.05), 3rd-4th classification (5.35),
Final (8.05).

Roadshow planned for World Cup trophy


THE World Cup trophy will be down in Malaysia on Jan 15 and the Malaysian
Hockey Federation (MHF) have drawn up an elobrate roadshow to whip up
public support for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
"Holland, the defending champions, will hand over the trophy in the
middle of January and the MHF have plans to go on a roadshow so that the
public will be able to view it at close range," said MHF secretary S.
The magnificent World Cup trophy was donated by Pakistan who were
supposed to be the first hosts in 1971 but due to security concerns, the
venue was shifted to Barcelona and the World Cup was held from Oct 15-24.
Pakistan, however, emerged the first winners of the World Cup with Spain
second and India third.
The World Cup has a rich history and tradition and in the 10th edition
in Kuala Lumpur in February, 16 countries will battle for 14 days to
decide who is the worthy winner.
Designed by Bashir Moojid of Pakistan, originally, the World Cup design
was conceived as a single piece in the form of a hockey stick to be
fabricated in gold and silver.
But later, based on the theme given by Lt General K.M. Azhar Khan, then
President of Pakistan Hockey Federation, coupled with the genius of the
designer and the skills of artisans serving in the Corps of Electrical and
Mechanical Engineers of the Pakistan Army, the trophy took the beautiful
shape that can be seen now.
The gold and silver World Cup trophy stands on a 120.85mm high blade
base inlaid with ivory. It comprises a silver cup carrying an intricate
floral design surmounted by a globe in silver and gold depicting the
world. On top of it is a ball and hockey stick.
The trophy, when mounted on its ivory base, stands 650mm high and weighs
11,560 grammes.
Materials used in making the trophy include 895g of gold, 6,815g of
silver, 350g of ivory and 3,500g of teak wood.
In the '73 World Cup in Amsterdam, experts valued the trophy at
The last time the trophy was in Malaysia was in 1975 and India were the
Twenty-seven years later, it is back in Kuala Lumpur, and should be on
the `must see' list of ardent hockey fans in the country.

Doors re-open on indoor meet


THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) has a packed calendar for next year,
but they did not forget to include an indoor hockey tournament for
grassroots development.
The idea was mooted by chief coach Paul Lissek while he was in Hobart
for the Junior World Cup in October after he spoke to FIH president Els
van Breda Vriesman.
"We have added an indoor carnival into next year's calendar so that
Malaysia will be able to play in the first indoor championship organised
by the FIH in Germany in 2003," said MHF secretary S. Satgunam yesterday.
Els had said that to be eligible for the 2003 indoor championship, a
country must have an active indoor league or at least organise one indoor
Back in the 80s, there was an active indoor league where a number of
clubs used to take part over the weekends at the Stadium Negara. But it
died off after Stadium Negara became too difficult to book.
"Now that Stadium Negara is no longer on the list to be demolished, we
will utilise it over a weekend in September for the indoor tournament,"
said Satgunam.
About 10 clubs are likely to take part in the tournament to be played on
a carnival basis.
"But we would also like to include schools into the tournament so that
they will be more familiar with the rules and regulations of indoor
hockey. The MHF Standing Committee will have a discussion with Lissek on
the matter and it is highly likely that schools will play a major part in
the tournament," said Satgunam.
Lissek has always believed that indoor hockey is the only way to teach
schoolchildren the basics in hockey.
"I believe we need to have an active indoor league so that more people
will be able to play hockey on a carnival basis to make the sport more
popular in Malaysia.
"I feel that indoor hockey should also be taught in schools because it
will increase the base of skillful hockey players in the country and the
selection for national duty will also be more challenging," said Lissek
MHF has also slated the Malaysia Hockey League before the Asian Games in
September to be followed by the Junior League.
"Although the main priority is the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, we will
still continue with the senior and Junior Leagues so that the players will
be kept busy with hockey the whole year around," said Satgunam.
For indoor hockey, a team will need at least 12 players although only
six players can play at a time. Running substitution is allowed and teams
can make use of all 12 players as many times as they want in the 20
minutes of play in each half.
There might be an initial problem with finding enough clubs to take part
in the tournament but Satgunam is optimistic that it will grow.
"We have to start somewhere, and right now our target is at least 10
clubsides. But I believe we will have a good response once we send out the
invitations and then we can make it a regular tournament in the MHF
calendar," said Satgunam.

Malaysia on `kamikaze' mission


MALAYSIA'S preparation for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup looks like a
`kamikaze' mission but in truth the team needs all the international
exposure they can get.
The Malaysians kick off their busy schedule with the Four-Nation
tournament in Spain on Jan 3-5 and this is then followed by the Six-Nation
in Kuala Lumpur which starts on Jan 19.
England, Poland, Malaysia and hosts Spain make up the teams playing in
the Four-Nation while the Six-Nation has an impressive lineup of
Australia, India, Holland, New Zealand, Pakistan and hosts Malaysia.
With the World Cup scheduled for Feb 24-March 9, one would think that
the close proximity of the two tournaments, not to mention flying halfway
across the world and back again, can be deemed "sheer madness" as this
could cause the players to burn out before the World Cup.
But national chief coach Paul Lissek thinks otherwise.
"We need more top level matches before the World Cup begins in February
because right now, they are still weak in certain departments. The Four-
Nation and the Six-Nation will do more good than harm," said Lissek.
All the teams playing in the two tournaments have qualified for the
World Cup and it will be interesting to see how Malaysia fare, especially
Australia in the Six-Nation as the Malaysians open the World Cup
tournament with a match against the Aussies.
Only India have shown some reluctance to play in the Six-Nation.
"India have indicated that they might not field a team for the Six-
Nation because they feel it is too close to the World Cup but we are still
working on it with the Indian Hockey Federation," said Malaysia Hockey
Federation secretary S. Satgunam yesterday.
It is learnt that India want to field their second team for the Six-
Nation but the MHF insists they field their full side. If this problem can
be solved over the next two weeks, Malaysia will get another chance to
test their skills against the Champions Challenge winners.
The matches against Holland (World Cup champions), Pakistan and New
Zealand will do the Malaysians a world of good as they still lack
confidence but there still is the worry of burn out.
For the Four-Nation in Spain, the MHF have selected the same team that
played in the Champions Chalenge with the exception of Shaiful Azli who
was dropped. He is replaced by Junior World Cup player Mohamed Amin Rahim.
The team, after a two-week break for the festival season, will leave for
Spain on Dec 31.Their first match is against the hosts on Jan 3. They take
on England the following day and Poland the day after.
Squad for the Four-Nation: Roslan Jamaluddin (gk), Nasihin Nubli (gk),
Maninderjit Singh, Chua Boon Huat, K. Gobinathan, S. Kuhan, Nor Azlan
Bakar, Chairil Anwar, Jiwa Mohan, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, Tajol Rosli,
Mohamed Rodhanizam Radzi, K. Keevan Raj, Mirnawan Nawawi, K. Logan Raj,
Azlan Misron, S. Shanker, Mohamed Amin Rahim.

There's still hope, Malaysia


THE signs are, if the Champions Challenge is taken as a preview, ominous
for Malaysia going into the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on Feb 24 to March
By now, even the staunchest of fans will agree that a top-six finish is
not possible for Malaysia but the question now, after the team's exploits
in the Champions Challenge, is how low will they finish in the 16-team
The Malaysia Hockey Federation will, privately off course, be happy if
the team finish anywhere between seventh and 12th place but if the
performance of the other five teams in the Champions Challenge is any
indication, then the national team are definitely in trouble.
All six of the Challenge teams will play in the World Cup with
Argentina, Belgium and South Africa in Group A and India, Japan and
Malaysia in Group B.
But it would be unfair, even unkind, if all doors are shut on a team who
did show glimpses of their potential in the Champions Challenge.
Before the Champions Challenge started, not many had faith in the team
to do well but after scoring wins over Japan, Belgium and eventual
champions India, people started to take notice.
But the tempo, largely due to inexperience in the squad, changed after
that as pressure got to the team.
Many will feel that it is inexcusable that Malaysia, despite needing
only one point to make the final, failed as they fell to Argentina and
South Africa but there is hope if the squad learn from their Champions
Challenge experience.
That they eventually finished fourth is not the problem but the fact
that history was allowed to repeat itself is a problem Paul Lissek and his
men have to rectify before the World Cup.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Malaysia held Holland to a 0-0 draw and
they threw away three points when they conceded a late equaliser to
Pakistan for a 2-2 draw.
Holland went on to win the gold, Pakistan finished fourth while Malaysia
slid to 11th after a good start.
And in the Challenge, Malaysia were the only ones to beat eventual
champions India 2-1 but still finished fourth.
What does it say about our team?
The clear signal is that Malaysia are very poor at handling pressure, and
the team management need to arrest that fast if they want to see any
results in the World Cup.
Overall, the team has mastered the basics and even though there were
times when they forgot how to play hockey, they have what it takes to
challenge the rest in the World Cup.
But that is only if the players want it bad enough.
"It is a pity that the boys were not exposed to the basics at a very
young age. Now, all I can do is hammer, hammer and hammer the basics into
their heads. But when they are down, they easily forget what I have taught
them because the basics of hockey is not naturally ingrown but forced in.
"I have two more months to work on this team and by the time I am
finished with them, they will be in a better shape than now," said chief
coach Lissek.
This is something the players, given a two-week break, must ponder on
even as they celebrate the festivities prior to leaving on Dec 30 for a
four-nation tournament in Spain.
The early promise showed in the Champions Challenge indicates that
Malaysia can, again if they want it badly, do well in the World Cup and
this is something only the players can do.
A very thin line separates the best from the rest, and it is up to the
national players to decide which side of the line they want to be on.

Lombi breaks our hearts


MALAYSIA ................. 2
Chairil Anwar (44th), Madzli Ikmar (51st)
ARGENTINA ................. 4
Jorge Lombi (5th, 25th, 28th, 59th)
MALAYSIA paid dearly for taking too long to warm up in the 3rd-4th placing
match of the Champions Challenge at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit
Jalil yesterday.
The hosts took it easy in the first half, understandably, as the match
started at 5.30pm and 10 players in the squad had yet to break their fast.
Nevertheless, they came back strongly in the second half only to be denied
by poor finishing in the last 10 minutes of play.
Jorge Lombi, for one, simply loves playing against the Malaysians as in
three encounters he has scored 10 goals. In the Osaka Olympic qualifiers,
Lombi scored all four goals in their 4-4 tie and in the classification
match, got another two goals.
Yesterday at Bukit Jalil, the Argentine brought the Malaysians to their
knees with four goals.
From the moment that Chairil Anwar failed to connect a cross from the
left in the semicircle, it was evident that Malaysia were going to face a
torrid time against Argentina in the fight for third placing.
It was, again, poor finishing which led to a miserable game in the
Argentine semicircle and even though Argentina rested their first choice
goalkeeper, Pablo Moreira and fielded Juan Manuel Vivaldi, the goalkeeper
was hardly tested in the entire first half.
And in the fifth minute, Lombi, better known for scoring penalty corner
goals, scored a field goal after finding himself all alone facing Roslan
Jamaluddin after weaving his way past several defenders.
In the last match against Argentina, where malaysia lost 2-1, Lombi
scored both the goals and yesterday, it looked like he was going to have a
gala time, not being marked at all.
The defenders, Maninderjit Singh and Nor Azlan Bakar, were not focused
on the task at hand and in the 25th minute, Lombi again got his name on
the scoreboard with another field goal.
In the 28th minute, Malaysia found themselves in deper trouble as Nor
Azlan Bakar was sent to the sin bin for a rough tackle in the semicircle.
Two minutes later, Argentina increased the pressure and off a penalty
corner attempt they won a penalty sroke when Maninderjit Singh was deemed
to have stopped the ball with his feet.
Lombi stepped up and beat Roslan Jamaluddin for his hat-trick in the
30th minute.
In the second half, there was some shape to the Malaysian attack and the
team did look more dangerous than in the first 35 minutes. There was some
urgency in their attack and in the 44th minute they managed to break the
S. Kuhan made the only intelligent pass of the match and Chairil Anwar
connected for a face-saving goal.
Three minutes later, in their haste to score more goals, K. Logan Raj
was flashed with the yellow card and Malaysia were again playing with 10
But the fire was still in them and in the 51st minute, they won a
penalty corner and Maninderjit Singh's thundering shot was deflected into
goal by Madzli Ikmar.
But it became harder for Malaysia to get back into the match when in the
59th minute, Lombi deflected in his fourth goal of the match.
Credit is due to the entire team for their undying efforts, but still,
winning is what counts and Argentina finished third in the Champions
Challenge even though they were just a mediocre side yesterday.

Win big battles to win the war


AS strange as it may sound, the Champions Challenge was the best thing
that has ever happened to the Malaysian team who are preparing for the
2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on Feb 24 to March 9.
For, now they know where they stand among the bottom half of the teams
that will be playing in the World Cup.
No, they are not a useless side, and their fate in the World Cup has not
yet been fossilised.
This team has shown the will, the hunger, and the physical resilience.
But come February, their destiny will be shaped by either their ability
or inability to win crucial matches.
In the Champions Challenge, that didn't happen. After taking the first
three matches, they needed only a single point in their remaining two
matches to make the final.
But neither Argentina, nor South Africa - as territorially dominated as
they were for most part of the matches - were not about to either be
magnanimous or be outplayed.
South Africa needed a win to make the final. Like Malaysia they had the
will, the hunger, and the physical resilience too. But the Africans had
one more element that clinched it - the ability to win.
And that in the final analysis will decide whether you are up there in
the podium holding the trophy, or in the multitude of spectators cheering
the winners.
And it's not that they cannot win matches. They have mastered the
basics, even consolidated their fitness, but they need the stage presence.
The composure when defenders are not compromising, and the sharpness when
they are presented with half chances in tight situations.
Today, when they meet Argentina, for the second time in the Challenge,
in the third-fourth placing match, their appetite for success and mental
strength will once again come under careful scrutiny.
So against Argentina today, we will know if the team has what it takes
to handle the pressure and fight back when wounded and cornered.
"After winning three matches in a row and needing only a draw in the
next two matches to reach the final of the Champions Challenge, it was
definitely a sad moment when the team was relegated to the third-fourth
placing match tomorrow (today).
"But I am not angry with my men because they have shown that they can
score as well as defend. Now we know our weaknesses which can be overcome
before the World Cup next year," said Paul Lissek.
Against Argentina on Wednesday where Malaysia lost 2-1, even the
Argentinians felt that they only won because luck was on their side.
Malaysia did everyting right but after S. Kuhan missed the penalty stroke,
every attempt by Malaysia was either stopped on the line or the goalposts
were in the way.
Against South Africa on Thursday, it was the same story again but
Malaysia deserve credit because they never gave up fight until the final
whistle was blown.
And instead of celebrating wildly, the South African players dropped to
their knees to thank their good fortune.
Argentina, who came into the tournamant as the favourites after topping
the World Cup Qualifiers in Edinburgh, also found themselves on the wrong
side because they looked overconfident and underestimated India.
Today, both Argentina and Malaysia who had one foot in the final but had
the door rudely slammed on them, will be out to salvage some pride and an
explosive encounter is assured.
But even before the match starts today at 5.30pm, 10 Malaysian players
will be handicapped because they will still be fasting and the afternoon
sun could cause havoc in the form of dehydration.
But nobody will be surprised if they come back strongly against
Argentina today, because all those who have watched them play in the
Champions Challenge, know that this is the most committed team that
Malaysia have produced in a long time.
The only thing they need to do is to start winning when it matters.

It's the same old story


MALAYSIA gave everything they had in the final 10 minutes of the match but
South Africa defended well and will meet India in the final of the
Champions Challenge at the national hockey stadium in Bukit Jalil on
Malaysia had everything going their way but an arrogant and foolish move
by Chua Boon Huat in the 38th minute saw him being sent to the sin bin and
it was all over from that moment onwards.
In the other match of the day, India beat Argentina 2-1 and it looks
like it is going to be a tough final for them as well because in the
classification matches, India and South Africa drew 2-2.
Malaysia started aggressively in the first five minutes but poor
finishing denied them an early lead although they controlled the match
with superb passing from left to right.
And in the third minute itself, they won their first penalty corner when
Mirnawan Nawawi was tripped after receiving a through ball from Chua. But
S.Kuhan's powerful flick was well saved by South African goalkeeper Chris
South Africa executed a deadly counter-attack after the restart and won
a penalty corner a minute later but Roslan Jamaluddin was in his element
and made a diving save which pleased the crowd at the National Hockey
That was the start of South Africa's wave of attacks but Roslan stood
his ground and pulled off three stunning saves when South Africa were
awarded three consecutive penalty corners in the 10th minute.
But after that, Malaysia took charge again and so confident were they
that in a free hit in the 13th minute, Maninderjit Singh pushed the ball
from the top of the semicircle to Nor Azlan Bakar who was standing on the
goalline with Roslan. But South Africa could not capitalise on the
situation because other than Mike Cullen, they lacked speedy forwards.
S.Kuhan was never in the match and it looked like he never recovered
from the penalty stroke which he missed against Argentina on Wednesday. He
was substituted with K. Gobinathan for about 10 minutes but when he came
in he was still too shaky and that was the reason why the midfield did not
work well in the first half.
The only good attack from Malaysia was in the 28th minute when Chua who
had a great game, made a cross which sliced past a multitude of South
African players but at the end of the line, Tajol Rosli and Chairil Anwar
failed to convert it as well.
In the second half, Chua made the silliest of mistakes by pushing away a
South African defender's stick during a free hit and umpire Jason
Mccracken hauled him up and sent him to the sin bin in the 38th minute.
Chua's folly was South Africa's gain as they started attacking with more
And in the 42nd minute, South Africa made a superb penalty corner dummy
and Cullen's powerful reverse stick shot went crashing into the back of
the goalmouth and edged them closer to the Champions Challenge final.
Chua was still sitting comfortable in the sin bin while his teammates
were being punished by a disciplined South African side.
Malaysia played with vengence and were attacking non stop in the 50th
minute but South African goalkeeper Chris Hibbert stopped all goalbound
In the 57th minute, a hard earned penalty corner was again stopped by
Hibbert but Malaysia never let up the pressure and played their best ever
attacking game in the Challenge but were still a goal down.
In the 59th minute, Marvin Bam was shown the yellow card and if Malaysia
want to salvage the match, it was then or never.
In the 63rd minute, Malaysia again won a penalty corner but the night
looked like it belonged to goalkeeper Hibbert. A minute later another
penalty corner was awarded and again Hibbert got the tip of his stick in
and saved it.
In the last few minutes, Malaysia never allowed South Africa to come out
of their own semicircle but in their desperation to score they missed more
than 15 clear chances and ended up playing for the 3rd-4th placing match
against Argentina on Saturday. RESULTS
Malaysia .................... 0 South Africa .......... 1
Mike Cullen (42nd)
India ....................... 2 Argentina ............. 2
Jugraj Singh (26th) Tomas Mac Cormick (15th)
Gagan Ajit Singh (33rd)
Japan ....................... 6 Belgium ............... 2
Kenichi Katayama (6th) Jean P. Brule (8th, 39th)
Fumihiro Matsui (41st)
Naohiko Tobita (43rd,pen, 61st)
Ryuji Furusato (50th)
Naoya Iwadate (63rd)

Malaysia hand it to the Argentines


IT was a tense night where Malaysia played like tigers but a missed
penalty stroke by S.Kuhan made Malaysia's chances of reaching the final of
the champions challenge that much harder.
Argentina were never in the match but opportunistic field goals by Jorge
Lombi was all they needed to stay in the hunt. Today, Malaysia must not
lose to South Africa while whichever team wins in the Argentina-India
clash will play in the final on Saturday.
Malaysia attacked from the start and took total control of the match
with accurate passing and stops to totally shut out Argentina. The entire
team was full of confidence and fought back ferociously when they lost the
There was an all-out effort to take an early lead and this surprised the
Argentinians because they expected Malaysia to play defensive hockey in
the fist half like they did in the wins against Japan, belgium and India.
Fifteen minutes into the match and still the men in yellow had the
lion's share of possession and attacked with passion which they have never
displayed before and there was never a doubt in the mind of the fans, that
a goal will soon follow.
And in the 19th minute, 10 Malaysian players mounted an attack and K.
gobinathan's piercing pass found K.Logan Raj, who had his back to
goalkeeper Pablo Moreira, and instead of turning, Logan de
flected the ball in for the much needed boost.
Two minutes later, coach Paul Lissek made three running substitutions at
one go because those on the pitch were giving all they had in the early
minutes of the match and were fast tiring right after breaking fast an
hour ago.
Argentina had yet to make any good move and 25 minutes into the match
they rarely went into the Malaysian semi-circle and had no penalty corners
to show so Lombi was just a passenger in the team, weighing them down by
running aimlessly on the pitch.
Malaysia won their first penalty corner in the 33rd minute and tried a
variation which was stopped by Argentinian defenders but the umpire
awarded another penalty corner.
Again, the Argentinian defenders made mistakes and a third penalty
corner was awarded. This time, Maninderjit Singh took a thundering shot
which was stopped by an Argentinian player with his boots.
The umpire blew for a penalty stroke and it was a golden opportunity for
Malaysia to increase the lead. The Malaysian players ran to the sideline
where team manager R.Yogeswaran was standing and Mirnawan Nawawi was the
only one who was walking to the spot to take the flick.
But coach Paul Lissek wanted Kuhan to take the penalty stroke instead.
Kuhan kissed the ball for good luck but his low flick was well saved by
Moreira and Malaysia threw away what normally would have been a sure goal.
Argentina came back into the match in the final minutes of the first
half and won a penalty corner but Lombi's flick was well palmed off by
goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.
Roslan had a sterling second half too when he saved three solid attempts
at goal by Mario Almada.
In the 45th minute, Argentina sneaked in quietly from the left and
Lombi's back stick hit fooled Roslan and Argentina were on level terms.
But the fire was still burning strong in the entire Malaysian team and
they went on the offensive immediately after the restart but a handful of
players missed two across the goalmouth passes from Logan Raj.
Malaysia were down to 10 men in the 53rd minute when K.Keevan Raj
received the yellow card, his second of the tournament but still Malaysia
were in control of the match but poor finishing by Tajol Rosli, and Chua
Boon Huat was the handicap.
One minute from time, Lombi struck form and scored another field goal to
bury Malaysia.
Malaysia ............... 1 Argentina ............ 2
K. Logan Raj (19th) Jorge Lombi (45th, 69th)
India .................. 3 Japan ................ 0
Deepak Thakur (35th, 65th)
Prabhjot Singh (41st)

India start off cold but win nevertheless


INDIA started badly but recovered in the second half to beat Japan in the
Champions Challenge at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil
With the win, India now have seven points and need to beat Argentina
today if they want to play in the final on Saturday.
India started the match on a desperate mode but their wild running and
passing only made matters worse for the team because all Japan had to do
was keep their cool to keep the score score 0-0.
Twenty minutes into the match and India were still running all over the
turf like there was only two minutes of play left in the match. In their
haste, they bungled plenty of wall passes and goals scoring opportunities.
Japan looked deadlier in their well planned counter attacks but as the
horn for the half time blew, umpire Antonio Bustos awarded India their
second penalty corner.
Indian skipper Baljit Singh took a thundering shot but goalkeeper Jun
Takahashi managed to save the shot. Daljit Singh then pounced on the
rebound and Jun again made a save but the ball fell at Deepak Thakur's
Deepak took a shot at goal and his stick clashed with a Japanese
defender's stick and the umpire first blew for another penalty corner but
when the ball sailed over Jun into the back of the goalmouth, umpire
Bustos changed his mind and blew for goal.
To their credit, not a single Japanese player protested the goal but
walked into the changing room to prepare for the second half.
But barely six minutes after the breather Sukhbor Singh lobbed the ball
from the center of the pitch and found Baljit Singh. Baljit beat a few
defenders before passing the ball to Prabhjot Singh who coolly pushed in
India's second goal.
India went all out after that and in the 65th minute Deepak Thakur's
shot was deflected into goal by a Japanese defender and India took a
comfortable 3-0 lead.
India coach Cedric d'Souze felt they could have scored three more goals
against Japan, but missed too many opportunities.
"We started the match wanting three points and scoring as many goals as
possible, we achieved one and the score was not too good because the
tournament is still tightly grouped and goals could play a major role in
the end to decide who makes the final," said Cedric.
When asked about their next match against Argentina: "I will give you a
quote from an Argentinian player whom I met on the bus coming to the
stadium today (yesterday).
"He said, the 5-4 win against India in the World Cup qualifiers was a
one-off thing and it will be hard for Argentina to repeat the feat

Keep the champagne on ice


AFTER three consecutive wins in the Champions Challenge, Malaysia have
every right to be on cloud nine, but leave the champagne bottle in the ice
bucket. At least for now.
For, it's not time to celebrate yet. Not when the task at hand is far
from finished.
Chilling as it may sound to those who believe the team deserves a break
because they have started producing results, there are still the cobwebs
that need to be dusted out, if they harbour any hopes of doing well in the
2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
Without wanting to appear like wine that's gone flat, the reality check
will tell us that the Indian side that was beaten on Monday night was
without five of their key players.
Which, the realists will agree is not exactly an accurate gauge of
Malaysia's true strength.
That aside, there were the alarming signs that would send the shivers
down any fan's spine.
In that match against India the defenders, who have had an excellent
game in the Challenge thus far, over-indugled with square passes across
the semicircle although Dhanaraj Pillay and Baljit Singh were close enough
to count the dots on the hockey ball.
That is definitely bad hockey.
Some call that confidence, while others would have described it as being
simply foolish.
The heart-stopping moment during the match against India was when
defender Madzli Ikmar received a square cross from Nor Azlan Bakar while
he was just a few feet away from the Malaysian goal-line. The speedy
Dhanaraj, almost made Malaysia pay for that folly but Madzli kept his cool
and pushed the ball out.
Coach Paul Lissek has taught them well on how to execute back and square
passes to change the rhythm of play, but at times he too is baffled
because some of the passes made are too close for comfort.
And in the World Cup, mistakes like this will not go unpunished by the
top six teams in the world. And the top six is what the Malaysian Hockey
Federation believe this side can achieve.
The other sore point that the team displayed against India, was their
tendency to lose their cool and question the umpire's decisions. This ugly
side of the team needs to be arrested fast.
They did not raise a single objection while playing against Japan and
Belgium, but against India even Nor Azlan Bakar, who always keeps both his
hands on the stick and his body close to the turf, was seen arguing with
the umpire.
Malaysian skipper Mirnawan Nawawi, instead of telling the players to
shut up and play to the whistle, was at his worst behaviour against India
and received a green card for questioning the umpire consistently.
In the end, the entire team was disorganised for about five minutes
after protesting the penalty stroke awarded and were lucky that India
failed to make it count.
It might appear petty to some, but even the best of teams will vouch
that once the players start questioning the umpire's decision, it becomes
harder for the team to reach the top of the podium.
But overall, the team has more good points than bad and the main reason
why they have started winning matches is because they have mastered the
"It is simply amazing how the team rarely made any mistakes in stopping
the ball, I have been following hockey for a long time and normally the
main problem with Malaysian players was making dead stops and accurate
"But this team has mastered the basics and although it is not a
brilliant side, it was realy heartwarming to see them give their total
commitment to the game," said a veteran hockey fan.
Fitness is another plus sign in this team because in the past, Malaysia
rarely played well in the last 20 minutes of a match because they were not
In the three matches that Malaysia have played in the Challenge, they
came charging at the opponent in the second half because they were
physically fitter. And even though 10 players in the national side only
break their fast one hour before the match, there were no signs to show
that they were dehydrated or lacked the energy to chase for every ball.
Today, Malaysia meet another highly-rated opponent in Argentina, who are
second on the standings with six points, and by the look of things, if
they keep both their hands on the hockey stick instead of having one arm
in the air always ready to protest, winning three more points is not
And now that the team has shown that they can win matches, it is time
the fans showed up in numbers to support them because they will definitely
need their help to beat a stubborn Argentinian side.

Malaysia win again!


MALAYSIA turned on the brilliance in the second half to beat India 2-1 in
a Champions Challenge match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil
With their third straight win, Malaysia have collected nine points and
one leg is almost in the final.
The Malaysians, who started with total ball control and coupled with
beautiful passes from the right to the left, did not allow the Indians to
come into the match for the first 10 minutes.
Malaysia nearly got an early break in the seventh minute when Rodhanizam
Radzi connected a pass from Madzli Ikmar but India's goalkeeper Jude
Menezes was positioned well to palm it away.
A minute later, the hosts won their first penalty corner but looked
nervous even before the push. They bungled the set-piece due to poor
understanding between Chua Boon Huat and Maninderjit Singh.
India were totally shut out and looked like pedestrians as Malaysia
controlled play with some accurate passing in midfield. It looked as if
Malaysia were going to have another solid match.
But in the 14th minute, Madzli Ikmar diced with danger as he ran with
the ball across the Malaysian goalmouth with Dhanaraj Pillay hot on his
heels. It was to his good fortune that he kept his cool and the deadly
Dhanaraj failed to steal the ball.
A minute later, K. Keevan Raj was flashed the yellow card for a tough
tackle on Indian skipper Baljit Singh. Malaysia were down to 10-men and
India took advantage and started attacking in numbers.
The Indians regained their cofidence and in the 22nd minute Jiwa Mohan's
mistake in midfield cost Malaysia dearly.
Jiwa lost the ball while trying to dribble past Prabhjot Singh and the
Indian Junior World Cup player made a dash for goal and after a 1-2 with
Deepak Thakur, beat Malaysian goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.
All hell broke loose after that and the Malaysian defence crumbled but
poor finishing by Dhanaraj and Prabhjot saved Malaysia from falling
further behind.
The rattled Malaysians were losing possession easily after the goal and
India tightened their grip on the match but the first half ended with
Malaysia still having a fighting chance.
In the second half, India pinned Malaysia back for long periods and
there was nothing the hosts could do but defend in numbers.
In the 45th minute, Baljit Singh won a penalty corner for India and the
Malaysians lost their cool and for the first time, after two matches in
the Champions Challenge, they crowded the umpire and protested.
Baljit's push was saved by goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin and in a fast
counter attack, K. Keevan Raj and Rodhanizam Radzi reached the Indian
semicircle but lost the ball easily.
Suddenly there was more urgency in the Malaysians' play and when Indian
skipper Baljit Singh was sent to the sin bin for rough play, the tables
were turned.
In the 50th minute, Maninderjit, who was on the Indian 25-yard line,
slammed a thundering shot which hit the stick of an Indian defender and
deflected to Chua Boon Huat who hammered in the much-needed equaliser.
The goal was the spark and suddenly Malaysia were putting their heart
and soul into the match. The only Indian attack until the 55th minute came
when Deepak Thakur made a solo run and pushed the ball between Roslan's
pads, but it went out.
In the 60th minute, the Deepak-Dhanaraj combination ran circles around
the Malaysian defence and they were rewarded with a penalty stroke.
Jugraj Singh stepped up to take the flick but Roslan did not have much
to do as his low shot hit the post.
Malaysia took control of the match again and a minute later found
themselves with a penalty corner.
Keevan pushed the ball in and S. Kuhan took a shot which deflected off
goalkeeper Menezes. Keevan pounced on the rebound to give Malaysia the
In the last five minutes Daljit and Prabhjot dazzled with some dangerous
1-2 moves which mesmerised the crowd but a confident Roslan stood his
ground much to the relief of the Malaysians.
Malaysia's German coach Paul Lissek and his Indian counterpart Cedric
D'Souza during the press conference agreed that apart from Malaysia,
hockey was also a winner.
"My players had plenty of chances, even a penalty frick, but Malaysia
took theirs well and they deserved to win. In the end, the attacking game
that we witnessed today (yesterday) is what hockey needs to win more
support from the crowd," said Cedric.
Lissek said: "It is always difficult to beat India and to win against
them, one needs an element of luck.
"Malaysia rarely made mistakes during the match and I am happy that the
players had a good understanding of each other today."
Japan ................ 3 South Africa ...... 2
Ryuji Furusato (25th) Mike Cullen (8th)
Takahiko Yamabori (51st) Justin King (43rd)
Naohiko Tobita (58th)
Argentina ............ 3 Belgium ........... 1
Mario Almada (5th, 51st) Fabian Berger (18th)
Santiago Capurro (11th)
Malaysia ............. 2 India ............. 1
Chua Boon Huat (50th) Prabhjot Singh (22nd)
K. Keevan Raj (61st)

Malaysia face big India test


MALAYSIA will know today whether they have a team which is capable of
putting up a strong challenge in the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on Feb
24-March 9.
If they can steal three points, or even snatch one from India at the
National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today, half the battle is won and a
good finish in the World Cup can be expected.
The early indications - after wins over Japan (1-0) and Belgium (2-0) -
are that Malaysia are still wet behind the ears and need more
international exposure after the Champions Challenge.
This being the case, the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF) are working
overtime to ensure the team plays at least 15 more matches before the
World Cup.
Against Japan and The Belgians, Malaysia used the very effective tactic
of shutting out the teams in the first-half and after the break, come out
with all guns blazing to score.
Malaysia's German coach Paul Lissek said his players were nervous in the
first-half in both matches but from the stands, one could see that they
had total control. They were making good passes and holding on to the ball
for long periods.
But against India, it will be different.
The Indians are very skillful and they love to play 70 minutes of
attacking hockey.
India's coach Cedric D'Souza said: "Malaysia always play well at the
National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil because they get good crowd
"But we have been training hard since the World Cup Qualifiers in
Edinburgh in July and are confident of putting up a good show."
India played very well against Belgium whom they beat 1-0 and South
Africa (2-2) but they muffed about 10 goal-scoring chances in each match.
This can be put down to their speedy forwards who love going solo and
rarely make passes when in the semicircle.
Jugraj Singh and skipper Baljit Singh have yet to click in the penalty
corner set-pieces while Junior World Cup skipper Gagan Ajit Singh seems to
have hit a bad patch after a sterling performance in Hobart.
The 2-2 draw against South Africa was an eye opener for India as it
showed that they are vulnerable at the back when the entire team moves up
when on the attack.
Lissek feels his team is capable of playing better hockey.
"I am very happy with the way the team has played so far in the
Challenge but there is still room for improvement. The defence
(Maninderjit Singh, Nor Azlan Bakar and goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin) have
had an excellent tournament so far and have not let in a single goal,"
said Lissek.
"But then, we have always had good defenders but lacked forwards but I
see a change in the format now.
"Rodhanizam Radzi and Tajol Rosli are growing in confidence with each
match and by the time the World Cup begins in February, they would have
matured enough to put up a better fight."
K. Keevan Raj played to form in both matches but brother Logan Raj, at
times looked lost. He rarely got the ball because he was out of position.
Junior World Cup skipper Chua Boon Huat is another who has yet to put
his heart into his play. He is guilty of some schoolboy mistakes.
Jiwa Mohan, who was not on the original list of 16 players for the match
against Belgium, has yet to recover from the humiliation of the Junior
World Cup.
Everytime S. Shanker, an expert at making dangerous backpasses, comes in
during the running substitution, the crowd becomes uneasy.
"I have tried out everyone on the bench because I believe in giving
those who do well a rest after giving their 100 per cent in a match.
"But some of them go in and make mistakes which have already been
pointed out to them during the video sessions," said Lissek.
Against India today, Malaysia cannot afford to make mistake or slacken
because Dhanraj Pillay and company are always ready to pounce like
panthers when in the semicircle.
But if South Africa could hold India to a draw, there is no reason why
Malaysia, with home ground advantage and the crowd behind them, should not
beat them.

Inspiring Malaysia take lead


MALAYSIA beat Belgium 2-0 at the national hockey stadium in Bukit Jalil to
edge closer to the Champions Trophy ticket.
Goals from Chairil Anwar and Rodhanizam Radzi yesterday was enough for
Malaysia to collect six points from two matches and sit pretty at the top
of the table.
Their next opponents are India on Monday and by the look of things, they
have worked out a good strategy of taking control of the first half and
only attacking in the second.
Malaysia, like they did against Japan in the first match, again played
cautiously and were happy to have the lion's share in ball possession
against Belgium. It was a very tactical game where good and accurate
passes from fullbacks Maninderjit Singh and Nor Azlan Bakar saw Malaysia
in total control.
But in midfield, S.Kuhan was not his normal self and that was the reason
why Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Deneumostier was not tested at all in the
first half. On the Malaysian side goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin was not
forced to make a single save in the first half.
Mirnawan was not on the starting-11 and only made his presence felt 10
minutes into the match. But he too, was very cautious and was not The Boss
who everyone knows.
In the 12th minute, Kuhan passed the ball to Rodhanizam who found K.
Logan Raj on the left side of the semicircle. Logan took a powerful back
stick hit which missed by inches.
The best attempt in the fist half was by Tajol Rosli when he deflected
Chua Boon Huat's free hit, from the top of the semicircle. The ball sailed
centimetres above the bar.
The first half ended on a boring note with Malaysia feeling contended
with just having possession, but all that changed as the second half
whistle was blown.
Malaysia came out firing on all cylinders and threw caution to the wind
as they mobbed the Belgium semicircle. And in the 37th minute, Keevan sent
in a ball which looked like it was going to sail past the goalmouth but
Chairil stretched out just enough to deflect the ball in. Umpire
Toschimichi Fujimura from Japan blew for goal but the Belgium players
started crowding him protesting that the ball had actually hit Chairil's
boot before going in.
Toschimichi was adamant and ran to the center and pointed for a restart
as the second umpire, Blaise Monteiro from India, tried to calm the
situation by asking the Belgium players to play the game.
Belgium reluctantly re-started and the match turned robust after that
but Malaysia kept up the pressure and won their first penalty corner of
the match in the 52nd minute. But the ball was not stopped dead and
Belgium were let off the hook.
The forwards, Mirnawan, Chairil, and Logan started playing very well
with eight minutes remaining on the clock, but were unlucky because their
attempts were well saved by Deneumostier.
With ten minutes left on the clock, the Belgium goalmouth was swamped by
a sea of yellow as Malaysia went all out to increase the lead and were a
total contrast to the timid team which played in the first half.
And it worked when Rodhanizam scored a brilliant goal in the 63rd minute
after a solo run by Tajol on the right. Tajol controlled the ball with one
hand while running and passed it to Rodhanizam who made a cross to Logan
but it deflected off a Belgium defender's stick and went into goal.
Coach Paul Lissek was very happy with the six points but feels that
there is still room for improvement.
"We have had a very good start in the Champions Challenge, and as the
records show, we have not conceded a single goal and scored three.
"This is very good for our World Cup preparations because this young
team can only grow in confidence with every match," said Lissek.
The German feels that by the time this tournament is over, there will be
some shape in the team.
"Give them some time to grow, and the results will start coming in."
Malaysia.............. 2 Belgium............ 0
Chairil Anwar (37th)
Rodhanizam Radzi (63rd)
South Africa.......... 2 India.............. 2
Justin King (10th) Jugraj Singh (9th)
Craig Fulton (60th) Deepak Thakur (17th)

India unable to break gritty South Africans


THE match belonged to India but South Africa walked away with one point at
the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
On Friday, India beat Belgium 1-0 while South Africa defeated Argentina
3-2, so India and South Africa both have four points after two matches and
are very much in the running for the Champions Trophy ticket.
India showed their true colours yesterday against South Africa after a
sluggish start against Belgium in their opening match on Friday.
Yesterday, India played as team and created numerous chances in the
first 10 minutes of play itself and were rewarded by the first penalty
corner of the match.
In the ninth minute, Baljit Singh rushed in to flick after a dead stop
but did a dummy and turned right to allow Jugraj Singh to come from behind
and unleash a powerful shot into the net. Jugraj is an up-and-coming
penalty corner flicker as he scored seven penalty corner goals in the
Junior World Cup in Hobart when India won the gold.
South Africa did not crack after the first goal and mounted a counter-
attack right after the re-start to win a penalty corner.
Justin King punished the Indian runners, who were slow coming out of the
goalmouth, with a scoop which caught Indian keeper Jude Menezes lying
stretched out on the artificial turf.
India looked calm and composed after that and in the 11th minute,
Dhanaraj Pillay made a solo run on the left to beat three South Africans
to win another penalty corner.
But this time, Baljit and Jugraj got entangled in a difficult setpiece
and South Africa were let off the hook, but not for long.
India kept up the pressure and in the 16th minute, Deepak Thakur pushed
in a rebound for the lead again.
It all started with a penalty corner in which the ball was not properly
stopped and Jugraj, waiting outside the semicircle, picked up the loose
ball and beat two players before unleashing a powerful shot which South
African goalkeeper Chris Herbert palmed away.
The ball fell at Deepak's feet and the forward made no mistake. In the
first 15 minutes of the second half, India shut South Africa out of the
match completely as Prabhjot Singh and Dhanaraj ran rings around their
opponents but Herbert stood his ground and denied India a bigger lead.
After Arjun Halapa was shown the yellow card in the 55th minute South
Africa looked more confident and started attacking again and won a penalty
stroke because Lazarus Barla stopped the ball with his boots in the
The situation was tensed as Craig Fulton stepped up to take the stroke
and flicked to the right but Jude Menezes pulled of a great save and India
celebrated like they had already won the Champions Challenge title.
But in the 60th minute, Fulton made up for the bungle with a cheeky
deflection off a Mike Cullen pass from the right to bring South Africa
back on level terms with India.

Mechanical Malaysia win


HOSTS Malaysia did not engage in any fancy stuff but still managed to edge
Japan in their opening Champions Challenge match at the National Hockey
Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
With the win, Malaysia picked up three valuable points and remain in
contention for a Champions Trophy ticket which comes with the Challenge
Malaysia played a straightforward game which proved very effective. At
times they were very German-like.
The Malaysians had a major share of possession thanks to the good work
of Maninderjit Singh and Nor Azlan Bakar whose passes from the back were
But the forwards lacked bite and urgency to score. Mirnawan Nawawi
rarely got the ball and Tajol Rosli only showed flashes of brilliance.
Japanese goalkeeper Jun Takahashi was also very uncompromising.
Japan had more glimpses of the Malaysian goal in the first half but
failed to score as they looked very edgy when in the semicircle.
The Malaysians relied heavily on counter-attacks but failed to win any
penalty corners in the first half.
Malaysia started the second half with more urgency and ventured more
into Japanese territory. In the 40th minute Tajol Rosli won the first
penalty corner for Malaysia and Kuhan's flick grazed a Japanese defender's
The umpire awarded a second and this time, K. Keevan Raj pushed in and
Nor Azlan Bakar stopped well for Maninderjit to take a powerful shot at
The ball deflected off the keeper's pads and Keeven, who was still
positioned at the pusher's spot, pounced onto the ball to score with a
The 200-odd crowd at the stadium breathe a sigh of relief when the goal
came and suddenly Malaysia were all over the Japanese. Even fullback
Maninderjit made forays into the Japanese semicircle.
Malaysia were looking hungry for more goals with Mirnawan receiving more
passes than in the first half.
In the 60th minute Tajol supplied a brilliant cross from the left to
find an unmarked Mirnawan but the `Boss' failed to stop it and could only
watch as the ball rolled between his legs.
Coach Paul Lissek substituted Mirnawan a few times to give him some rest
because the striker was playing cautiously in order not to aggravate his
calf injury.
By the 65th minute, Japan could do nothing right and Malaysia came at
them in droves and did not allow them to come out of their semicircle for
long periods. Rodhanizam Radzi had a good second half but failed to score.
In the final five minutes, Malaysia started playing defensively with
more backpasses than forward.
Japan took the opportunity to come out and won two penalty corners but
failed to do any damage.
"I am very happy with the way the team played today (yesterday) but I
still feel that they can do much better," said Lissek. "The Challenge is
the right tournament for this team to grow in confidence.
"The three points are very valuable and now anything is possible. We can
now think of making the final."
Lissek's observation of the other five teams was very frank. He said he
did not see any clear favourites.
"India and Argentina were not very impressive and can be beaten. I hope
the boys will do well against Belgium today too."
Malaysia 1 Japan 0
K. Keevan Raj (40th)
South Africa 3 Argentina 2
Justin King (13th) Jorge Lombi (11th)
Craig Jackson (69th, 70th) Mario Almada (59th)
India 1 Belgium 0
Daljit Singh (47th)

South Africa stun Argentina


UNFANCIED South Africa stunned mighty Argentina 3-2 in the opening match
of the Champions Challenge at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil
Nobody gave them a ghost of a chance before the start of the tournament
but in the end, they walked away with three points as the Argentinians
wondered what went wrong.
The much-hyped Argentinians could do nothing right in the first half of
the match which was controlled by South Africa from the whistle.
Other than Mario Almada, who showed flashes of brilliance in the
semicircle, the rest of the Argentinian players looked tired and rarely
chased after the ball or made any piercing passes.
In the 11th minute, Argentina won their first penalty corner and Jorge
Lombi lived up to his tag as one of the deadliest penalty corner
specialists in the world with a flick which caught South Africa goalkeeper
Chris Hibbert rooted.
The goal failed to spur Argentina and instead, South Africa became
deadlier with their fast counter attacks and won their first penalty
corner in the 13th minute. They bungled the first penalty corner but were
awarded two more consecutive penalty corner and emerged third time lucky.
This time, Mike Cullen made a dummy and the ball reached Justin King who
flicked to the top of the net for the equalizer.
Argentina could do nothing right after the equalizer and goalkeeper and
skipper Pablo Moreira had to bring out the best in him to make some
spectactular saves in the first half.
The second half also belonged to South Africa as Argentina relied too
heavily on Lombi who had failed miserably when presented with penalty
corner opportunities in the 40th, 44th, and 48th minutes.
On all three occasions, Lombi flicked wide and the South African
defenders did not have to do much.
In the 58th minute, South African Neil Davis was presented with two
golden opportunities but they froze each time when goalkeeper Moreira
charged at him.
Argentina finally scored the elusive goal in the 59th minute when Mario
Almada beat three players and pushed in past goalkeeper Chris Hibbert.
But the joy was short lived as South Africa threw everything they had
into the match and in the last two minutes Craig Jackson made sure they
walked away with three points.
"We did nothing right today. The boys played good hockey in the first
half but that was it. In the final 10 minutes, we could do nothing right
and were punished," said Argentine coach Jorge Ruiz.
South African coach Rob Pullen said they were confident, even before the
match, that they could beat Argentina.
"We know that they relied heavily on Lombi for goals so we shut him out
of the match. All he does is flick, there is no variation in his penalty
corners so our runners did their job well and he flicked wide because his
angle was blocked," said Pullen.

Come praise or bury them


MIRNAWAN Nawawi was yesterday certified fit by National Sports Institute
(NSI) director Ramlan Aziz for the Champions Challenge which begins today
at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Razak Saidin was dropped and Mirnawan re-instated in the calculated risk
taken by the Malaysia Hockey Federation (MHF).
"I conducted more tests on him today (yesterday) and although Mirnawan
has not fully recovered, the tests show that he can play," said Ramlan.
Not only were the MHF prepared to take a risk of aggravating the first
degree tear on Mirnawan's left calf, but the player himself was ready to
face the consequences.
"I really want to play in the Champions Challenge, and since I have been
certified fit, I am willing to take the risk of not being able to play in
the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup in February," said Mirnawan.
But today when the Champions Challenge begins, The Boss should not be
the only one who is wiling to take a big risk.
Malaysia meet Japan at 8pm and what happens during the 70 minutes of
play will chart Malaysia's path in the World Cup. It will be a preview of
how much risk the entire team is willing to take to bring back the glory
days of hockey in Malaysia.
If they want to bury the ghost of 1975, where Malaysia finished fourth
in the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, the Champions Challenge is the first
step. If not, they should not blame anyone when the 1975 squad is used as
a yardstick for the standard of hockey in Malaysia.
There is no more room for excuses, from the manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran,
coaches Paul Lissek, Steven van Huzen and Yahya Atan and the 18 players
who have been selected for the Challenge.
After being humiliated in the Azlan Shah Cup in August, the Challenge is
seen as an avenue for Malaysia to salvage some pride at the international
scene and since they have been in training for the past three months, they
should have total understanding like a band of brothers.
Lissek has, many times over the week, cautioned that Japan has improved
tremendously and from what he saw in the World Cup Qualifiers in Edinburgh
in June, they cannot be take lightly.
He said the same thing yesterday. But what about Malaysia? If Japan, the
whipping boys 10 years ago, have improved enough to scare the opposition,
have Malaysia not done the same?
The price to watch Malaysia, Japan, Argentina, India, South Africa and
Belgium battle for the Champions Trophy ticket is RM1 for schoolchildren
in uniform, and RM3 and RM5 for the other seats.
It is a small price to pay and watch for yourself how much Malaysia have
improved after a tremendous amount of money and time spent to prepare the
team for the World Cup in February.
Come and see if the team deserves to be in the World Cup on merit or are
merely making the numbers because Malaysia are the hosts.
Hockey in Malaysia needs a lifeline, the public is so hungry for results
that they no longer bother if Malaysia qualify for the World Cup and
Olympics regularly, they want medals and the Commonwealth Games silver is
three years old and has lost most of its glitter.
That is why the Champions Challenge should not be taken lightly, because
how Malaysia perform from today against the likes of Japan and Belgium,
will go a long way to bring back the waning public support in the sport.
The Challenge is an open challenge to not only Mirnawan, who is willing
to sacrifice his hockey future for the country, but to the entire team
from defenders Nor Azlan Bakar, Maninderjit Singh; midfielder S. Kuhan and
our young band of strikers Rodhanizan Radzi and Tajol Rosli.
If you put your heart in every match, the results wil start coming and
there will no longer be a need for excuses.
But if you do badly in the Champions Challenge, don't be disappointed if
the stands of the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil are empty when
Malaysia play in the World Cup but are filled to the brim when India,
Pakistan and Germany take the stage.

It's a miracle!


MIRNAWAN Nawawi, diagnosed with a first degree muscle tear on the right
calf a week ago, looks good to make the Champions Challenge which begins
on Friday.
A week ago, National Sports Institute (NSI) director Dr Ramlan Aziz said
the injury will need at least three weeks to heal but yesterday, after
conducting more tests on The Boss, he said it looks better and he was
surprised with the progress made in such a short period.
"I conducted some tests on Mirnawan on Tuesday and he responded well.
Tomorrow (today), I will conduct more tests on him and submit my findings
to the Malaysian Hockey Federation Selection Committee or further action,"
said Ramlan.
The Champions Chellenge managers meeting is today and it is the last
chance to eiher field or drop a player.
And Mirnawan does not mind taking the risk, if Ramlan certifies him fit
"I badly need to play in the Champions Challenge because I want to
assess my performance after the Azlan Shah Cup in August. I have not
played any competitie hockey in three months and if I miss the Challenge,
it will not be good for my preparations toward the World Cup," said
The World Cup is on Feb 24 to March 9 and when asked if he was willing
to take the risk of aggravating the muscle tear and not being able to play
in the World Cup: "I am willing to take the risk. If Dr ramlan finds me
fit to play in the Challenge, I will not have any regrets if anything
happens during the tournament," said Mirnawan.
Mirnawan said there were no pains on his left calf during the tests
conducted at the NSI and if he feels any pain today, he will be the first
to let Ramlan know.
"I will not conceal the injury just to get back into the team. I will be
very honest tomorrow (today) and if even there is a slight pain, I will
let him know," said Mirnawan.
Chief coach Paul Lissek was very frank about his assessment on Mirnawan.
"If the Dr (Ramlan) certifies Mirnawan fit to play, I will field him
because he needs to play competitive hockey before the World Cup and if he
misses this opportunity, it will not be good for the team," said Lissek at
the MHF buka puasa with the players at a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur
Team manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran said the decision to field Mirnawan or
not will be decided at the managers meeting today.
"Ater we receive Ramlan's report, the MHF Selection Committee will
deliberate on the matter and whatever decision that we take tomorrow
(today) we will have to live by it, weather good or bad," said Yogeswaran.
Malaysia played three friendly matches this week, two against Argentina
and one against South Africa, without Mirnawan and the team did reasonably
"Yes, the boys did show some promise in the friendlies although we did
not have our most prolific player Mirnawan. So if Ramlan finds him not fit
to play in the Challenge, I still have a back-up plan," said Lissek.
With or without Mirnawan, Malaysia are going to face a tough time making
a name in the Challenge.
But if one still believes in miracles, like the speedy recovery of The
Boss from a first degree muscle tear, then one cannot shut the door on
this team, yet.

Malaysia need to be riled up to perform well


MALAYSIAN hockey players play better when they are provoked or under
tremendous pressure to deliver, if not they just go about their business
with no urgency at all.
In the second friendly against Argentina at the National Hockey Stadium
in Bukit Jalil on Monday, the entire team played like they were possessed
and it was pleasing to watch them chase every ball and improvise on what
they have learnt in training.
On Monday, they went all out to prove Argentina coach Jorge Ruiz wrong
on his assessment of the team after the frist friendly.
Ruiz said Malaysia lacked deadly forwards after the first friendly, but
he was proven wrong when four different players sent the ball at the back
of the Argentine goalmouth.
S. Kuhan, Tajol Rosli, Maninderjit Singh and Rodhanizam Radzi made sure
we won the friendly comfortably.
"I am very pleased with how the entire team played because they is more
understanding among the players right now. They also made some solo moves
which caught the Argentines on the wrong foot," said Lissek after the
Maninderjit's goal was the surprise of the match because the burly
defender normally uses his thundering grounder whenever he goes up for a
penalty corner. But on Monday, he scooped the ball and caught Argentine
goalkeeper Pablo Moreira by surprise.
"This is the kind of play that I look forward to. Nowdays, the
opposition normally do their homework by watching how the other team plays
on video. So when a player does something different, they are caught off
guard," said Lissek.
The Champions Challenge is seen as an appetiser for the 2002 Kuala
Lumpur World Cup on Feb 24-March 9 because if the team do well in the
Challenge, the Malaysian hockey fans will not mind forking out RM25 per-
match to watch them play.
But if they go back to their normal `tidak apa' attitude, it will be
hard to fill the stands of the Bukit Jalil Stadium with locals.
But Lissek also cautioned everybody not to read too much from the
friendlies, because in a tournament proper anything can happen.
"Argentina are a very good side and in the friendlies they did not have
Jorge Lombi for support. Lombi is among the best penalty corner
specialists in the world right now and we need to stop him if we want to
see results," said Lissek.
Lombi will definitely be a joy to watch because in the World Cup
Qualifier in Edinburgh in July, he played a sterling role to make sure
Argentina finish tops and qualify for the 2002 Kuala Lumour World Cup in
In the final of the Qualifier, a brilliant Lombi hat-trick (12th, 60th
and 67th) helped Argentina beat Spain 5-4.
The Challenge begins on Friday and Malaysia play their opening match
against Japan at 8pm at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
After that it is Belgium on Saturday and on Dec 10 we meet India and two
days later, Malaysia play Argentina. The match against South Africa is on
Dec 13.
A win against Japan and Belgium will definitely start the ball rolling
but if we fail in the first two matches, it will hader to put up a decent
fight against India and Argentina who are piped as the early favourites
for the final.

Indian coach D'souza taking it easy


INDIAN coach Cedric D'souza said yesterday the Champions Challenge is
going to be a `damned good tournament' for his side because they no longer
fear going in as favourites in a tournament.
"We made that mistake in the World Cup Qualifier in Edinburgh and in the
end had to fight tooth-and-nail to reach the 2002 World Cup in Kuala
"Now, we take one match at a time and enjoy ourselves, because that way,
the results will eventually come," said Cedric after a training session at
the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium yesterday.
India arrived yesterday morning and in the evening were busy working on
their penalty corner set-pieces.
"In Edinburgh we made some stupid mistakes because there was tremendous
pressure on us to qualify for the World Cup. Everyone back home expected
us to breeze through but when we lost to Argentina (4-5) the world almost
crumbled on the players."
Argentine penalty corner specialist Jorge Lombi demolished India in the
qualifiers but Cedric has been plannning for the past three months on how
to stop the Argentine.
"We have learned from our mistakes and our analysis of the Qualifiers
showed that we gave Lombi too much space to move whenever there was a
penalty corner. At the Champions Challenge, we will definately not make
the same mistake again.
"Overall, Argentina are a very good side but Lombi is their biggest
asset and any team which can stop him effectively, will have a good change
of beating them," said Cedric.
Baljit Singh will again wear the skipper's armband and among the old
guards, they have Dhanraj Pillay to bank on.
"Dhanraj has been training very hard for the past three months and he
has never missed a single training session. We selected him based on
fitness and his undying commitment."
India will be fielding 10 players from the team which emerged champions
in the Junior World Cup in Hobart.
"It is a good investment to field youngsters in a big tournament like
the Champions Challenge because that is the only way for them to gain
experience. If we always keep on relaying on the old hands and not expose
the juniors, it will be bad for the future of hockey in India," said
The 18 players for the Challenge are on a double mission, because not
only are they looking for a promotion to the Champions Trophy which they
last qualified on merit in 1995 in Berlin, but a spot in the 2002 World
Cup beckons those who do well here.
"They will all be on trial during the Challenge because we have a system
where we have three players waiting to fill in one position at any one
time and only those who consistently play well will be fielded for the
World Cup."