Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Improve or face early exit


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

Redraw as India stay out


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

India told to stay at home


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

Cup gaining recognition


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