Saturday, October 6, 2007

Slow pace of life permeates entire South Africa


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

South Africa still sleeping


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

Malaysia concerned, but won't lose sleep over it


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

More than just hockey opponents in Joburg


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

Malaysia eye top-six bracket


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

Amin, from mediocre to role model


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

Lissek: Top-three target in Randburg


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

Azli Looking good


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

Deadly South Africa


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

MTBC needs more support


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

Bigger schools league


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

Lissek ready to name names


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

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

Malaysia thump moody Dragon


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

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

China rising for Beijing 2008


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

Malaysia improve


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

Junior Asia Cup in Karachi


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

China hold Malaysia


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

China bare fangs


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

Kiwi problem


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

Keevan must fight


K. KEEVAN Raj reported for national training yesterday and must fight for
his spot in the squad for the Champions Challenge in Randburg, South
Africa on July 19-27.
Chief coach Paul Lissek, while happy with the midfielder's return, said
there is no guarantee that Keevan will be in the Challenge squad.
"I will have to discuss with the team management first and also see if
he has been keeping himself fit before making a decision," said Lissek.
Keevan last played in the Azlan Shan Cup in March and then skipped the
Tour of Europe in May because of studies.
The 24-year-old, studying for a double degree in marketing and economics
at Metropolitan College, said he has finished his course and is ready to
fight his way back into the team.
"Although I have just reported for training I have been keeping myself
fit by playing for Sapura in the Malaysia Hockey League," said Keevan.
While Keevan's return was good news, the national team is still plagued
with injuries and withdrawals.
Lissek called up 26 players for training a week ago, but has yet to have
all of them in a session.
Defender Megat Azrafiq pulled out because of a torn ligament, while
Sallehin Ghani reported for work with Telekom yesterday and did not turn
up for training.
Midfielder Shaiful Azli injured his back during training yesterday while
forward Ismail Abu did not attend because his father is ill.
And with defender Madzli Ikmar still recovering from a fractured finger,
Lissek will have a tough time naming the squad.
Meanwhile, China arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and will play four
Test matches against the national side starting tomorrow.
China Tests - Today: Tun Razak Stadium; Friday: Kuala Lumpur Hockey
Stadium; Sunday: Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium; Monday: Tun Razak Stadium.
* Note: All matches start at 6pm.

Six under Lissek's wings


SIX more coaches will come under German coach Paul Lissek's wings, the
Malaysian Hockey Federation's (MHF) coaching committee decided in Kuala
Lumpur yesterday.
Committee chairman Datuk R. Yogeswaran said based on the success of
Sarjit Singh, Tai Beng Hai and Arul Selvaraj's attachment programmes, the
committee decided to widen the pool of qualified coaches in the country.
"Sarjit, Arul and Tai were officially embraced into the coaching
committee yesterday although they have been performing their duties for
sometime now. And we also decided that six more coaches be placed under
Paul Lissek so that they can learn from the German master," said
The six will be selected from among those who are currently coaching the
junior-senior leagues and States.
The MHF also has plans to make it compulsory for those who sit on the
bench to have a coaching certificate in the near future.
"Right now, we are very lenient as we allow those interested to coach
teams on the bench, even without a certificate. But once the Coaching
Committee programme to get everyone equipped with at least a Level Two or
Three certificate is completed, the MHF will enforce the rule."
It was also decided yesterday that Sarjit and Arul will head to South
Africa with the national team to attend an FIH Preliminary Coaching
Meanwhile, the assistant coach for the Champions Challenge in South
Africa next month has yet to be selected.
"The committee recommended Tai and Yahya Atan and it is up to the MHF to
decide between the two."

Dialogue a success


THE Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) held a seminar on `The Media and
National Sports Associations - Bridging The Gap' at the Astro headquarters
in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and it received overwhelming response in the
number of participants and suggestions on how to foster a better working
The minor National Sports Associations (NSAs) highlighted their
difficulty in getting news published in the print media or broadcasted
over the electronic media, but were told to do their homework first.
Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) secretary Sidney Tung, who was
the first speaker, spoke on how from a parlour sport, MTBC took bowling up
the ladder of success.
"When I took over as MTBC secretary in 1980, there was very little news
on bowling in the media because we were not even considered a minor sport.
We were categorised as a parlour sport and people spent their free
weekends bowling at a handful of alleys in the country.
"I tried to get the attention of the media by sending in results of our
tournaments but for a few years, nothing was printed by newspapers.
"I remember clearly that the first major news on bowling was reported
when P.S. Nathan (now Datuk) went to a tournament in the United States and
a few paragraphs came out in the New Straits Times.
"That short story ignited my sagging morale and I started to send more
articles to the Press and after more than 20 years of developing our
athletes and working closely with the media, bowling is now a major sport
in the country and we have produced numerous role models with the latest
being Shalin Zulkifli," said Tung.
In short, the minor NSAs must first have a sound development programme
and develop medallists in regional games, at least, before they have the
right to ask for publicity.
OCM secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, in his opening address, cautioned NSAs
not to expect too much from the media.
"Of course the media is a very important tool to influence people for
their support. So important that many people feel the media can make or
break an organisation.
"While we are fully aware of the benefits the media can provide for
sports, at the same time, I must emphasise that it is not one-way traffic.
"Sports is equally important to the media because it provides news or
contents, thereby increasing their circulation and revenue from
advertising, and providing job opportunity to a large number of people.
"To me, the media is neither friend nor foe, but a partner. Whatever
differences we think we have are merely temporary and are mostly due to
the misunderstanding of our roles and high expectations the sports people
expect of the media," said Sieh.
The second speaker was Nestle sports marketing manager Datuk Dina Rizal
who spoke on how sponsors can benefit if they have a good working
relationship with the NSAs and the media.
Then it was Malaysian Hockey Federation (women's section) secretary Dr
S. Shamala's turn and she highlighted the importance of the World Wide Web
and the free service provided by the OCM to its affiliates who want to
have a homepage.
The media panel was made up of Timesport acting sports editor Lazarus
Rokk, Malay Mail sports editor Johnson Fernandez and former sports
journalist George Das.

Juniors put up good show


THE national juniors came out snapping at the heels of the seniors in a
friendly held between the two teams in preparation for the Champions
Challenge in Randburg, South africa on July 19-27.
The match, which was abandoned after 35 minutes because of a heavy
downpour while the seniors were leading 2-1, showed that national juniors
coach Sarjit Singh has only to fine-tune on set-pieces as his players have
mastered the basics.
A joy to watch was Ismail Abu's reverse stick shot which went crashing
into the top netting; even catching national No 1 goalkeeper Roslan
Jamaluddin by surprise. Both the seniors goals were scored by Fairuz Ramli
- soft touches let in by goalkeeper Ahmad Bazli who looked like he had too
much of respect for the senior strikers.
Sarjit had the luxury of fielding four juniors who are training with the
seniors - Azlan Misron, Ismail, P. Prabahkaran and Jivan Mohan - and they
helped keep the ball at the other end.
"The juniors have grown in confidence and this augurs well for the
future of Malaysian hockey. Now we have a bigger pool of players to select
from for national duty," said chief coach Paul Lissek.
Sarjit was brimming with confidence after his first test.
"This is the first time the juniors have played as a team for the past
six months, but they showed good team work. I am very happy with the
forwards and midfield but I am a little worried with the defence.
"Sallehin (Ghani) and Megat Azrafiq were not available for the match
today (yesterday) and Bazli let in two soft goals. I will have to brush up
the defence before we compete in the World Youth Festival in Poznan
(Poland)," said Sarjit.
The juniors will play another friendly against the seniors today and
Sarjit will have the full squad, but tomorrow, Lissek will take over seven
juniors knocking on the doors of the Champions Challenge for the final
friendly match.

Lissek luring Maninderjit, Shanker


NATIONAL chief coach Paul Lissek is hoping for two former internationals
to make a comeback for the Champions Challenge next month and the Asia Cup
in September.
With many of his trainees nursing injuries, Lissek is presently
"negotiating" with former national defender Maninderjit Singh and Junior
World Cup player S. Shanker in an effort to entice them to make a
"I have been watching them play in the Malaysia Hockey League (both for
Ernst & Young) and I feel that Maninderjit and Shanker deserve a national
call-up. I have approached them and they said they will get back to me,"
Lissek said after a training session yesterday.
Maninderjit quit the national team due to work commitments while Shanker
took study leave after the Junior World Cup in Tasmania, Hobart.
"If they can manage to balance their work and study commitments with
training and playing matches, I feel Malaysia will have a better chance in
the Asia Cup," said Lissek.
For the Champions Challenge on July 19-27 in Randburg, South Africa,
Lissek said K. Keevan Raj could also return to the squad.
"Keevan has said that he might be able to take some time off from
studies to play in the Champions Challenge. If he is available, I might
use him in the China Tests early next month to see if he has been keeping
himself fit."
Players carrying injuries but who have been called to the training camp
are Redzuan Ponirin (wrist), Madzli Ikmar (wrist), P. Prabah-karan (knee),
Norazlan Rahim (shin), Fairuz Ramli (ankle), Rodhanizam Radzi (low
haemoglobin count) and Megat Azrafiq (hamstring).
The latest to join the injury list is Chua Boon Huat who received five
stitches just below his eyebrow on the first day of training on Monday.
"Chua received five stitches after he was accidently hit by Redza Maadun
during training. The doctor has given him five days rest, but knowing
Chua, he will be back before that," said the coach.
Before the Champions Challenge, the national team will play four
friendly matches against the national juniors before facing China in four
Test matches.
The China Tests will be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit
Jalil on July 3, 4, 6 and 7. The team departs for Randburg on July 14.
The teams competing in the Challenge are England, Spain, South Korea,
New Zealand, Malaysia and hosts South Africa.
And Lissek picks Spain to finish tops.
"Spain are the most improved side and if South Korea field the same side
they did for the Azlan Shah Cup, my choice will be the former," said
And for Malaysia?
"The Champions Challenge is our opportunity to improve on our fourth
placing in the First Edition in Kuala Lumpur, and then give our best
during the Asia Cup to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany."