Sunday, October 7, 2007

Champs Tenaga keep title on sight


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

Bad goalkeeping our downfall


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

Malaysia sink to rock bottom


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

Little respect for 'chicken Malaysia'


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

Going wild in untamed South Africa


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

Fifth or sixth at best


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

On a kamikaze mission


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

Malaysia back to old self


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

All six equally balances, says Hendriks


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

A win for malaysia, finally


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

Home away from home


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

England can be beaten


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

Malaysia outplayed by 13-man South Africa


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

Randburg misery continues


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

Spain bent on title


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

Nightmare for Malaysia


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

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

Malaysia ready to push back when shoved


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