Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hafiq has one week to regain his touch


KUALA LUMPUR: Penalty corner specialist Mohd Nor Hafiq Abdul Gaffar is racing against time to get fit for the Junior World Cup Finals, which Malaysia will co-host with Singapore from June 7-21.

The Batu Pahat defender was out of action for three weeks after undergoing surgery for appendicitis in Kuantan on May 5. He only resumed training last Thursday.

Coach K. Rajan said that Nor Hafiq was given a chance to play a friendly match against the national senior side for 10 minutes and he was unimpressive.

“He looked rusty but I need him in my game plan for the penalty corner flicks. He has one week to get back into shape for the Ju­­nior World Cup,” said Rajan.

“Nor Hafiq was our top penalty corner flicker in the team but after a three-week layoff, he has dropped to third choice.’’

Rajan added that forward Faizal Saari was now the main flicker while defender Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin is the second choice.

The 19-year-old Nor Hafiq was the toast of the team in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney in January, scoring five goals in four matches. In a playing tour of Europe in March, he scored four goals in the nine matches.

Nor Hafiq said that he was concerned about his fitness level and also the lack of power in his penalty corner flicks.

“I only have a week to get fit for the Junior World Cup and I have to work overtime to regain my form,” he said. “I am also going to the gym daily to work on my wrist muscles to put more power in my penalty corner flicks.”

There are 21 players in the training squad and three will be dropped by Thursday.

Malaysia will open their campaign in Group C against England on June 7. Their other matches are against South Korea (June 8), the United States (June 10) and Spain (June 12).

Group A have defending champions Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia while Australia, Germany, Chile, Japan and South Africa are drawn in Group B. Group D comprises Singapore, India, Holland, Poland and New Zealand.

The Group A and C matches will be held at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru while the other two groups will be played at the Seng­kang Stadium in Singapore. The top two teams in each group qualify for the second round from June 14.

Tengku Abdullah gives a broad hint...

MALAYSIAN Hockey Federation (MHF) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was so impressed with the facilities at the Taman Daya Stadium on his final inspection yesterday, that he feels it could also host the men’s senior world cup next year.
And in a week’s time, it would be the turn of the national juniors to impress the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, as he wants to see them in the semi-finals of the Junior World Cup.
Tengku Abdullah and MHF top brass first visited the newly built stadium and: “Given the short notice to complete it, I am very pleased that now we have two excellent pitches and all the other necessary facilities to hold a world class tour nament.
“ In fact the facilities here are so good that I believe we can use it for the Men's World Cup next year, if Malaysia is to be given the host’s job.”
India are the hosts for the 2010 World Cup, but many countries are said have voiced their concern to the In ternational Hockey Federation (FIH) over security, and Malaysia are said to have been placed on standby.
FIH have also given India until next month to get the Indian Hockey Federation back in order, if they want to host the senior world cup.
After visiting the stadium, Tengku Abdullah met the play ers for half an hour: “Strive to reach the semi-finals, as the country’s hopes are placed on your shoulders,” he told the boys.
Tengku Abdullah also appealed to hockey fans, par ticularly from Johor, to turn out in numbers to motivate the youngsters.
To reach the semi-finals, Malaysia must first finish top-two in Group C, which also has Spain, South Korea, USA and England.
For the record, Malaysia finished 10th in the Junior World Cup four years ago in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rajan spoilt for choice

K. RAJAN, Malaysia's Junior World Cup coach, considers himself very lucky as he has three penalty corner flickers who are challenging each other to the limit.
And with top flicker Nor Hafiq Ghaffar still in the midst of recovering after an appendix operation, he has been overtaken by Ahmad Kazamirul.
Malaysia and Singapore will co-host the Junior World Cup on June 7-21 with each country hosting 10 teams.
"Not many teams in the world can boast of having three penalty corner flickers, and so I consider myself lucky as I have many options to play.
"All three have been doing well, and pushing themselves to the limit, and this healthy competition has made them sharper," said Rajan.
The third flicker is Faizal Saari.
"With Faizal also looking dangerous now, I will at least have two of them on the pitch at any one time, and the player who takes the first flick knows he has to get it right if not he will be replaced for the second penalty corner."
On fitness, Rajan is also pleased with the progress of his charges.
"When we played nine friendlies in Europe, after the third match, my players looked like they had just returned from a war zone," Rajan said.
"But now, they can last a fast-paced match, and still keep their form for a string of matches."
Meanwhile, Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary Hashim Yusof said yesterday that all the matches at Taman Daya Stadium will be free of charge, including the final.
"Malaysia will not be selling tickets for the tournament, but Singapore will at their stadium.
"The people of Johor should take this opportunity to come and watch some top quality matches for free," said Hashim.
Both the pitches in Johor are ready for the tournament, and Spain, who are in Malaysia's group, arrived a few days ago and have already started training at the venue.
Besides Spain, Malaysia have South Korea, England and the United States for company, and Rajan is aiming for a top-two finish in the group to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

US aim to make an impact

THE United States are minnows in hockey but their relatively unknown qualities could pose a threat to Malaysia in the Junior Hockey World Cup on June 7-21 in Johor Baru.
Malaysia, coached by K. Rajan, will face the US on June 10 in their third Group C match at the Taman Daya Stadium.The other teams in the group are England, whom the hosts will face first on June 7, South Korea (June 8) and Spain (June 12).On paper, Malaysia should win but the US are determined to make an impression on their debut in the Junior World Cup.

They qualified after a bronze medal performance at the Junior Pan-American Cup in February.The US Under-21 squad include nine players from their senior side. Jonathan Ginolfi and Jed Cunningham are the most experienced having over 50 caps between them at the senior level. Kevin Segeren was also named Best Goalkeeper at the Junior Pan-Am Cup.
"We have a very committed group of athletes who are training very hard to be ready to embrace the challenges ahead," US head coach Nick Conway told

"Everyone is looking forward to the Junior World Cup which will undoubtedly provide us with a huge building block opportunity in the development of our players as we move forward.
"We have set clear performance targets which we feel if we perform effectively, we can achieve regardless of the opposition that we face.
"Conway said his charges are eager to make an impression on the tournament."Competing in quality tournaments is the foundation for success at the international level.
""We are not about being happy to make the numbers but we are committed to holding ourselves accountable for strong competitive performances during the tournament." he added.
The squad: Kevin Segeren, Amrit Ahluwalia, Kevin Barber, Alex von Bieberstein, Jed Cunningham, Ajai Dhadwal, Jonathan Ginolfi, Will Holt, Manny Martinez, Viren Padhiar, Derk Pelle, Sebastian Scheurer, Colin Scally, Ryan Sundeen, Tyler Sundeen, Nick Szoke, Liam Walsh, Andrew Zayac.

Malaysia's fate depends on opener

By Ajitpal Singh

MALAYSIA'S hope of advancing beyond the Junior Hockey World Cup groupstage boils down to their opening match against England on June 7 inJohor Baru.
A favourable result is needed against England to boost the team'sconfidence and also give them the edge of advancing to the quarter-finalsfrom Group C, which also consists South Korea, the United States andSpain.
Malaysia's coach K. Rajan, who has been grooming the team since latelast year, is aware that his players need to get into their groove toachieve a good result against England.
A win is, of course, attainable considering that England have named ayoung side with an average age of just below 19, for the tournament. England coach David Ralph included nine players of the England Under-21side that finished fifth in last July's European Junior Nations Championships while another 11 also played for the Great Britain Juniorteam that took bronze in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in January.
Nick Catlin, at 20, is the most experienced player in the England squadhaving earned two senior caps last year.
Ralph said the Junior World Cup will provide some major challenges forthe squad.
"Not only do we face some of the top 20 junior teams in theWorld but the physical demands of the tournament will be tough as well,"he told
"A gruelling schedule means we face nine games in 14 days and theenvironmental conditions will be unlike any that the players haveexperienced previously," On the team's prospects, Ralph is cautiously optimistic.
"We are a very young squad and we face some tough challenges but we arealso very excited by this prospect and confident that we have someexciting talent within the squad to compete at this level." he added.

England squad: Ben Arnold, James Bailey, David Beckett, Nick Catlin,David Condon, Richie Dawson-Smith, Marc Edwards, Simon Faulkner, ChrisGregg, Chris Griffiths, Ed Kelleher, Johnny Kinder, Sam Middleton, IanScanlon, Alex Edmonstone, Ben Tibble, Henry Weir, Tom Woods.

Beng Hai's boys to spar with top nations

THE priority is to qualify for next year's World Cup and to ensure thenational team fulfil their mission. As such the Malaysian HockeyFederation (MHF) has arranged a series of test matches with tophockey-playing nations before the Qualifiers in November.
Malaysia, who finished fourth in the recent Asia Cup, will start withthree test matches with Ireland next month before the team play in theChampions Challenge II in Dublin on July 6-12, where Tai Beng Hai's teamneed to finish in the top-two bracket to improve their world ranking andget an easier draw in the World Cup Qualifiers.
They will then head to the Oceania region where they will faceAustralia in a five-test series at the end of July before playing sixmatches with New Zealand in August.
The team will continue with the Europe tour after Hari Raya inSeptember where they will be play eight international matches. As a final tune-up for the World Cup Qualifiers, the national team willplay five test matches with Australia at a yet-to-be-decided venue.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the test matches will allowcoach Beng Hai to gauge his charges before the World Cup Qualifiers.
"We are fortunate that top nations are interested to play test matcheswith us. I believe that playing top hockey nations on a regular basiswill improve the team's overall strength," said Nur Azmi yesterday. Malaysia must do well in the Champions Challenge II in July in order toget a favourable draw for the World Cup Qualifiers.
There will be three qualifying tournaments - Lille (Oct 31-Nov 8),Auckland (Nov 7-15) and a yet-to-be-confirmed venue (Nov-TBC).

MHL to decide on dates in July

THE new dates for the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League willbe fixed after the International Hockey Federation (FIH) releases thegroupings for the World Cup Qualifiers. The FIH will only make the draw sometime in July and Malaysia could bein any one of three qualifying tournaments involving six teams each - inLille (Oct 31-Nov 8), Auckland (Nov 7-15) and a yet-to-be-named venue(Nov-TBC). MHF competitions committee head Datuk Rahim Mohamed Arif said FIH willrelease the draw after the Champions Challenge II in Dublin on July 6-12. "If Malaysia are drawn to play in Lille then the committee willscheduled the MHL Premier Division somewhere in November. The two-month long league will only start in December if Malaysia aregrouped either in the second or third qualifiers," said Rahim, afterchairing the competitions committee meeting at MHF headquarters in BukitJalil yesterday.
"We cannot hold the league right after the Champions Challenge II asthe local calendar is packed with tournaments and also the national teamwill be playing test matches abroad."
The Premier League may also feature a foreign team as Singapore havebeen invited to send their top club for the competition.
So far, four teams - defending champions Ernst & Young, Sapura, Maybankand Tenaga Nasional - have confirmed their entries while Nur Insafi,Universiti Kuala Lumpur and Jurutera, Letrik dan Jentera (JLJ) have yetto reply.
Meanwhile, Malacca City Council maintained their lead in the DivisionOne standings after winning 5-2 against Air Force in Sungai Petani. Malacca CC's scorers were Hanif Rahim (17th and 45th minutes), SyafiqAmir (10th), Syakir Kamaruddin (61st) and Mirhardy Nawawi (69th).
Air Force replied through Fattah Jalaluddin (42nd) and Azwar Hafiz(55th). Malacca CC, who are tipped to win the title, will face Armed ForcesJuniors on Friday. RESULTS: Air Force 2 Malacca CC 5, UNIMAP 0 UiTM 2.

Tough challengers for juniors

THE National Juniors, after the experience of competing in local andinternational tournaments, have made significant progress but it will bea tough call if they are good enough to make an impact in the JuniorWorld Cup which will be co-hosted by Johor and Singapore on July 7-21.
The quarter-final target set by the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF)is ambitious as the team, coached by K. Rajan, are still inexperiencedand lack depth.
None of the current players have senior team experienceand this handicap will make things difficult for them.
Though the team have improved admirably under Rajan who took over thefrom V. Muraleedharan last October, it will be tough for them to advanceto the second stage of the Junior World Cup.
Malaysia have been drawn with European giants Spain, England, SouthKorea and the United States in Group C and past records against theseteams do not favour the hosts.
The team drew 1-1 with England and lost 2-1 to Spain in a Four-NationInvitational in Seville in March.
Malaysia were beaten 2-1 by Korea in last year's Junior Eight-Nationtournament in Bukit Jalil.
Rajan's boys need to win at least three matches to ensure a top-twofinish in their group and a place in the quarter-finals.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the players have grown inconfidence and it should be enough to make an impact on the tournament.
"They have progressed and have also obtained good results against topteams," said Nur Azmi in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
"Past records don't count as we played these teams during ourpreparation. Our players are 100 per cent focused and determined to dowell."
Malaysia open their campaign against England at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on June 7 and play Korea the next day. They thenface the US on June 10 and wrap their preliminary round fixtures withSpain two days later.
Prior to the big event, the Juniors will play friendly matches againstBelgium (June 2) and Pakistan (June 4). The final-18 will be announced by MHF after the friendly againstPakistan.

The training squad - Goalkeepers: Abdul Hakim Adnan, Asmawi Zaidi, MohdFaizal Zalani. Defenders: Khairil Anuar Isa, Sybrie Shamsuddin, Nor Hafiq Ghaffar,Marhan Jalil, Wong Kee Hoon, G. Kavin Kartik, Kazamarul Nasruddin.
Midfielders: Faizal Saari, Shafiq Zain, Izzat Rahim, Shaheeb Shah. Forwards: Azzami Adabi, Harvinder Singh, R. Nadesh, Mohamed NoorKhairul Adnan, Jamil Saidin, Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin, Ahmad TermiziIsmail.

Groupings - Group A: Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia; GroupB: Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan, South Africa; Group C: England,South Korea, Malaysia, Spain, US; Group D: India, Netherlands, NewZealand, Poland, Singapore.
Groups A and C will be based in Johor Baru, while Groups B and D inSingapore.

Rescheduling matches for Beng Hai's sake

THIS year's Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) islikely be brought forward from October to accommodate the national team'spreparation for the World Cup Qualifiers.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) competition committee will decideon the new dates at a meeting today.
It is learnt that the committee may reschedule the competition afterthe Champions Challenge on July 6-12 before the fasting month inmid-August.
The other option is to keep the competition dates but reschedulematches of teams with national players after the World Cup Qualifiers inNovember.
The change is necessary to allow national interim coach Tai Beng Hai toprepare his team for the qualifiers. There will be three qualifyingtournaments involving six teams each in Lille, Auckland and ayet-to-be-named venue.
The Premier Division will comprise six teams, including defendingchampions Ernst & Young and two teams from the ongoing Division Onecompetitions.
Meanwhile, Malacca City Council will be aiming to maintain theirunbeaten run in the MHL Division One competition when they face Air Forceat Sungai Petani today.
Malacca CC assistant manager Mazlan Mohd Said said his players areoptimistic of winning against the army team.
"We need to keep winning against lowly teams in order to finish in thetop two bracket of Division One.
"As for now, the players are doing very well and eager to face AirForce," said Mazlan yesterday. FIXTURES - Today: Air Force v Malacca CC (Sungai Petani Hockey Stadium,5pm), UNIMAP v UiTM (Kangar Hockey Stadium, 5pm).

Malacca and Airod tops

MALACCA City Council and Armed Forces Airod moved to the top of theMalaysia Hockey League Division One following easy victories yesterday. Malacca CC notched their second win by routing UNIMAP 3-0 in Kangar while Armed Forces edged UiTM 2-1 at the Tun Razak Stadium.
Amirrullah Zainor scored twice in the eighth and 34th minutes forMalacca CC while Mirhardy Nawawi added the third in the last minute ofthe match.
Malacca CC assistant manager Mazlan Mohd Said said yesterday's win wasimportant towards achieving the team's top-two target in the league.
"It's important not to drop points against lowly opponents. My boys'played exceptionally well against UNIMAP," said Mazlan yesterday. Malacca CC and Armed Forces have each accumulated seven points but theformer leads the standings on goal difference.
Meanwhile, Zulkifli Abdullah and Mohd Azron Mat each scored a brace tohelp Dolphins thrash Ipoh City Council 5-2 in Lumut. Dolphins took a 2-0 lead at half time through Mohd Noor Saad andZulkifli in the 22nd and 23rd minutes respectively.
Mohd Azron added the third for Dolphins in the 41st minute beforeZulkifli scored his second goal four minutes later. Mohd Azron thenstruck again in the 54th minute. Ipoh CC replied through Abbas Nik Mat (38th) and Jasdev Singh (56th). RESULTS: UNIMAP 0 Malacca CC 3; Dolphins 5 Ipoh CC 2; Armed ForcesAirod 2 UiTM 1.

Committee to aid Beng Hai

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will set up a special committee toassist interim coach Tai Beng Hai in recommending and preparing playersfor a stronger squad for future tournaments.
The committee is expected to be formed after the MHF conducts apost-mortem of the national team's performance in the recent Asia Cup. If endorsed by MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, thecommittee will likely be headed by Datuk Poon Fook Loke with Colin StaMaria, Wallace Tan and Stephen van Huizen as assistants.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the committee's main task willbe to advise Beng Hai on ways to polish the team's overall tactics andtechnical ability.
"The committee, however, will have no power over the national team.Beng Hai will still be the main decision maker and all recommendations bythe committee will have to pass through him," said Nur Azmi yesterday.
"The committee will start by studying video recordings of Malaysia'smatches in the Asia Cup before listing things the national team need toimprove."
On Beng Hai's coaching status, Nur Azmi said he will still bemaintained as the interim coach for now.
"We are happy with his work. Beng Hai has managed to bring someimprovements into the team and he is the main candidate for the full timejob. We will likely decide, probably after the Champions Challenge II inJuly (Dublin)," he said.
On Malaysia's slide from 15th to 16th in the world ranking, Azmi saidit is not a proud moment for Malaysian hockey.
"It was expected as Malaysia did not compete in last year's BeijingOlympics. The national team will have to make an impression in Dublin toensure points are earned to move up the rankings," added Azmi.
* THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) has given India until July to form a proper national body for hockey and improve security or risklosing the World Cup scheduled for next March in New Delhi.
A reliable source said it is likely that Malaysia will be offered thehosting job if India fails to meet the FIH requirements.
"It will be known in July. The National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil will be the venue for the world meet if given to Malaysia," said thesource.
The FIH has been in close contact with MHF regarding the hosting jobover the past weeks. FIH has given top marks to the facilities in BukitJalil but wants the local federation to lay new turf for both pitches atthe National Stadium.

Chance for Forces to grab top spot

ARMED Forces Airod will get a chance to top the Malaysia Hockey League(MHL) Division One table today when they square off with UiTM at the TunRazak Stadium. This weekend will also see Ipoh City Council play their first match -against Dolphins - in Lumut, and the state side's strength will be known. Current leaders Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) have a lengthy breakand only play their third match on June 14 against Malacca City Council. "I will use the break to train my forwards to be sharper in thesemi-circle and also to strengthen our penalty corner battery," said BJSScoach S. Prakash. The Division One champions will get a chance to play in the PremierLeague in October but there is a glitch in the planned fixture. Malaysia will be playing in the World Cup Qualifiers in November andwith Ernst & Young having almost the entire national team in theirstable, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) needs to do its homeworkfast if it wants to hold the Premier League this year. TODAY: UNIMAP v Malacca City Council (Kanger, 5pm), Dolphins v IpohCity Council (Lumut, 5pm), ATM-Airod v UiTM (Tun Razak Stadium, 5pm). SUNDAY: Air Force v Malacca City Council (Sungai Petani, 5pm), UNIMAP vUiTM (Kangar, 5pm).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Malaysia drop to bitter 16

DESPITE finishing fourth in the Asia Cup, the Malaysian hockey team have dropped to an all time low of 16th in the latest world ranking, putting them in a more difficult position of qualifying for next year's World Cup in New Delhi.
The drop of one place from 15th has also affected Malaysia's ranking in Asia where they are now sixth from the previous fifth behind top-ranked South Korea, Pakistan, India, China and Japan.
The scenario is unfavourable for Malaysia and if there's no improvement soon, they will likely be given a difficult draw in the World Cup Qualifiers in November.
There will be three World Cup qualifying tournaments involving six teams each in Lille, Auckland and Dubai.
Malaysia's only hope of improving their ranking before the World Cup Qualifiers is by making an impression, more like becoming champions, in the Champions Challenge II in Dublin in July 6-12.
Malaysia and Japan are the favourites to win the Champions Challenge II, which is a new International Hockey Federation (FIH) world-level event featuring teams who failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy or Champions Challenge I.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) has to work on fast mode to ensure the team's preparation is in accordance to the Champions Challenge II and World Cup Qualifiers.
Among the things MHF needs to discuss are moving the local Malaysian Hockey Premier League, scheduled for October, to a later date and also to hire a full time coach for the team.
Currently, Tai Beng Hai is handling the national team on an interim basis.
Meanwhile, Asia Cup champions South Korea maintained fifth in the world ranking while Pakistan climbed two places to sixth.
China, who beat Malaysia in the Asia Cup bronze medal match, moved up three rungs to 13th. Former Olympic champions India dropped from 10th to 12th while Japan slipped three rungs to 14th. Germany are still the World No 1, followed by Australia, Spain and Netherlands.

Change must come from States

By Vijesh Rai
(Vijesh is the Sports Editor of the New Straits Times)

TENGKU Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah must be a relieved man.
The national team's first two outings, though they were a tad
disappointing in the Asia Cup semi-final, ended with more positives than
negatives and the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president has every
reason to feel buoyant.
The early days of his tenure indicate Tengku Abdullah may enjoy greater
success than he did as FA of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president but if that
is indeed to be the case, he must start cracking the whip now.
Though the national team finished second in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
and met the semi-final target in the Asia Cup, we will be fooling
ourselves if we believe that hockey is on the rise.
It isn't and there will only be false dawns as long as the sport's
structure isn't drastically improved.
The Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) is anything but world class and Jiwa
Mohan, lured out of international retirement for the Asia Cup, was only
being honest in his assessment when he said the national players should
ply their trade in Europe.
That should be an immediate target for Tengku Abdullah after having,
despite several valiant attempts, to do the same with the football
What Tengku Abdullah has got going for him in hockey is that Malaysia
still has some players who are highly rated at world level and finding
them European clubs shouldn't be that major a problem.
A rosy picture is also being painted about the Bukit Jalil and Bandar
Penawar Sports Schools but the two are not enough to sustain the rise, if
there is to be one, of Malaysian hockey.
What hockey needs, to ensure those in the various national teams and
sports schools don't become complacent, is a structure where quality
players are just waiting to replace them.
We don't have that now and the fact that an Under-17 Bukit Jalil Sports
School team won the Under-19 Division 2 title and an even younger team
are leading the Division One standings currently is proof of that.
For this to change, Tengku Abdullah has to address the root of the
problem - the state affiliates.
Too few are actually promoting hockey but the real problem is all are
decision makers and we all know the decisions are always favourable to
What Tengku Abdullah must do is, and this will be a big task, devise a
formula where the hard-working and successful are rewarded - financial
and votes-wise while those who continue to give excuses for their lack of
commitment be "punished" by a gradual withdrawal of their rights.
This could even mean losing their right to vote and if Tengku Abdullah
can do this, then the feeling of relief he is currently enjoying may well
be replaced by real success.

Schoolboys rule the roost in a man's world

SCHOOLBOYS from Bukit Jalil are holding out nicely in a man's world by
topping the table after the first weekend of the Malaysia Hockey League's
Division One.
And the fact that 13 players from BJSS are Under-16, with the 17
year-olds, makes it both special and alarming.
Special because it means they are indeed worthy of their places in the
sports school and alarming because it exposes just how poor the overall
quality is in the division, which has no age restriction.
BJSS coach S. Prakash took a gamble when he fielded Under-17 boys in
the Under-19 Division Two of the MHL, only to be rewarded with a double
and this could also be the scenario in Division One.
"Since we are a sports school and have won many titles, we tried with a
young set of players and it was a rewarding experience in Division Two,
"So, we went ahead and fielded more youngsters for the Division One
challenge, and so far, the boys have coped well," said Prakash.
BJSS opened accounts by making a strong comeback from being 0-3 down,
to draw against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) who have several
pre-university players.
After that, BJSS beat UNIMAP of Perlis 4-1.
"I see a good future in this set of players, and the only problem now
is their lack of sharpness in the semi-circle."

Artificial pitch not their cup of tea

THE National Juniors played three friendlies against Singapore in the
island republic last weekend and found the artificial pitch not to their
Malaysia and Singapore, co-hosts of the June 7-21 Junior World Cup,
will accommodate 10 teams each.
Singapore was supposed to host a Four-Nation to test its facilities but
could not do so and invited Malaysia instead.
"We played three matches against Singapore and the boys found the
artificial pitch a little bumpy. We won all three matches (3-1, 3-0,
1-0). It was a good experience because, if we qualify for the
quarter-finals, we might have to play in Singapore," said Juniors coach
K. Rajan.
Johor Baru will host Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia
(Group A) and England, South Korea, Spain, US and Malaysia (Group C).
Singapore will host Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan and South Africa
in Group B. India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore are in
Group D.
The juniors are now in Johor getting a feel of the competition venue in
Taman Daya.
"It will be strictly training for us until the World Cup but we have
lined-up a friendly against Belgium on June 2," said Rajan. "Spain will
be arriving on May 29 and have requested for a match but since they are
in the same group, I have declined."
Rajan has dropped midfielder Azrin Rizal after he underwent a knee
operation, and brought in Shaheed Shah.
"I have 21 players in training and things are looking up. We should be
ready to battle for a quarter-final slot when the tournament starts."

Monday, May 18, 2009

FIH courting Australia and Malaysia as Plan B

Malaysia's Chua Boon Huat (right) is congratulated by his teammate for his goal against China in their 3rd-4th placed match of the Asia Cup in Kuantan on Saturday. — APpic

By Ajitpal Singh
(Review of Asia Cup)

'KUALA Lumpur and Australia have been shortlisted as Plan B to host next year's World Cup to replace New Delhi.
Apparently, some countries have threatened to withdraw if the World Cup is hosted in New Delhi because of security reasons.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has been in constant contact with MHF regarding this but the local body should decline the offer as Malaysia should not aim to compete in the World Cup via the backdoor but instead qualify on merit. '


IF Malaysia's performance in the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup is anything to go by, the game is on the right track in the country but some fine tuning is needed to ensure the team make further progress.

Not only have the players shown improvement, but can now match the best in terms of physical fitness and mental demands in the game. But they cannot rest on this and need to push harder.
Interim national coach Tai Beng Hai has done a splendid job of turning the team's fortunes around in just four-and-half months for the tournament.
Many believed Malaysia would lose to South Korea and Japan in the group stage and thus fail to achieve the Malaysian Hockey Federation's (MHF) semi-final target but the players proved their critics wrong.
Malaysia held Korea 1-1 and slammed Japan 4-1 -- both higher ranked teams -- to qualify for the semi-finals.
But the hosts lost momentum in the knockout stage, losing 4-2 to Pakistan in the semi-finals and on penalty strokes (7-6) to China in the bronze medal match.
Both defeats exposed several of the team's weaknesses, though not major ones. The players must learn to maximise the use of their talents, and do so wisely, to penetrate their opponents' half.
It was evident in Kuantan that they lacked variety in creative passing during interchanges from defence to midfield to attack.
This must be rectified soon. Probably, Beng Hai wants his players to put more flair into their game but in the modern game too much of it will not be effective. Just look at Germany.
They may play boring hockey but it's effective and good enough to win world and Olympic titles.
However, the best system may not necessarily work for Malaysia and Beng Hai, after seeing the way his boys play, is surely trying to introduce a more offensive mindset to the team.
To be honest, Malaysia, if they had more time to prepare, could have done far better in Kuantan. However, time was not on Beng Hai's side when he was given the task to handle the national senior team on Jan 5.
For this, the MHF must be blamed as it took too long to find a replacement for Sarjit Singh, who was removed as national coach, last October.
MHF was too busy looking for a world class coach while not realising that the national seniors were losing precious time.
If Beng Hai was appointed sooner, results in the Asia Cup may have been different.
As for Beng Hai, who has met MHF's targets so far, he should be offered a fulltime contract to prepare the team for upcoming tournaments.
However, the fickle-mindedness of MHF is legendry and it might make a U-turn on its decision.
Malaysia's next assignment is the Champions Challenge II in Dublin in July where a good result is vital to boost the team's confidence ahead of November's World Cup Qualifiers.
The grapevine has it that Beng Hai is planning to recruit a few under-21 players after next month's Junior World Cup for senior team training to beef-up the squad. This is also to give deserving juniors the exposure and experience to fill gaps when seniors retire.
Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur and Australia have been shortlisted as Plan B to host next year's World Cup to replace New Delhi.
Apparently, some countries have threatened to withdraw if the World Cup is hosted in New Delhi because of security reasons.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has been in constant contact with MHF regarding this but the local body should decline the offer as Malaysia should not aim to compete in the World Cup via the backdoor but instead qualify on merit.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

South Korea in the World Cup

THE BEST IN ASIA: South Koreans edge Pakistan 1-0 for a ticket to play in the 2010 World Cup.

By Ajitpal Singh

KIM Byung Hoon's trademark penalty corner flick help South Korea edge Pakistan 1-0 to win the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup and also claiming the automatic berth to next year's World Cup.

Byung Hoon, whose two earlier penalty corner attempts were foiled by Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akhbar, sent a powerful drive into the net in the 66th minute to ensure victory.
It is their third Asia Cup title after having won it in 1993 (Hiroshima) and 1999 (Kuala Lumpr).
Korea coach Cho Myung Jun took a risk by not naming four key players including main flicker Jang Jong Hyun for the tournament.
Despite their absence, the Koreans, the World No 5, were a class above the other teams.
As for Myung Jun, it was his first international assignment as the head coach of the Korean team.
"We had a good tournament here. Overall, our tactical edge have us the advantage against the other teams. We are happy to earn the World Cup,"said Myung Jun yesterday.
Pakistan earned back-to-back penalty corners in the opening minutes but flicker Sohail Abbas failed to make both count.
Korea goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho denied Pakistan two golden opportunities from Muhd Tariq and Rehan Butt in the23rd and 35th minutes, respectively.
As for Korea, they hardly penetrated into Pakistan's semi-circle in the first half.
However, the Koreans started second half furiously and attacked relentlessly at the Pakistan goal. They earned two penalty corners but both attempts by Kim Byung Hoon failed to find the needed goal. Byung Hoon eventually scored the winner in the 66th minute.

Shoot-out heartbreak

By Ajitpal Singh

IN an action packed match, China edged Malaysia 7-6 on penalty strokes yesterday to claim the bronze medal in the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup.

The match had ended 3-3 after 84 dramatic minutes, including extra time at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan.
It was heartbreak for Malaysia when Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor failed to convert his attempt while China's Sun Tian Jun duly converted his sudden death penalty stroke. China had also won the bronze medal in 1982 in Karachi.
Earlier, the teams were deadlocked at 3-3 in the shoot-out. Lu Feng Hui and Tain Jun saw their penalty attempts saved by Malaysia goalkeeper S. Kumar but Malaysia missed through Nabil Fiqri and Kelvinder Singh.
Malaysia had led three times during the match and should have won it in regulation time.
Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai said: "My players fought hard but had no luck. It is anyone's game when the match goes into penalty strokes. My players did practise their flicks."
China coach Guo Jie said: "My players played a simple defend and attack game."
Malaysia opened account 50 seconds after the start with a superb goal that needed only six passes that resulted in Ismail Abu scoring with a delightful reverse stick attempt.
But China struck back in the 18th minute when umpire Fernando Gomez of Argentina awarded a penalty stroke when keeper S. Kumar brought down Liu Xian Tang. Captain Song Yi converted from the spot.
Forward Chua Boon Huat put Malaysia ahead again in the 31st minute when he guided the ball past China goalkeeper Su Ri Feng.
China pulled level in the 47th minute when Song Yi's powerful low drive, off a penalty corner, went past keeper Kumar.
The Malaysian players worked hard again and in the 64th minute was rewarded when Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor gave his team a 3-2 lead with a field attempt.
However, the lead lasted only three minutes as China hit back through Jiang Xi Shang when he deflected the ball into the Malaysian net after a goalmouth melee.

BJSS looking forward to Army assault

BUKIT Jalil Sports School (BJSS) coach S. Prakash is looking forward to the tough encounters against Army sides in Division One of the Malaysia Hockey League.

Prakash feels his charges, who are mainly Under-17 boys, need tough matches, to turn the schoolboys into men.
"We will be playing a university side (UNIMAP) tomorrow (today) and I expect it to be a good exposure for my young side.
"However, the plus point for us in Division One this season is that we will get a chance to play many Army outfits, who are always hardworking and robust, and it will do us good in the long run," said Prakash.
Armed Forces Airod, Armed Forces Juniors, Dolphins and Air Force are the military teams who BJSS would cherish to play against.
"The university sides (UNIMAP and UiTM), based from past experiences are normally not tactically sound, but I can't comment much at this stage, as I have yet to see them play this season."
BJSS came back from a 3-0 deficit to hold Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) to a draw in their first match on Friday, but their real test will be against the Army and state outfits from Malacca and Perak.
TODAY: Bandar Penawar Sports School v Dolphins (Bandar Penawar, 5pm), Armed Forces Airod v Malacca City Council (Tun Razak Stadium, 7pm), Bukit Jalil Sports School v UNIMAP (National Hockey Stadium Pitch II, 3pm), UiTM v Air Force (Pandamaran Stadium, 5pm).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Malaysia fourth, but could still play in World Cup

KUANTAN is abuzz with 'news' that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) will yank the 2010 World Cup from India and hand it to Malaysia, as five countries have said they will not play in New Delhi due to security reasons.
Truth or hogwash? We will only know in one month's time when FIH break their silence.
MALAYSIA struggled 3-3 against China, and penalty strokes also went to 3-3, and then sudden-death, to decide the bronze medallists.
China hoists the Asia Cup Bronze........

MALAYSIA -- Ismail Abu (First minute), Chua Boon Huat (32nd),
Nabil Fiqri (64th),
CHINA -- Sang Yi (20th, penalty stroke), Song Yi (46th), Sung Long (66th),


Asian hockey is on its death bed

COMMENT By Ajitpal Singh

ASIAN hockey is dying a slow death and if the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) fails to act quickly, the continent will soon be just a post script.

India and Pakistan were the dominant force until the International Hockey Federation (FIH) decided that hockey should be played on astroturf, and it was first introduced at the 1976 Montreal Olympics Games when none of the Asian nations had the turf.
The "no offside" rule implemented in 1998 by the FIH further widened the gap between Asia and Europe. Since the rule change, Asian teams have not won a single major title.
Pakistan hold the distinction of being the last Asian team to win Olympic gold and the World Cup which they did so in 1984 in Los Angeles and in Sydney in 1994 respectively.
Currently, only South Korea, the World No 5, are competitive enough to challenge Europe and the Oceania nations. Their proudest moment was taking silver in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Koreans also finished fourth in the 2002 (Kuala Lumpur) and 2006 (Germany) editions of the World Cup.
Asian hockey begs a complete overhaul and AHF must take the initiative to make changes. Europeans have improved out of sight because of their sound structure. They were the first to maximise the quality of their game, fitness, skills and strategy by adopting scientific means.
They took their hockey very seriously unlike Asian teams, who were in self-denial. The Asians believed that their "skill conquers all" was enough to win titles. But they were proven wrong.
Clubs in Europe play a vital role in terms of hockey development. These clubs have a sound structure, borrowed from their football counterparts, and it is now paying dividends.
Malaysia's former captain S. Kuhan, when met in Kuantan, said that the structure of European club hockey "was very organised".
According to Kuhan, who had short playing stints in Europe, every club put emphasis on development at every age-group and most have at least 18 different teams -- from the under-10s to seniors.
This system gradually encouraged wider participation among non-traditional hockey-playing nations like Austria, Turkey and Switzerland to name a few.
And because of this Europeans are improving at a faster pace. This was painfully evident when the Austrian Under-21 team beat their Malaysian counterparts 2-1 in a Four-Nation tournament last year. This result was unthinkable a decade ago.
Clubs in Europe are registered hockey associations and are powerful entities in their respective country. People pay to join these clubs just to play weekend hockey.
Unlike Asia, Europe has its geographical advantage. Players from France can travel to the Netherlands over the weekend to play hockey and return in time for work.
This is why there is greater participation in the sport in Europe which Asia lacks.
The European hockey calendar is packed with activities and players, if they are not internationals, can look forward to club hockey.
Most European nations have well structured club leagues. The champions of these countries then play in the hugely popular European Cup. This is why the standard between the bigger hockey-playing nations and their smaller counterparts is narrowing.
It is vastly different in Asia where clubs neglect development as they feel that is the duty of the respective state or regional associations.
Participation is controlled because state and regional associations do not have sufficient funding to conduct a full-fledged development programme.
Club hockey in Asia is alive but is not as competitive as in Europe. Also in Asia, most domestic leagues are dominated by just two or three teams.
Asian-level club competition is dead but the AHF took a step in the right direction by reviving the Asian Championship last year which local champions Ernst & Young won. But sadly, bigger hockey-playing nations, except for Pakistan, did not send their teams.
Asia also lacks international tournaments. The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is the only annual tournament in Asia. Any schoolboy will tell you this is not the way to develop hockey in Asia. The AHF must ensure that there is at least one tournament in each hockey-playing nation in Asia.
The AHF, no doubt, is working closely with its 29 affiliates to develop the game in Asia but what it is currently doing is not enough. It should watch and learn from the Europeans. The ongoing Asia Cup in Kuantan has only seven teams competing because smaller nations, if they had entered, would suffer embarrassing defeats which would not be good for Asian hockey.
Bangladesh were promoted to the Asia Cup competition after winning a second-tier tournament last year. But sadly, they have failed to make an impact, finishing last in Kuantan.

Koreans face goalkeeper setback

By Ajitpal Singh

THOUGH South Korea coach Cho Myung Jun is unlikely to have his first choice goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho for the Asia Cup final, he is still confident of victory against Pakistan in Kuantan today.

"Myung Ho overstrained his knee against Japan on Thursday. It's a pity that he will most likely miss the final. However, we have an able replacement in Kang Seong Hwan," said Myung Jun yesterday.
Seong Hwan, 22, is set to earn his first international cap.
Myung Jun said his players are confident of beating former world champions Pakistan.
"Our players are focused and ready for the final. We came here to qualify for World Cup and we will do it," he added.
The winners of today's final will earn a ticket to next year's World Cup in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan said his players are in confident mood after the semi-final victory over Malaysia.
"My players are aware that it is important to win here for the World Cup berth.
"Korea are a very tactical side and but I have my strategies to ensure victory," said Shahid.
Pakistan have won the Asia Cup three times -- in 1982, 1985, 1989 while South Korea triumphed in 1993 and 1999.

Malaysia to host 2010 World Cup?

By Ajitpal Singh

'There are strong indications that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) would move the World Cup from New Delhi.
According to reliable sources, some teams have threatened to withdraw of World Cup if it remains in New Delhi due to security reasons and FIH are looking at Malaysia and Australia as Plan B.
FIH has also given the India Olympic Association a month to form a proper federation for hockey.'


MANY weaknesses in the Malaysian team were exposed in the 4-2 defeat by Pakistan in the semi-finals of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup on Thursday.

But coach Tai Beng Hai does not have time on his side. He will need to work fast to rectify these problems or Malaysia can forget about playing in next year's World Cup in New Delhi.
Though the team have made some progress with the 1-1 draw against South Korea and the 4-1 win over Japan, both ranked higher than Malaysia, it's still not enough to make a mark on the world stage.
Beng Hai, who had only four-and-a-half months to prepare the team for the Asia Cup, made it clear that the players need to improve on their physical and technical abilities.
"The team have achieved their target and this is progress. Yes, they are still not perfect and I will need to work harder with the team in order to get them into the World Cup.
"As for now, the players are fit and playing well, and with some fine-tuning, they will be even better," said Beng Hai in Kuantan yesterday.
"Overall, I'm very happy with all of my players as they play to their abilities despite the short time in training. This is a good sign. Of course I'm slightly disappointed that the team did not make the final but we lost to a better team."
On the Malaysian team's lack of expertise in executing penalty corners in the Asia Cup, Beng Hai said: "We had several options but we didn't use them all."
On whether the team peaked too early at last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where Malaysia finished second, he said his players were better prepared for the Asia Cup.
"The Sultan Azlan Shah was part of the preparation for the Asia Cup. My players were playing better in Kuantan and that's more important to me.'
Beng Hai said goalkeeper S. Kumar, Nabil Fiqri, Sukri Mutalib, Kelvinder Singh and Jiwa Mohan were the most outstanding Malaysian players in the Asia Cup.
The winners of the Asia Cup will qualify for the World Cup and with Malaysia out of the running, the national team will need to compete in the Qualifiers in November. There will be three qualifying tournaments involving six teams each in Lille, Auckland and Dubai.
On his team's match against China today for the bronze medal, Beng Hai said: "The players have put their loss to Pakistan behind them and will go all out to win the bronze medal," he added.
TODAY - Bronze medal: China v Malaysia (5pm) ; Final: South Korea v Pakistan (7.30pm). (Both matches live on Channel Nine.

BJSS stage a brilliant comeback

BUKIT Jalil Sports School (BJSS) came back from the dead to snatch a point against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) in the curtain raiser of the Malaysia Hockey League Division One yesterday.

BPSS were leading 3-0, with only 20 minutes of playing time left, but BJSS turned the tide and equalised in style, and could have even sealed the match.
Amir Farid scored with ease for BPSS in the 9th minute, and team-mates Hafiz Nawi (28th) and Rifhan Azhar (47th) made it 3-0 and were heading towards an easy victory, but paid the price for taking matters for granted.
Dangerous Lee, who scored 13 goals in the under-19 MHL, started the fight-back in the 54th minute. Faridzul Mohamed made it 2-3 in the 61st minute, and Arief Iskandar sealed a point with his 65th minute strike.
BJSS, the double champions in the under-19 MHL, have remained unbeaten in three encounters against BPSS this season.
"I only made four changes to the team which won the under-19 double, and even then it was to add more 16 year-olds.
"I am proud of the way my young players managed to turn the tide, and this will help boost their game in this tougher division," said BJSS coach S. Prakash.
Division One has 10 teams, while the rest are mature teams from universities and the Forces.
RESULTS: Bukit Jalil Sports School 3 Bandar Penawar Sports School 3, Malacca City Council 2 Dolphins 1, Armed Forces Juniors 1 UNIMAP 1, Armed Forces Airod 3 Air Force 1.
TOMORROW: Bandar Penawar Sports School v Dolphins (Bandar Penawar, 5pm), Armed Forces Airod v Malacca City Council (Tun Razak Stadium, 7pm), Bukit Jalil Sports School v UNIMAP (National Hockey Stadium Pitch II, 3pm), UiTM v Air Force (Pandamaran Stadium, 5pm).

Friday, May 15, 2009

India score five for fifth

Final: Pakistan v South Korea.
Third-Fourth: Malaysia v China.
(Both Matches 16-05-09)
Fifth-Sixth: India 5 Japan 1
Seventh: Bangladesh.

Sports Schools' showdown

BUKIT Jalil and Bandar Penawar Sports Schools will renew their rivalry when they clash in Division One of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

BJSS clinched the double in Division Two of the MHL, while BPSS played bridesmaid on both occasions. Eleven teams were supposed to be on the starting block, but Border Rangers Club have pulled out forcing the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) to redraw the fixtures.
"Border Rangers did not give a reason for their withdrawal and we were caught in a bind as we had already prepared the fixtures. So now, 10 teams will compete in Division One, and the champion will be promoted to the Premier League which starts in October," said MHF assistant secretary N. Krishnan.
Division One will have BJSS, BPSS, Universiti Malaysia Perlis (Unimap), UiTM, Ipoh City Council, Malacca City Council, Dolphins, Air Force, ATM Airod and ATM Juniors.
BJSS, despite featuring a fourth time in the senior league, have not set any targets. "We will field 13 Under-16 boys so they will be better prepared when we play in next year's Under-19 MHL," said BJSS coach S. Prakash.
And BJSS are prepared for the worst against BPSS in the curtain raiser. "We did not have much training after the Under-19 tournament as the boys were busy with exams. So, I expect a tough time as BPSS would be out to avenge their defeat in the Overall final," Prakash added.
FIXTURES -- Today: Bukit Jalil Sports School v Bandar Penawar Sports School (National Stadium Pitch II, 3pm), Malacca City Council v Dolphins (Malacca Stadium, 5pm), Armed Forces Juniors v UNIMAP (Tun Razak Stadium, 5pm), Armed Forces Airod v Air Force (Tun Razak Stadium, 7pm).

Jiwa: Play abroad

JIWA Mohan, recalled to represent Malaysia in the Asia Cup currently being played in Kuantan, strongly feels that the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) is no longer competitive and is not the platform for local players to improve their game.

He feels players should make a genuine effort to ply their trade in the top tier leagues of world hockey to make progress.
Though several players have had short sojourns with top clubs in Europe, it did little to improve their game, and Jiwa feels local players, if given the chance, should play full-time abroad.
"The top European leagues are very challenging and that is why European teams are dominating the game now," said Jiwa.
"A player who goes there for the long term will definitely improve. The Koreans have done it and look where they stand now. They are strong in character, have depth and they learnt this by playing in top leagues," added Jiwa.
"Malaysian players should try their luck abroad, maybe in the Dutch or German leagues as this is where all the top players are in.
"We need to revolutionise the way we think about hockey. We cannot remain at home thinking it would be enough to take Malaysian hockey to another level. Players should base themselves with the top leagues and only come back whenever there are international assignments.
"Several Asian players are doing this now and because of this their respective countries are progressing in the sport. The Dutch and German leagues offer a competitive edge because of their professional set-ups and also most of the players over there are world class."
It is a fact that only clubs with national players and ex-internationals dominate the MHL while the remaining teams just make up the numbers.
Jiwa, who quit the national team last year and is now based in Perth, was recalled by national coach Tai Beng Hai to beef up the midfield and to give the team more penalty corner options.
In Australia, Jiwa represented Curtin Trinity Pirates Club in the Perth League last year and scored 12 goals in 12 matches, earning himself a place in the Northern Territory Stingers team in the Australian Hockey League.
Jiwa said there are about 100,000 active players in the very competitive Australian league.
"I have improved a lot from playing in the league. It has made me a better player but I'm just doing it for the love of the game. Even so, many of the Australian players ply their trade in the Dutch and German leagues," he added.

Malaysian dream shattered

Double act:Pakistan's Rehan butt (on the ground) celebrates after scoring against Malaysia in the Asia Cup semi-finals Thursday.Inset:The Malaysian players celebrating after taking a 1-0 lead.-AP-bernama

By Ajitpal Singh

PAKISTAN must thank their stand-in coach Shahid Ali Khan for their 4-2 victory over Malaysia in the semi-finals of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup at the Wisma Belia Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.

Shahid, who was the Malaysia goalkeeper coach between 2005-2008, used his technical know-how to pull off this well-calculated victory.
"It was an advantage for me as I know the Malaysian structure well. I know the Malaysian players' strong points and weaknesses and it helped me to execute the right strategies in this match.
"They are rather weak on the flanks and it made the difference," said Shahid in Kuantan yesterday.
In tomorrow's final, Pakistan will face South Korea, who thrashed China 5-1 in the last four. The winners will gain automatic qualification to next year's World Cup in New Delhi.
National interim coach Tai Beng Hai was quite happy with his players' performance though they failed to reach the final.
"My boys' tried very hard and I'm not disappointed. We matched Pakistan but luck was not on our side. Pakistan were much fresher as they had rested since Sunday but my boys only had a day's rest," said Beng Hai.
Malaysia took the lead from a quick counter attack after poor execution by Pakistan during a penalty corner in the third minute. Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil who left several Pakistan defenders trailing, was fouled just outside the semicircle. He quickly laid a clever pass to Ismail Abu who finished with a reverse stick goal.
Pakistan were rattled and the combination of Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin and Ismail Abu caught their defence off guard on several occasions after the goal. But the Malaysians were wasteful with their shots.
Pakistan tried to step up their pace and they were rewarded when Rehan Butt deflected Haseem Khan's cross from the right flank for the equaliser in the 18th minute.
The Malaysian defence fell apart soon after with Pakistan creating three scoring opportunities but keeper S. Kumar was up for the challenge.
Rehan was a menace to the Malaysians with his darting runs and he turned provider when his cross from the right flank found Akhtar Ali, who easily rammed the ball home in the 46th minute.
Rehan scored his second goal with a nicely taken field attempt in the 63rd minute and Haseem Khan put the result beyond doubt with Pakistan's fourth goal two minutes later.
Ismail Abu got a consolation goal for Malaysia with a penalty corner effort in the last minute.
Meanwhile, South Korea turned in a superb second half performance to beat China 5-1 to qualify for their second successive Asia Cup final.
You Hyo Sik was the star of the Korean team when he scored a hattrick with three fine solo attempts in the 36th, 41st and 68th minutes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tai Beng Hai will be rewarded

By Ajitpal Singh

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will offer Tai Beng Hai a fulltime coaching contract to manage the national senior team after having achieved the federation's semi-final target in the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup.
Beng Hai was given the interim coaching duties on Jan 4 after former coach Sarjit Singh was removed late last year.
Under Beng Hai, the team have been progressing well and prior to the Asia Cup, he guided the national team to a second place finish in last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the federation's coaching committee will recommend his name for the fulltime coaching job.
"He has achieved the federation's target in both the Sultan Azlan Shah event and the Asia Cup. However, it is the management committee to decide on his appoitment as the national coach." said Nur Azmi in Kuantan yesterday.
MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah stated on Tuesday that Beng Hai had done a good job in turning the fortunes of the national team.
"I'm happy with Beng Hai and the team. They have achieved the target in the Asia Cup. I hope they progress further in the tournament," he said after watching Malaysia beat Japan 4-1 on Tuesday.

Now for Pakistan...

By Ajitpal Singh

THE 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup is a different ball game and the Malaysian boys should not take the 3-2 win over Pakistan in last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as a yardstick in their semi-final match against the four-time World Champions in Kuantan today.
Pakistan, who recalled for ex-internationals including penalty corner specialists Sohail Abbas, are a much stronger side in this tournament.
Sohail, a defender, goalkeeper Salman Akbar, midfielder Waseem Ahmeed and forward Rehan Butt are the four veteran racalled for the Asia Cup and they have so far been instrumental for Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
The four have added more depth to the Pakistan game and they are the players the Malaysians should keep a close watch today.
Furthermore, the confidence among the other Pakistan players, including their six juniors, is high after having beaten defending champions India 3-2 in the group stage.
Sohail, though a bit rusty, is still a dangerous player and Malaysia must avoid giving away unnecessary penalty corners to Pakistan.
The 32-year-old player, who has scored a world record of 275 goals in 272 matches, will be in confident mood in adding more goals to his tally after having scored the winner against India.
Sohail's presence in the match will likely prompt the Malaysians to cut off their opponents' attacks outside the semicircle to avoid the risk of giving away penalty corners but this will leave holes at the back where Rehan will be there to do the damage.
Malaysia, though impressive in the group stage, have been guilty of lapsing during matches. This was evident when they drew 1-1 with South Korea in their opening match. The Malaysians were tactically sound in the first half and took a deserving 1-0 lead but the Koreans, known for their fitness, ran ring around them in the second to force a 1-1 draw.
Against Japan on Tuesday, the Malaysians were in total control but could have avoided conceding a goal in their 4-1 win if the defenders and goalkeeper S.Kumar had better understanding.
National interim coach Tai Beng Hai admitted that his players have the knack of taking things for granted and lose concentration during matches.
"Pakistan will not be easy. They have Sohail and he is an added advantage to them. We may have beaten them in the Sultan Azlan Shah but they were without their star players then and so it cannot be made as a yardstick," said Beng Hai in Kuantan yesterday.
"We cannot afford to concede penalty corners against them. I need to re-align my defensive strategy. Overall, we cannot discount any player in the Pakistan team. They will start as favourites in this match."
Meanwhile, forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil is raring for action against Pakistan today. Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, who missed last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup because of a knee injury, is the current topscorer for Malaysia with three goals.
"I'm glad to have made it for the tournament. My form is getting better after the injury and I hope to continue my progress against Pakistan. They are a very strong team and we must take our chances well in order to win." said Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.
For the record Malaysia have never made it to the finals of the Asia Cup and Beng Hai's side have a chance to do it if they beat Pakistan today. In the 2007 edition, Malaysia won a bronze medal.
Meanwhile, Pakistan stand-in coach Shahid Ali Khan is confident his side will beat Malaysia today.
"We are here to win the Asia Cup. We are going all out to become champions will earn a ticket to next year's World Cup. We may need a little luck against Malaysia but we will do it," said Shahid yesterday.
"We have rested well after our last group match with India on Sunday. I have been using this time frame to prepare my players for the challenge against Malaysia. They are a very good team and probably the best side in the tournament but my players will do their best to win."
Pakistan have won the Asia Cup three times - 1982, 1985 and 1989. They finished second to South Korea and India in 1999 and 2003, respectively.
However, in the last Asia Cup, played at Chennai in 2007, Pakistan finished sixth which was their worst-ever showing in the series
Pakistan's new rising star Haseem Khan, the current topscorer for his team with two goals, is also looking forward for the semi-final.
The 19-year-old forward has been instrumental for Pakistan and has forged a deadly partnership with Rehan Butt. He showed maturity in his game when he scored two goals in his team's 3-2 win over India.
"Victory against India may be a step forward. But it’ll be long before Pakistan hockey is back on the track. I thank my coach (Shahid) for giving me the chance to play here. The semi-final against Malaysia will be tough but I'm determined to help Pakistan make the final," said the nephew of Ex-Olympian Hanif Khan.

Malaysia in semis, China shut out India

By Ajitpal Singh

A well-oiled Malaysian side defeated Japan 4-1 in their Group A match of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup to advance to the semi-finals on the day when defending champions India were shown the door at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.
Malaysia and South Korea, who thrashed Bangladesh 9-0 in an earlier yesterday, finished each with seven points but the latter topped the group on goal difference. Malaysia will face Group B winners Pakistan while Korea take on China, the Doha Asian Games silver medallist, in tomorrow's semi-finals.
Malaysia were in uncomprimising mood as they dictated the pace and showed urgency throughout the match against Japan. It was a well deserved victory which should put the Malaysian boys in the right frame of mind and confidence for the semi-finals.
Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai gave full credit to his players for their powerful performance yesterday.
"My players played to the game plan. Everyone played their part in the match. Pakistan will be tough but I don't want to talk about them right now," said the delighted Beng Hai yesterday.
A brilliant move by Kelvinder Singh on the left resulted in Malaysia first goal in the fourth minute. He outpaced several Japanese players before laying a perfect pass to Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil, who from an acute angle managed to slip the ball past the out rushing Japan goalkeeper Katsuya Takase, to put Malaysia ahead.
The Malaysians dictated the pace and with captain Madzli Ikmar pushed to defence from his regular midfield duties, the Japanese failed to find a breakhrough then.
Chua Boon Huat , who came in for Ismail Abu, after 12 minutes immediately made an impact. His darting run on the left flank confused Japan's defence but Sukri Mutalib wasted a perfect pass from him by hitting the ball wide with only keeper Takase to beat.
Japan constructed their first real attack in the 14th minute and umpire Rahman Latifur awarded them a penalty corner after the ball hit a Malaysian player in the 'D' circle.
However, Manabu Hatakeyama's powerful low drive from the resulting penalty corner was padded away by Malaysia goalkeeper S.Kumar.
Malaysia earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 22nd minute but Amin Rahim failed to make it count when his flick was easily saved by Japan keeper Takase.
Malaysia pressed hard for the second goal that would put them safely in the semi-finals and they got their wish through Kelvinder Singh's wonder goal in the 33rd minute.
Kelvinder, from the right flank, dribbled past several Japanese defenders into the semi-circle before firing a delightful reverse stick shot, which beat keeper Takase easily.
In the second half, the Malaysians dominated proceedings at the start and earned their second penalty corner in the 38th minute but this time instead of taking a direct flick, Amin Rahim laid a pass to Jiwa Mohan but the Perth-based player's powerful drive could only rattled the post.
A defensive mix-up and a school boy mistake by keeper Kumar saw Japan opening accounts through Ryuji Furusato in the 42nd minute.
Japan were dictating play in search of the equaliser, which overworked the Malaysians defence at times. However, Chua Boon Huat put the result beyond doubt when he scored with a powerful rising shot with 11 minutes left on the clock. S.Selvaraju then added Malaysia's fourth goal with a delightful reverse stick attempt off a penalty set-piece, in the 67th minute.
Meanwhile, India missed the semi-finals boat for the first time in the Asia Cup when they drew 2-2 with China in their Group B match. India needed a win to qualify for the semi-final and they managed to set the course when they led 2-0 through captain Sandeep Singh's brace in the 33rd and 34th minutes.
However, China cameback strongly with Lu Feng Hui and Yu Yang, scoring in the 44th and 58th minutes, respectively to force a draw, which ensured them second place behind Pakistan in their group.
India coach Harendra Singh was bitter over his players attitude in taking China lightly in the second half.
"They have disappointed me today (yesterday). Basically, India cannot defend and I instructed my players to continue their attacking play in the second half but they did not listen to me. I will not resign because of this failure. I'm not a quiter," said Harendra.

Expect no mercy from Japan

By Ajitpal Singh

THE Japanese 'kamikaze' warriors will go full trottle when they face hosts Malaysia, a match they have to win to earn a semi-final spot from Group A in Kuantan today.
Japan, who lost 3-2 to South Korea yesterday, have three points and they need to win today at all cost to keep their World Cup hopes alive. And Japan manager Yamanaka Manabu promised that his players will make minced meat out of Malaysia.
The Malaysians will need to take the Japanese threat very seriously. The Olympic Qualifiers in Kakagimahara last April still haunts the Malaysians as it was where Japan denied them a place in the final of the event.
Then Malaysia needed a win and were on course for it in that important match but Japan scored with less than a minute on the clock to force a 3-3 draw to enter the finals against Germany.
"I was the coach then in Kakagimahara. I know how Malaysians play and they are not very fast. I will make some tactical changes to catch them with our speed," said Manabu yesterday.
Japan were unlucky to lose their match which they dominated against the Koreans, who scored two out of their three goals through penalty strokes. Lee Nam Yong scored a brace, both off penalty strokes in the 22nd and 35th while Jin Kyung Min notched in the other in the 12th minute. Japan replied through Kei Kawakami (20th) and Takayasu Mizawa (53rd).
Japan are in the process of rebuilding their national team and have brought several youngsters for the tournament.
Among them are Naoto Shiokawa, Ken Yoshikawa, Kenta Tanaka, Kenji Kitazato and Daisuke Suzuki, who will also represent the Japanese junior team for next month's Junior World Cup.
Meanwhile, defending champions India will need to beat China in their Group B match today or miss the semi-final boat for the first time in the Asia Cup.
India, who were defeated by Pakistan 3-2 on Sunday, have a proud record in the tournament having won it twice and finishing runnes-up four times and third only once since its inception in 1982.
India coach Harendra Singh has a world class squad with him but he needs to tighthen his leaky defence in their match today.
China, with a point after the 1-1 draw with Pakistan on Saturday, are expected to play defensively as they need only a draw against India to make the semi-final. In their last meeting, India defeated China 1-0 in the 2007 Asia Cup edition in Chennai.

Chua wants to play in another World Cup

By Ajitpal Singh

LONG serving Chua Boon Huat has represented Malaysia in all major competitions since he made his international debut in 1998 and with age catching up on him, he hopes to feature in his second World Cup in New Delhi, next year.
And he wants to relish his World Cup dream by helping Malaysia win the ongoing 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup in Kuantan.
"We are making steady progress and it is important that we maintain it throughout the tournament. I believe that if everyone contribute accordingly, the team will qualify for New Delhi," said the 29-year-old Boon Huat in Kuantan yesterday.
"I have been around for quite a while and have achieved everything in hockey. But my dreams are to feature again in the World Cup. As age is cataching up, I think this will be my last chance in trying to play in the World Cup."
"The Asia Cup offers us the best opportunity and if we don't win it, it will be tough to earn a place through the qualifiers (November). I'm not trying to say that I'm quiting anytime soon but I don't think I will be around in three or four years time."
His notable achievements were the two silver medals won in the Commonwealth Games (1998-Kuala Lumpur; 2006-Melbourne) and the bronze in the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
Boon Huat, who hails from Badar Hilir Malacca, also played in the Junior World Cup ( 2001-Hobart), Olympic Games (2000-Sydney), World Cup (2002-Kuala Lumpur) and the Champions Trophy (2007--Kuala Lumpur). He also earned himself a place in the 2002 Asian All-Star team.
The others, who featured in all major tournaments are captain Mohd Madzli Ikmar and Jiwa Mohan.
He made his international debut in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games at the age of 17, where he started off as a defender before he was converted into a striker about three years. He has earned 292 caps and scored 60 goals so far for his country.
"The Malaysian team have not been doing well internationally for quite sometime but I believe that with the present setup and the guidance from coach Beng Hai (Tan), there will be some improvement."
"It has been a good year so far for the team but it's too early to tell. The second placing the the recent Azlan Shah Cup is a fantastic result, which the team needed badly to boost their confidence but the road to recovery and improvement is still far off."
"People wll only acknowledge the team if it does well in priority tournaments like the Asia Cup," said Boon Huat, who had stints with semi-professional outfits Red & White Munich (2002-Germany), Teddington (2005-England) and Auckland (New Zealand-2008).