Friday, January 30, 2009

South Korea blow to Azlan Shah Cup

THE Azlan Shah Cup has lost South Korea to the credit crunch, and now the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) is literally scrapping the barrel to find a replacement.
Egypt, more famous for its pyramids than hockey, will make their debut in the Azlan Shah Cup on April 3-12, while Ireland and Japan are being courted as well.
The only confirmed teams to date are India (world ranked 11th), Pakistan (eighth) New Zealand (seven), Egypt (20th) and Malaysia (15th).
"We sent out invitations to 14 teams, but received confirmation from only five, and now South Korea have withdrawn because they lack funds.
"A change of guard is also expected as the Korean Hockey Federation will be holding its BGM (Biennial General Meeting) soon.
"Most of the other teams who declined were also forced to do so due to the of lack of funds, or because they had prior commitments," said MHC secretary Hashim Yusoff.
South Korea are ranked fifth in the world, and if 18th ranked Ireland accept the offer, they will be making their debut in the tournament which was incepted in 1983.
The Azlan Shah Cup used to have the best in the world, and was once dubbed as the shadow of the Champions Trophy as Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Australia and a host of other top-six teams used to scramble to secure a spot.
"We can't go below Egypt, who are ranked 20th in the world, to keep some standard in the tournament. And if Japan and Ireland both decline, we will have to make do with five teams."
The national juniors, preparing for the Junior World Cup, can't be included in the Azlan Shah cast, as they have a European Tour planned at the same time.
But some quarters feel that the juniors should be included into the Azlan Shah Cup, as the invited teams are not highly ranked, and will be good sparring partners.
The seniors, meanwhile, will be using the tournament to prepare for the Asia Cup in Dubai on May 8-15, where only the champions advance to the 2010 New Delhi World Cup.

Johor to the rescue...

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman (second right) checking on the progress of work at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium on Jan 23. Pic: HAIRUL ANUAR ABD RAHIM

THE financial uncertainty surrounding the Junior World Cup is a thing of the past as the Johor state government has come in strongly, providing a total RM1 million in cash and kind.

Further good news for the Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) is a promise by the state government to secure a title sponsor for the tournament, which Malaysia is co-hosting with Singapore.
Malaysia will host the June 7-21 tournament in Johor Baru.
The Taman Daya stadium and facilities, subject to much speculation, will be ready by March -- in time for a quadrangular on Mar 11-15 featuring the Malaysian Juniors, India, Pakistan and a yet-to-be-confirmed side.
"The Johor state government has been very accommodating, and has not only gotten the first stadium ready, but will also help with the lighting and other facilities which will cost about RM1 million.
"And our organisational cost has also become cheaper as the Johor government has agreed to provide buses for 10 teams who will play in Johor Baru," said MHC secretary Hashim Yusof.
"The government will also secure a title sponsor, which will further reduce our burden."
Hashim said national juniors coach K. Rajan will identify the fourth team for the quadrangular.
"We have Egypt, Singapore and Germany as the possible fourth team, and will let the coach have his pick," said Hashim.
"The players will face a tougher time in training after the Chinese New Year holidays, and by March, they should be able to put up a fight in the quadrangular," said Rajan.
Malaysia, in Group C of the Junior World Cup, will have Spain, United States, South Korea and England for company with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.
The fixtures, released by the International Hockey Federation, will pit Malaysia against European Junior Cup champions Spain in the curtain raiser.