Thursday, February 19, 2009

TM: Hockey is for all races

By Tengku Abdullah
(The writer is the Malaysian Hockey Federation president )

WELL, I must say it has been a challenging three months in office because hockey is a new sport to me, unlike football which I am comfortable with. Everything is new, and I am still learning the ropes but I have no regrets.

No regrets at all accepting the offer from the states to take up this hot-seat.
The only setback is that I have to start from scratch to know the players, officials and coaches. This is my only handicap since taking over.
And after supporting me into the hot-seat, I am now hot on the heels of affiliates as while time is short, we have many plans to realise.
I am glad that they (affiliates) have come up with many ideas to revive the sport like starting local leagues at the state level. They seem to have realised the importance of running leagues to develop players, but plans alone cannot achieve results, they must make sure the leagues are run well.
My home state, Pahang, will lead by example in this aspect. I know Pahang has been dormant for a long time, and now is the time for the state to show others how development should be conducted. We will start by training children (aged five to nine) on Sundays, and also organise a league. We must lead by example.
And there is talk that there is a break in ranks even though we are just months old, as decisions were taken without consulting relevant committees.
The MHF deputy president (Nur Azmi Ahmad) stands accused of naming the coaching set-up even before the coaching committee met for the first time.
I would like to set the record straight, by saying that there is no break in ranks.
Azmi did consult me on the list of new coaches and since time was short and we had to get people to coach the respective teams, I told him to announce it to the council members first, but somehow the media were told about it instead.
On the players, personally speaking, I have yet to see the teams (senior and juniors) in action in an international tournament and do not know their strengths and weaknesses. My information is from the coaches and officials who are close with the boys, and they seem to be confident that we will qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
I will have a better picture once I watch them in action in the Azlan Shah Cup (on April 6-12).
Many people have also questioned the wisdom of not renewing the contracts of the three coaches after I took over, but it had to be done, as the sport needed some drastic changes.
But then, we have had problems hiring a foreign coach with good credentials, as the top brains are all tied down with their contracts.
We are still searching for a suitable foreign coach but on the same breath, I am also happy with the work that Tai Beng Hai has done so far as interim coach. We will wait and see how things turn out in the next few months.
I am also of the opinion that local coaches must be given a chance to develop the youth, as this will be better in the long run.
On the players, I had a chat with them two weeks ago and stressed to them what they already know, that modern hockey is all about fitness. Hockey today is unlike the olden days, where skills alone could get one through. Now we need players who can run up and down for the duration of the match.
I told them I want 100 percent commitment, and those who smoke must stop. We aim to break into the top-10 bracket in the world, and we can't do that if players have bad habits.
It is now up to them, if they see hockey as a career, to stop smoking.
It has also come to my attention that Sabah and Sarawak (who have yet to produce a single national player since the MHF was formed) are feeling left behind as they are geographically challenged.
We will have a separate agenda for both the states, and start by asking them to organise their own local leagues.
They have been left out because they can't take part in what is going on in the peninsula. We will help them catch up.
And there has been talk that hockey in the Under-21 and below age-groups is slowly being dominated by a certain race.
I would like to stress here that, we (MHF) have no racial policies which block any race from playing hockey.
Hockey is for all, and we want Malays, Indians, Chinese and others to enjoy the sport. In this aspect, I hope the schooling system will help us keep it a multi-racial sport.
It has been a hectic three months, but we still have a long way to go before we reach our 2012 Olympics target, which can only be achieved if the affiliates put their hearts and minds to it.