Friday, May 8, 2009

A boost as Jiwa gets top marks

THE National Sports Institute (NSI) conducted a fitness test on Jiwa Mohan yesterday and the player was declared fit to represent Malaysia in the Asia Cup which starts in Kuantan tomorrow.
Coach Tai Beng Hai selected 19 players yesterday and another will be dropped by the time of the team managers meeting today as two players, who were in rehabilitation, have shown tremendous improvement.
"The MHF (Malaysian Hockey Federation) invited NSI as a neutral party to conduct a fitness test on Jiwa and he passed in the excellent category," said Beng Hai.
"I have named 19 players because Tengku (Ahmad Tajuddin) and Razie (Rahim), who did not play in the Azlan Shah Cup, were impressive in the recent friendlies we played. I will decide on the final 18 just before the team managers meeting." Jiwa last played for Malaysia in the 2008 Azlan Shah Cup, and then called it quits to concentrate on his work in Australia. But he has been actively playing in the Australian Hockey League.
Malaysia open their campaign against World No 5 South Korea tomorrow before meeting Bangladesh and then Japan.
In Group B are Pakistan, India and China.
There were very few changes from the line-up which played to a silver medal in the Azlan Shah Cup.
"The players are at their best, physically and mentally, and with a semi-final target in mind we must start well against South Korea," said Beng Hai.
South Korea are the only Asian team in the Champions Trophy, while Malaysia will be playing in the Champions Challenge II in Dublin, Ireland on July 6-12. Eight teams will be playing in the Champions Challenge II. Malaysia are in Group B with France, Austria and Russia.
In Group A are Japan, Ireland, Poland an Chile.
"We need to do well in the Asia Cup, and also in the Champions Challenge II to improve our world ranking. I see the Asia Cup as a start to bigger things for this set of players."
If Malaysia make the semi-finals, their likely opponents will be India or Pakistan.
The squad: S. Kumar (goalkeeper), Fairus Wanasir (goalkeeper), Madzli Ikmar (skipper), Amin Rahim, Baljit Singh Charun Singh, Engku Malek, Jiwa Mohan, Shukri Mutalib, Shahrun Nabil, Nabil Fiqri, Kelvinder Singh, Razie Rahim, Jivan Mohan, Azlan Misron, Ismail Abu, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Hafifi Hafiz, Chua Boon Huat, S. Selvaraju.
Fixtures -- Tomorrow: Group B: Pakistan v China (3pm); Group A: South Korea v Malaysia (5pm), Japan v Bangladesh (7pm).
Sunday -- Group B: India v Pakistan (5pm).
(All matches at Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium, Kuantan)

Go For It!

By Poon Fook Loke
(The writer played in the 1975 KL World Cup)

"GO for it!"
Having experienced the frustration of being mere spectators and being left in the cold in the 2006 World Cup in Moenchengladbach, Germany, I believe this Malaysian team are now ready to take on the challenge in the AirAsia men's Asia Cup.
In fact, judging from the quality of the players we have in the squad, it is not impossible to aim for the title if the players are hungry enough and excited by the fact that a title triumph means an automatic place in next year's World Cup.
I am not a fan of the English Premier League but many may recall that Sir Alex Ferguson bravely announced before the EPL kicked off this season that Manchester United would definitely win the championship again.
The reason he gave was that for the first time in pre-season training, he observed something that was never there before -- that every player was hungry for success.
United today are on top with four matches remaining and are also in the Champions League final.
What Tai Beng Hai's players have going for them is international maturity and their exposure stretches back to the past two Junior World Cups -- the last being in 2005 in Rotterdam.
It was in Rotterdam that the team stamped their mark. The most impressive match was when they came within a whisker of beating Argentina, the eventual champions, in the preliminary round.
It clearly reflected that the juniors, even then, had the potential to excel and the majority of them are now in this Asia Cup squad.
I cannot help but remind these former juniors that they used to run rings around Timo Wess from Germany and India's Sandeep Singh then. Today, Wess is the German national skipper while Sandeep is a top penalty corner specialist.
Their mental strength took them to a new level. Likewise, the Malaysians have matured and should be motivated to take on this new responsibility in the senior team.
Malaysia, as shown before, can play quality hockey but what is crucial to the campaign is maintaining consistency.
Lapses in concentration have cost Malaysia dearly in matches and I hope Beng Hai has rectified this weakness.
It is also appropriate to remind players that fitness is a personal responsibility and a critical factor in order to deliver a top class performance.
If you cheat in training, you inevitably pay the price. Those who have played in European leagues should know of this basic demand of fitness required by coaches, failing which you may have to sit out and wait for another opportunity.
Beng Hai, I am sure, has a game plan in place for all Malaysia's opponents as we have played them so often.
Playing on home ground means high expectations but if Malaysia play to their strengths, the results will follow.

Mutiara Impian make it six in a row

By K. Kandiah

MUTIARA Impian Sports School thrashed SMK Guar Perahu 3-0 to retain the Penang Schools Sports Council Girls' Under-18 hockey title for the sixth consecutive year at the Bertam Hockey Stadium in Kepala Batas yesterday.
Nur Alia Alyeni Hamzah, 17, who had led the state sports school to the last three titles, opened scoring mid-way through the first half.
In the second half, Mutiara Impian were more aggressive and Nur Hayyu Qayyun slammed home the second and
Nur Izwana Tajuddin completed the scoring as Mutiara Impian justified their favourites tag.