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).