Friday, June 26, 2009

Under-18 league in all states

UNLUCKY in the first round but miserable failures thereafter was Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah's summary of Malaysia in the Junior World Cup.

The Juniors finished 12th in the 20-team competition and Tengku Abdullah admitted that this proves the structure in the states and schools has failed.
The MHF management committee, which Tengku Abdullah chaired yesterday, took the first steps towards checking Malaysia's slide by making it compulsory for all states to have an Under-18 league and to work with the Education Ministry to produce a world class junior team for the 2013 Junior World Cup.
"First of all, I would like to say that we failed to reach our target of reaching the medal rounds purely on luck as we lost out to Spain on goal difference," said Tengku Abdullah.
"But after that, we failed to finish ninth and I take that as a setback.
"These were the best players we have, and if they failed, it means the state and school structure has failed. I am not saying that the states' structure has collapsed, but it needs strengthening."
The management committee will present the Under-18 league proposal at the council meeting next month.
"After the council endorses the proposal to have an Under-18 league in every state, we will start work immediately. Hopefully, all states will run the league simultaneously by this year.
"If each state can have six teams, and 10 states hold the league, we will at least have another 1,200-odd players to bank on when conducting selections."
The MHF will also invite the Education Ministry to sit with it and plan for a schools league.
"We need to strengthen basics at the school level, because to achieve our target of breaking into the top 10 bracket in the senior level, we need more quality youth."
For a start, MHF will include two Junior World Cup players in the national squad for the Champions Challenge II on July 6-12 in Ireland.
Malaysia will play against Austria, France and Russia while the other group has Ireland, Chile, Poland, and Japan.
Faizal Shaari, 18, who scored eight goals in the Junior World Cup, and midfielder Marhan Jalil, 19, will play in Ireland.

Van Ass: Chaotic style the bane

DUTCH coach Paul van Ass loves to watch the "chaotic" Asian style of
playing hockey, but sadly, it is not good if one is looking for results
at international level.
The Germans are boring, the Dutch systematic, the Kiwis hardworking,
while the Australians simply brilliant, and all four made the semi-finals
on team-work.
"I love to see the chaotic Asian playing style because it is nice to
watch, but sadly, structure and systematic approach produce results,"
said van Ass.
Asian teams fell by the wayside despite their individual flair, and
stubbornly refuse to learn how to play hockey to win, and not play to the
gallery, even though it was evident decades ago that the European
systematic attack which has produced results.
Pakistan fifth, South Korea seventh, India ninth, Malaysia 12th and
Japan 13th sum up precisely where flair and individual skill normally end
The fact that Pakistan were the inaugural champions in 1979, but have
been struggling since, and India only hitting a high in 2001 but in the
shadows for the past two editions, indicates where Asian hockey is
Germany were champions in 1982, 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2009, and that
speaks volumes of their development structure, especially the focus on
German coach Uli Forstner lamented the fact that he did not have his
players together until one week before the tournament, and it was the
same for van Ass.
And the reason for this is that the Dutch and Germans place great
emphasis on club tournaments and their players were involved in the
European Hockey League and the Bundesliga right till the end.
The EHL and Bundesliga coaches made sure the players were fit and all
clubs played a similar style, so when they are regrouped, the players
adapt fast and there is no need for long periods of centralised camps,
like practised in Malaysia.
However, since the club structure in Malaysia is very loose, with each
coach having his own idea on how hockey should be played, and schools
simply not bothered to strengthen basics, national coaches are left with
a messy situation.
It is only in Malaysia where the national coach must teach his pool of
recruits how to stop the ball, how to hit, and also prod them like cattle
to keep them fit.
Seven players from coach K. Rajan's team have been selected for
attachment to the senior side. But other than Faizal Shaari, 18, and
goalkeeper Abdul Hakim, 21, one does not see much hope in the others.
Faizal scored eight of Malaysia's 15 goals, while Hakim, even though
playing behind poor defenders, managed to keep Malaysia afloat to finish
12th among 20 teams.
It was almost a two-man show, as the others lacked even the basics, and
the blame lies squarely on our schools, and chaotic club structure.

Need drastic action

Comment By Vijesh Rai
(Sports Editor NST)
SO, was the Junior World Cup a success story for Malaysia?
Some believe it was as the national juniors finished 12th, a position
which didn't seem possible as recent as eight months ago.
Coach K. Rajan inherited a mediocre squad and there was genuine fear
that Malaysia would struggle in the Junior World Cup against even the
They didn't but in finishing 12th, the team were successful in only
proving outright that they are the products of a system that has failed.
Sure, the rest of the Asian representation didn't do well either but it
is Malaysia that we should be concerned about and after two weeks of a
world class tournament, we know for sure now that we can't deny any
longer that the game here is seriously ill.
The players in Johor Baru are mostly products of the Bukit Jalil and
Bandar Penawar Sports Schools - therefore the best in their age group -
and 12th was all Malaysia could manage.
If this doesn't set off the alarm bells, I don't know what will.
For sure, Malaysian Hockey Federation president Tengku Abdullah Sultan
Ahmad Shah now knows what a challenge it is going to be for him.
The honeymoon period that he has enjoyed since taking over the
presidency last November is over and he has to start making the right
decisions if he wants to make a mark on Malaysian hockey.
The structure - be it at the national or grassroots levels - needs a
total revamp and Tengku Abdullah has to get the Education, especially,
and Sports ministries involved.
Getting their support shouldn't be a problem for Tengku Abdullah but it
is the other aspect - the affiliates - who will be his problem.
It has become the norm for state associations to resist changes, even
if for the better, and the latest show of power came from an association
that was once very close to Tengku Abdullah's heart - the FA of Malaysia.
When he was a deputy president, Tengku Abdullah would often say that it
was unfair to blame only the national body for the ills of Malaysian
The states too had to share the blame and Sunday's annual congress -
where they rejected a proposal to only allow those holding positions in
district FAs or clubs to contest for positions - shows how resistant they
can be.
It is with this in mind that I have to say the proposed restructuring
of the M-League - as directed by Sultan Ahmad Shah - won't happen.
It has been pointed out time and again that FAM should adopt a
structure where only the fittest are allowed to play in the top-tier of
Malaysian football but this, no doubt due to the power of the affiliates,
has never even been considered.
Sultan Ahmad Shah, in his address, mentioned it and I, along with those
who still follow Malaysian football, will be pleasantly surprised if this
is realised.
It is the same with hockey for the power to change lies with the states
and can Tengku Abdullah get them to toe the line?
If he can't, the juniors will start following the footsteps of their
seniors and miss out on major tournaments.

India back in the frame

MALAYSIA were on "if" standby to host the 2010 World Cup, said
International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre after he
watched Malaysia lose 3-2 to Belgium in the 11th-12th classification
match at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on Saturday.
India, said Negre, were in disarray on four matters when Malaysia were
placed on standby, but they have almost got matters sorted out and should
be able to host the senior World Cup.
"Four matters were of concern to the FIH when we placed Malaysia on
standby. The first was facilities, then securing a title sponsor,
security and the merger of men's and women's bodies under one umbrella,"
said Negre.
"The facilities should be ready to host Test matches by the end of the
year, and they have a title sponsor, even though the amount is smaller
than expected.
"India have also pledged to beef up security and we have approved the
formation of Hockey India to merge the men's and women's bodies which we
hope will be done soonest."
On the Junior World Cup, Negre said his personal feeling is that the
tournament should never again be hosted by two countries.
"On a personal note, and not an official statement from FIH, I feel the
logistics involved when two countries host it is simply too demanding,
and if I have my way, it will never happen again," Negre said.
"However, I would like to congratulate Malaysia and Singapore for doing
a wonderful job as there were only minor glitches and all went
accordingly." The plus point is that, added Negre, is that both countries
now have two new pitches each.
"It is good for hockey that Singapore and Malaysia now have two new
pitches each and this could in turn help develop the sport further."
The Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru is smack in the middle of a middle
class housing estate, and there are many schools nearby. The stadium
belongs to the Johor Baru City Council and if they open it to schools to
train at a discounted rate, then hockey will get a boost in the state.