Friday, August 21, 2009

Project the only silver lining in Razak Cup

THE 47th edition of the Razak Cup would have been a total flop, if not for the excitement provided by the Project 2013 boys.
The fact that under-18 boys went all the way to the final in Division One, should be a good indicator for the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) to gauge development among their affiliates.
The Razak Cup is the second oldest hockey tournament, behind the Gurdwara Cup which was held for the 58th uninterrupted time recently, but states showed total dis respect to it by fielding players who were older than the tournament itself.
Kuala Lumpur, the 2008 champions, also relied on many players who should have given way to younger legs, and their folly saw then finishing third.
A check on the team lists showed that there were 41 players who were in the range of 30-40 years old, and three players in the 40-50 age group.
And it is needless to say that states which relied on players who should be playing in veterans’ tournaments found out that former greats are no longer so great.
“When I used to play in the Razak Cup, it was The chance for a player to break into the national team and we had to give our best in every match because selectors were watching.
“Right after the prize presentation, the names of those who have been selected for national training was read out, and that was how important a development ground it was,” said a former national player who declined to be named.
That is why it would be worthless to write about the action in Division Two, and Division One would also have been a wasted exercise is not for the five 16-year-olds, seven 17- year-olds and six 18-year-olds in the Project squad.
“Before the tournament started, I thought that even if my boys win two matches it would be an achievement. But they went all the way to the final, and this is a good indication that we have selected promising players to be trained for the 2013 Junior World Cup,” said Project coach K. Dharmaraj.
And the most important lesson for the MHF to learn from mistakes made in the last decade is to discard the full-time training which has failed to produce any results.
Lets learn from the semi-finalists of the recent Junior World Cup Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Their players were nurtured via playing in domestic tournaments rather than keeping them for long periods in national camps.
The Razak Cup failed to unearth any new talent, but it certainly showed that the MHF did at least one thing right -- they allowed the Project to play in Division One.
And it could just be the silver lining for Malaysia to perform better in the next junior world cup.