Monday, January 25, 2010

Forget a touring league

COMMENT by Jugjet Singh

THE idea was novel, and expensive to execute, so the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) deserve a pat for pulling it thought.
The Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division will enter the knock-out stages this weekend, but many feel the idea should be knocked out in the next season, as it has failed in many areas.
First of all, the stadia in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru and Malacca were empty of fans, and the smattering of people that bothered to attend were more family and friends of the hockey players.
The Tun Razak Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, a venue which used to be filled to the brim when MHL matches were played a decade ago, only saw a handful of fans, while the rest were players, officials and not to forget the ball-boys.
Penang failed to bring in the crowd, even though they had a home side in Nur Insafi, and the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru as well as the Bukit Serindit Stadium in Malacca will tell you a similar tale if they could talk.
So next season, MHF might a well scrape the expensive idea which involves travelling and staying in hotels, as five out of the six teams are based in the Klang Valley, and it is highly unlikely that another state-based club can afford to join in.
The reason is not because Malaysians do not like to watch hockey anymore, but because the gap among teams is so huge, that the League champion Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club should have been given the trophy and RM30,000 cash right after they submitted their team list.
The fact that 5 million viewers tuned in to watch Malaysia play against New Zealand in the World Cup Qualifier in Invercargill, indicates the fan base is still there, but they want quality matches and not run-of-the mill lop-sided tour naments.
There are not enough hockey players to go around, and former stars are still highly in demand even though their production level has dropped with the increase in their waist- line.
Only UniKl-Ibil took a chance with a young side, but it looks like many of their players might be pinched by the richer clubs, and next season they will again be doing development work.
Sponsors Tenaga Nasional made it possible with a huge contribution, but it is time more money be used for de velopment, than staging tournaments.
A discussion was held recently between the big guns of the National Sports Council and the MHF, and the whispers in the corridors say that there is still hope in the long run if the proposals become a reality.
The NSC are looking at a Primary Sports School in Pahang where Standard One pupil will be exposed to training in multiple sports, and a scientific evaluation will be made as they grow up and only then, will they be made to specialise in sports which suit their physique.
And the NSC have promised to be on the lookout for budding hockey players.
Then there are plans to send a entire age-group hockey teams to Europe for more than a month to play and train, and this will be made possible by cementing affiliation with clubs in Netherlands and Germany who will house and train the boys at minimal cost.
In the words of one NSC official: “There will be more quality training time, and less time to be tourists as is the norm right now.”
The whispers are strong and confident that both the ideas will take off next year and in the long run, tournaments like the MHL will not have to rely on old horses or low-quality foreign players, while Malaysia will also be in a better position on the International Hockey Federation standings in a decade.

Sapura not keen to play away

SAPURA wrote a two-page letter to the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) yesterday, and it had ‘No’ in every para graph to Nur Insafi’s request to play one leg of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division quarter-finals in Penang.
Nur Insafi club president S. Thaitchana, who is also their coach, had said that if MHF deny their request to play one leg in Penang, they will stage a walkover.
“I have been following this new development in the press, and on Sunday, I received a call from the MHF asking me if Sapura are wiling to play one leg in Penang, and I replied in writing today (yesterday).
“First of all, Nur Insafi manager attended the team managers meeting where it was decided that all the knock- out matches will be held in Kuala Lumpur.
“None of the team managers, including Nur Insafi’s, protested then, and Sapura’s view is that the MHF stick to that decision,” said Sapura team manager Abdulah Yunus.
Abdulah also said it will be too taxing for his players to travel to Penang immediately after the first leg, and this will be a disadvantage against them.
In the letter, Abdulah also pointed out that eight of his players, and two of his coaches celebrate Thaipusam, and travelling to Penang on Jan 30 is out of the question.
“The first leg is on Friday, while Thaipusam is on the next day. And we play the return leg on Sunday.
“The religious festival is a public holiday and my players have made plans to celebrate it with their families so travelling on Saturday is out of the question,” said Abdulah.
Sapura feel the request to play in Penang is a of personal nature, and not binding.
“We had also made a personal request to MHF to postpone our Jan 16 match in Johor Baru to Jan 17 because our player Jiwa Mohan was getting married on the 16th.
“All my players and support staff wanted to attend the wedding in Kuala Lumpur, but MHF turned it down saying it is personal in nature. We lost two players, including his brother Jivan for that match.
“However, we respect the decision taken by MHF then as it was a personal matter, and now I feel the MHF should also take a similar stand in Nur Insafi’s request.
“In short, we want to play both the matches in KL, as agreed in the team manager meeting,” said Abdulah.
Nur Insafi are expected to turn up for the first leg, and boycott the return leg if MHF deny their request, even though the consequences will be severe on the club.