Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don't bet on five-time double champs BJSS

2009: On a high: Bukit Jalil Sports School players celebrate with the trophies and mock cheques after beating Bandar Penawar Sports School 5-4 on penalties to win the 2009 overall title. — KEVIN TAN / The Star

THIS season’s MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey league will see an exciting fight for the title, and placing the bet on five- time double champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) will be a risky gamble.
The JHL will also feel the void of two pioneer members, Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) and Tenaga Nasional, as one has called it a day, while the other has combined forces to become stronger.
Olak cited financial reasons for their pull out after playing for 15 straight years since the JHL made its debut in 1995, while Tenaga has combined forces with Bandar Penawar Sports School and will play under the BPSS-Thunderbolt banner.
The merger has made them as the early favourites and BJSS acknowledged that they will have a hard time winning even one title.
The other teams in the nine-team Division One are the Junior teams of Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar along with Kijang Mas Kelantan, Anderson Ipoh, MBPJ and new comers Universiti KL and the national women's hockey team (MWHA).
The Kelantan team and Anderson are also considered as potential contenders but it will be interesting to see how the MWHA team fare since they will be playing against the boys.
The women’s team is the outfit that will play in the World Cup qualifier in Chile later this month, where only the gold medallists will play in the World Cup in Argentina.
In the JHL, The top five teams will qualify for the knockout stage with three coming from the lower Division Two.
BJSS coach S. Prakash said that they expected an open title race and it would be foolish to underestimate any of the teams.
“All the teams have hired national juniors and many of my experienced players have also been snapped up these teams.
“We cannot expect to have it easy and neither will this be a two-horse race like the previous two years,” he said.
BJSS won the double in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and have been the League champions since 2003.
The BPSS-Thunderbolt combination should be a top draw but it remains to be seen if they can deliver.
MWHA coach Yahya Atan said that for them it is the chance to gain quality practice matches.
“So we will play hard and try for the title as this will give my team the much needed match practice under match con ditions.
“We are serious and I hope the teams will not take it easy against us,” he said.
The women are also eligible for the points as well as prize money that comes with the title.
TODAY: Division One: BJSS v BJSS Juniors (KLHA Sta dium), Anderson v PJCC (Azlan Shah Stadium), BPSS Thun derbolts v BPSS Juniors (Bandar Penawar Stadium), Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association (MWHA) v UniKL (Seremban Two Stadium).
Division Two: Penang Free School v Ipoh City Council (USM Stadium), Datuk Taha Juniors v Tunku Besar Juniors (Tampin Stadium), SMK Pengkalan Permatang v Sabah Sports Council (Pandamaran Stadium).
All matches start at 5pm.

Updesh: Raju is an asset

FORMER national hockey player Updesh Singh is perplexed as to why the Razak Cup and Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) were used as a yardstick to sideline S. Selvaraju who is now playing in the French League.
Updesh, who played alongside national chief coach Stephen van Huizen in the Malaysian national team, is now based in France and coaching Racing Club de France, where Selvaraju is attached to.
“I read on the Internet Van Huizen had commented that Selvaraju can’t be considered for the national team because he did not play in the MHL and the Razak Cup.
“There is something really wrong with the selection pro cess if the two domestic tournaments are used instead of his progress report in the French League,” said Updesh in a telephone interview yesterday.
According to Updesh, the club has played two matches and Selvaraju scored a goal in each match.
“He is an asset to my club and scored two goals in two matches and he is also coaching the junior girls’ and boys’ teams when he is not playing.
“I believe Selvaraju is making more progress as a player in France, than if he had played in the MHL and Razak Cup,” said Updesh.
The national players checked into camp on Wednesday but the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have yet to release the name list.
“Some of the players called for training have yet to receive their letters and that is why we can’t release the training team list to the Press.
“An announcement will be made tomorrow (today) after all the players had received their notifications from the MHF. All I can say now is that Selvaraju is not on the list,” said national team manager Datuk Dr S.S. Cheema.
The trainees are in camp to prepare for the Azlan Shah Cup which will be held in Ipoh from May 6-16.
Selvaraju was equally surprised that his venture abroad is looked at with skewed eyes.
“I will be playing in France until the middle of May which means I can’t play in the Azlan Shah Cup as well. However, I hope my absence will not shut the door on me because I would like to represent the country in the Commonwealth and Asian Games if given a fair chance in selection.
“I have only played two matches here, but have caught the eye of another coach who has offered me to play in Belgium,” said Selvaraju.
And if a progress report is what the local coaches want, Updesh will provide it: “Malaysian coaches can rest assured that we will give them Selvaraju’s progress report when his stint is over, and I hope they recognise a good player, when one comes along,” said Updesh.
Updesh, who was in Malaysia to watch both the semi-finals of the MHL, said the standard of hockey in Malaysia has dropped tremendously.
“And I read that the MHF president (Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah) was also disappointed with the standard of play in the Razak Cup. This only shows that Selvaraju took the right step moving abroad to make him a better player,” said Updesh.