Monday, May 31, 2010

JHL a top-heavy success

THE Junior Hockey League (JHL) was a top-heavy success, while the middle class and Division Two teams were a total flop.
The Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar Sports Schools senior sides, UniKL and Petaling Jaya City Council had put in much effort and to a certain degree, promising players could be spotted in their outfits.
However, the rest of the Division One teams were a yawn to watch, and the majority of their players did not even have the basics right yet.
The top three Division Two teams -- Sabah, Pahang and Ipoh City Council in that order -- looked comfortable beating their peers with impressive margins, but when given a chance to play in the quarter-finals against Division One teams, none of them progressed into the last four.
In fact, they were turned into punching bags, with BPSS hitting Ipoh 9-1, BJSS hammering four goals past Division Two champions Sabah, while UniKL beat Pahang 4-2.
Sabah were the biggest disappointment in the last eight, as they went on a scoring spree of more than 30 goals to become the Division Two champions, but could not score a single goal against BJSS who finished third in Division One.
The standard was evident to Sabah HA secretary Aftar Singh: “We took part in our first JHL since its inception, and it was an achievement to become the Division Two cham pions.
“However, our form is still far from satisfactory, as we were lost when pitted against a Division One side.”
But Sabah deserve praise as they have started a dedicated programme, even though it is long overdue, when they camped at the Pandamaran Stadium in Klang to train for the Razak Cup, the JHL and now for the Malaysia Games in Malacca.
“We have just started our journey, and have to chase established clubs who are miles ahead. It will be difficult, but not an impossible task to go on par with Division One teams in the near future if we continue our development pro grammes,” said Aftar.
More established teams like Pahang, Ipoh City Council, Tunku Besar Secondary School, Penang Frees and Johor were beaten by Sabah in their route to become champions, and more can be expected from them if they continue playing in the JHL.
Eighteen teams competed in the JHL, with nine in each division, and the national selectors can easily form two strong Under-19 training squads as talent was abundant.

UniKL a perfect venue to play, study and work

UniKL coach I. Vickneswaran with his charges.

By Jugjet Singh

UNIKL (Universiti Kuala Lumpur) is here to stay, and with a strong backing from their Chancellor, hockey players now have another dedicated club to play, study and work for.
UniKL spent half a million this season playing in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) and the Junior Hockey League (JHL), and with Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah as their Chancellor, the sky seems to be the limit.
In their MHL debut UniKL, with an average age of 21, finished at the bottom of the six-team pool in the Premier Division. But in the quarter-finals, they held Maybank 3-3 in the first leg, but lost 2-0 in the return leg.
In the JHL, they were runners-up in the League and Overall champions.
Success did not come cheap for them, as a total of RM500,000 was spent in both the MHL and JHL, and yesterday, the management held a meeting with coaches I. Vickneswaran, K. Embaraj and Saiful Azhar -- all former internationals -- to chart the future of the newcomers.
The interesting part about UniKL is that they are the first University side to get seriously involve in the sport, and have hired four players as staff, and two more will be enrolled soon to study there.
The idea was, naturally, mooted by Tengku Abdullah, and when he presented the Overall medals to the UniKL players on Sunday, he was heard saying: “You guys have made your Chancellor very proud.”
Chief coach Vickneswaran knows it would be difficult for UniKL to hold onto some of their promising players, as richer clubs like Sapura and Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club have the resources to snatch them with lucrative contracts.
But the new club is not overly worried, because they know that if they can become a ‘breeding’ ground for young talent, they would achieve MHF’s aspirations, as Tengku Abdullah had said that he will work to elevate the standard of clubs after he was elected as president.
Much has been achieved in the first season itself, but more will be expected from UniKL in the years to come as they dethroned former Overall champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and denied Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) Thunderbolt the double.
The fact that UniKL beat both the sports schools in the Overall title chase has also sent tongues wagging, as the schools are supposed to be the front-liners after systematic coaching and development for years.
BJSS can be excused as they relied on Under-16 players, but BPSS were a letdown as most of their players had trained, stayed and studied together for six years but still could not play as a team.
The local league season is over, and now it would be interesting to see how MHF keep the upcoming pool of players, including the Under-16 boys who finished second in a Four-Nation in Germany, busy and not lose them to the schooling system, or worse still, to other vices with come with success.