Monday, February 7, 2011

Azlan Shah Cup: Teams ready, stadium not

WORLD No 1 Australia will lead six top-10 teams in the 20th Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh on may 5-15.
Malaysia, who have yet to win the tournament after 19 editions, are the lowest ranked at No 15, going by the International Hockey Federation World Rankings which were last updated on Aug 9 last year.
And interestingly though, Great Britain have been listed instead of England, whose world ranking is No 4.
South Korea (No 6), New Zealand (No 7) Asian Games champions Pakistan (No 8) and India (No 9) will complete the power-packed cast who will hold court at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.
But sadly, while the most exciting teams in the world have confirmed, the stadium itself is not in the best of shape, and will need to be closed for at least one month to spruce it up.
Malaysia Hockey League Premier Division teams found out about the sorry state of the stadium when they played there, as both the artificial pitches were infested with fungus and players could not trap the ball well.
Many fell while trying to chase the ball on the slippery surface, as there was also plenty of mud.
An official, who declined to be named said: “The score board is also in tatters, while work to clean the artificial pitch is in progress, but very slow, as it is a tedious job.
“Also, the drainage system is in bad shape, as when it rains, the water stagnates for long periods on the pitch, while the changing rooms, which are lower than the pitch, get flooded easily.”
He predicted loads of money as well as a concerted effort for one month is needed to make both the pitches playable again.
Last year, it rained cats-and-dogs during the tournament, with even the final being abandoned after six minutes of play because of torrential rain.
India and South Korea were declared joint-champions as the pitch was water-logged and unplayable.
Malaysia ended fourth behind Australia, and it would be a shame if the stadium is unable to hold a candle against the best in the world.
FIXTURES: May 5 -- 1605 New Zealand v Pakistan, 1805 Korea v India, 2005 Great Britain v Malaysia.
May 6: 1605 Korea v Pakistan, 805 Great Britain v India, 2005 Australia v Malaysia.
May 8: 1605 Australia v India, 1805 Great Britain v Pakistan, 2005 Korea v New Zealand.
May 9: 1605 Australia v Pakistan, 1805 Great Britain v New Zealand, 2005 India v Malaysia.
May 11: 1605 New Zealand v Malaysia, 1805 Australia v Korea, 2005 Pakistan v India.
May 12: 1605 Australia v Great Britain, 1805 New Zealand v India, 2005 Korea v Malaysia
May 14: 1605 Great Britain v Korea, 1805 Pakistan v Malaysia, 2005 Australia v New Zealand
May 15: 1535 Fifth-Sixth, 805 Third-Fourth, 2035 Final.

Made-in-Malaysia KLHC the best bet

FOREIGN players have turned out to be more of a bane, than help, for many teams who relied heavily on them in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League.
A total of 26 foreign players are involved in the League, with Yayasan Negri Sembilan having the lion’s share of 11, mostly Pakistanis.
Nur Insafi have eight, UniKL four while Sapura three.
However, local based Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) lead the standings and look the best bet to lift the League title, while another local-based side Tenaga Nasional won the Charity Shield and are third on the standings.
UniKL, in second spot, made some good foreign buys who have jelled well with the local young talent, and have made a great improvement from their bottom placed finish last season.
But Sapura, Nur Insafi and Yayasan Negri Sembilan have been on a roller-coaster ride due to injuries to their for eigners, and the habitual never-ending disappearing act of their foreign imports.
Sapura were hard hit when Rehan Butt went home to play for his club, while Korean Lim Woo Geun is down with groin injury. Their goalkeeper David Kettle from Wales, is also down with suspected kidney.
With the absence of the trio, Sapura barely won both their weekend fixtures, as they were lucky that their opponents were not sharp enough in the semi-circle.
Coach I. Vickneswaran admitted: “We were lucky to win both the matches (2-1 against both YNS and UiTM) because their forwards were not sharp enough to snatch on the many opportunities that we gave away. It would have been dis astrous, otherwise.”
YNS, however, were not as lucky when their Pakistan back- bone returned home to play in an inter-department tour nament.
Inter-department? Yes, defender Mohamed Imran and forwards Shakeel Abbasi and Muhammad Waqas Sharif left to play for their departments whn YNS needed them most against Sapura and Tenaga Nasional.
Needless to say, they lost both the matches even though they still had eight more imports to rely upon.
Nur Insafi also suffered over the weekend with only 13 players (one reserve outfield, and a reserve goalkeeper) because their Pakistan imports had to go home for a domestic league. They lost three crucial points in the 3-1 defeat to bottom-placed UiTM, and two points in the 1-1 draw against UniKL.
KLHC, who have the most number of national players, will get their chance to seal the League title next weekend when they play against YNS and Sapura, and hammer home the point that is it better to rely on the best in the country, than to invest in foreign players who have mid-way commitments -- for their departments.
PREMIER DIVISION: Friday -- Sapura v Nur Insafi (3.30pm), Maybank v UiTM (5.15pm), Tenaga Nasional v Armed Forces-Airod (7pm), Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club v Yayasan Negri Sembilan (8.45pm).
* All matches at the Tun Razak Stadium.
Saturday: Nur Insafi v Armed Forces-Airod (4pm), Sapura v Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (6pm), Maybank v Tenaga Nasional (8pm), UniKL v Yayasan Negri Sembilan (KLHA Stadium, 5pm).
* All other matches at the Tun Razak Stadium.
DIVISION ONE: Friday -- UniTen v Ipoh City Hall (KLHA Stadium, 5pm), Armed Forces Jnrs v Bukit Jalil Sports School (Education Ministry, 5pm), Malacca City Council v Universiti Sains Malaysia (Malacca, 5pm).
Sunday: Ipoh City Hall v Universiti Sains Malaysia (Azlan Shah Stadium, 5pm), UniTen v Bukit Jalil Sports School (KLHA Stadium, 5pm), Armed Forces Jnrs v Bandar PE nawar Sports School (Bandar Penawar, 5pm).


P W D L F A Pt
KLHC 11 9 1 1 50 17 28
UNIKL 12 7 3 2 21 16 24
TNB 11 7 1 3 25 14 22
SAPURA 11 7 0 4 31 21 21
YNS 12 7 0 5 38 28 21
NUR INSAFI 12 4 2 6 21 34 14
MAYBANK 11 2 3 6 12 18 9
ATM 12 2 0 10 12 37 6
UITM 12 2 0 10 18 43 6

P W D L F A Pt
ATM JNR 8 7 1 0 21 4 22
BPSS 7 5 0 2 15 11 15
BJSS 7 4 0 3 15 8 12
IPOH CH 9 3 2 4 15 19 11
MALACCA CC 8 3 0 5 10 10 9
USM 8 2 0 6 11 25 6
UNITEN 7 1 1 5 6 16 4