Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kuhan: Limit foreigners

S. KUHAN started playing in the Malaysia Hockey League in 1992 when he was a 16-year-old, and knows the tournament like the back of his hands.
He tasted the glory of becoming double champions with his first ever team Yayasan Negri Sembilan in 1994 and 1995, and then moved to Petaling Jaya Municipal Council, Bank Simpanan Nasional and finally Sapura in 2000 up till now.
"I have been involved with the MHL since my school days, and practically spent half my life playing in it. It is difficult to compare the standard of play over the 15 years as there have been too many changes in rules over the years. The sport is no longer the same as when I first started playing it," said Kuhan when asked on his opinion on the progress of the MHL.
However, the former Malaysian captain lamented on two matters which are a bit of a concern.
"The crowd used to be much better back then, especially when Armed Forces were playing as truck loads of supporters were brought in to make it more interesting.
"Today, there are some venues which attract only small crowds, and it only gets better from the semi-finals onwards when stadiums are filled to the brim.
"The other matter is on the infusion of foreign players. Personally, I feel that there should be a cap on the number of foreigners which a team can sign up.
"Having foreigners, especially big names in hockey, is a crowd puller but too many of them in one team deprives our local players of an opportunity to play.
"I believe, maybe five foreigners is a good cap, and the locals can also learn from them like YNS players did back then when the best India players were hired to make it more exciting," said Kuhan.
India skipper Pargat Singh, Jude Felix and Mukesh Kumar were the foreign stars in YNS, while the local big names were former skipper Sarjit Singh, Soon Mustapha, Gurmit Singh and current national coaching coordinator Stephen van Huizen.
YNS made a comeback to the League after an absence of 15 years but more than 50 percent of their team are foreign players.
On how the MHL could be further improved, Kuhan said: "I feel the MHL is well run, and many of our juniors from Project 2013 have benefited from playing in it.
"However, the fixtures need to be improved as the 3.30pm and 4pm matches serve no purpose. Firstly, the crowd are not there, and secondly, it is just too hot to play at that hour and the quality drops drastically," said Kuhan.

YNS brace for KLHC test

YNS’ Shakeel Abbasi (centre) vies with UniKL’s Mohd Razali Zulkipli in their first leg quarter-final match last Friday. YNS won 4-2.

By Ajitpal Singh

YAYASAN Negri Sembilan (YNS) are under no illusion about the kind of challenge Premier Division champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) will pose in the semi-finals of the Malaysian Hockey League.
YNS are bidding for their first overall title since 1996 and on returning to the league after 11 years, the club, with 11 foreign players mostly from India and Pakistan, are determined to upset the form book but may find KLHC too hot to handle.
The Negri Sembilan-based club were not expected to progress far in the knock-out stage after their erratic show in the Premier Division. But they managed to get into their groove in the quarter-finals and beat UniKL 9-5 on aggregate.
"We are glad we won convincingly as confidence is really important at this stage of the tournament. My hope is that my charges continue to play good hockey in the semi-finals," said YNS coach Hasnizam Ah Sim yesterday.
KLHC, however, are also entering the semi-finals on a high after a massive 26-3 aggregate win over Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS).
YNS and KLHC, who have seven national players from the Asian Games silver medal side, have met twice in the league with the latter winning both encounters convincingly (6-3 and 7-2).
"We must forget about past results. They may have beaten us twice in the league but it does not matter to us," added Hasnizam.
"We are a better prepared team for the semi-finals. It is also important we learn from past mistakes ahead of the clash." Sapura will be gunning for revenge when they face defending champions Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) in the other semi-final.
TNB, also this season's Charity Shield winners, edged Sapura on penalty strokes to lift the overall title last year.
It is expected to be an exciting clash as both teams are fired-up after their quarter-final wins.
TNB thrashed Armed Forces Juniors 11-4 on aggregate without the injured Amin Rahim but the drag flick specialist is expected to return for the semi-final.
Sapura, led by S. Kuhan and Pakistan international Rehan Butt, also boosted their confidence by overcoming Maybank 8-1 on aggregate.