Monday, December 31, 2012


The almost there boyz...

By Jugjet Singh
MALAYSIAN Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had a strong feeling that the Dublin Olympic Qualifier would be the turning point of Malaysian hockey.
  That is why he took a 30-strong delegate to Ireland to watch and return with the gold medal which would have taken his charges into the London Olympics.
  Alas, his men gave away the gold to South Korea, silver to Ireland and returned home with the bronze instead.
  After much soul searching Tengku Abdullah decided that his charges need the touch of a foreign coach and his council stamped their backing on South African Paul Revington.
  Revington was one step better than the previous coach Tai Beng Hai, as he had guided Ireland to a silver in Dublin.
  In came Revington and his assistant Arul Selvaraj, and off they went to Argentina for their first experience with the national players. The Champions Challenge I got off to a rousing start, when Malaysia beat all and sundry, even South Korea to top Group A.
  And then the downhill slide started and South Korea whacked Malaysia 6-3 in the semi-finals and Revington's men finished fourth and failed, yet again, to play in the higher Champions Trophy bracket.
  South Korea were then humiliated 5-0 by Argentina in the final and the South American moved into the Champions Trophy next year leaving behind Asian sides Malaysia, Korea and Japan in the Challenge category.
  India and Pakistan also had a super run in the initial stages of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, but were reduced to the bronze playoff by Australia and Netherlands.
  Pakistan claimed the bronze and India fourth in Champions Trophy, which is a super result considering India finished last in the London Olympics.
  And on the local front, the MHC saw a poor turnout of fans for all their tournaments with even the Malaysia Hockey League being shunned and the seats empty even during knock-out stages.
  The Junior Hockey League, Razak Cup and even the Aazlan Shah Cup saw poor turn-outs at stadiums and this is a worrying trend which the MHC must try to arrest soon.
  The next big assignment for Revington is the Asia Cup in Ipoh next year which offers a ticket to the World Cup, but it is easier said than done, as India, Pakistan and Korea would be the teams to beat again for the gold.
  The easier path would be the World League, where Malaysia will play Round Two in Russia, and if they enter the final round of eight teams, they are almost assured of a place in the World Cup.
  Tengku Abdullah never gave up on the team after Dublin, and its time the team give him a reason to smile by at least playing in the final of the Asia Cup.
  All the other achievements, including winning the FIH Executive Board elections on a landslide of votes and hiring a top-notch coach, would cone to nought if the team fails to play in the World Cup from the two routes that the FIH have provided them with.
  At the Asian front, Malaysia ended as bronze medallists in the second edition of the Asian Champions Trophy in Oman.
  It was the last assignment this season for the senior side, and they held Pakistan 3-3, beat India 5-3 but their prelimanary round 2-1 defeat to China derailed hopes of playing in the final.
  However, Malaysia exacted revenge when they beat China 3-1 in the bronze playoff. Pakistan beat India 5-4 for the gold medal.
  Malaysia scored 20 goals in Doha, and 22 goals in the Champions Challenge I in Argentina, which indicates we have good strikers, but the defense still needs work to make an impact next year.
  On the juniors front, coach K. Dharmaraj's players were brought crashing down to earth when they ended last in the Sultan of Johor Cup tournament after winning the inaugural edition last year.
  The juniors then went to India to play in the Obaidullah Khan Gold Cup in Bhopal and lost all three matches. It was their first step towards making an impact in the Junior World Cup next November in New Delhi.
  As for the MHC, their administration side needs to buck up, as news about local tournaments, and results of overseas matches are very slow to trickle from their side.
  States are also complaining that the parent body does not keep them abreast of developments, as those manning the daily aspects of the MHC are very slow to act and even slower to send out e-mails on tournaments and results.