Thursday, March 7, 2013

Revival stage set for struggling Asian giants..

FOUR Asian giants will be looking to revive their hockey  fortunes against Australia and New Zealand in the Azlan  Shah Cup which begins this Saturday in Ipoh.
    In Asia, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Malaysia have  been holding the top-four positions for as long as one can  remember, but at the world stage, they are known as  struggling former giants.
    Australia, ranked No 2, are known as the Kookabooras and  they have proven themselves to be the sport-loving country’s  most most successful sporting team.
    They are the only Australian team in any sport to receive  medals at five Olympic Games (1992–2008), and have placed  themselves in the top four in every Olympics since 1980.
    They also won the Hockey World Cup in 1986 and 2010,  and finally broke their Olympic gold curse in 2004 in  Athens.
    The Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games ac colades and thropies need another cabinet to store.
    New Zealand, who shocked all and sundry by beating  Argentina 1-0 to the Azlan Shah gold last year, are ranked  6th in the World but do not have a collection of medals like  their neighbours.
   But the Kiwis are known fighters, and will prove them selves to be the team to beat in Ipoh from Saturday.
    Among the struggling Asian giants, Pakistan are the  highest ranked at No 5, South Korea at No 8, India at No 11  while Malaysia a distant 13th.
    The Azlan Shah Cup was mooted by the Sultan of Perak  to match the Champions Trophy, and after its launch in 1983   this invitational, today, remains one of the only two com petition designed to enhance the profile of Asian countries.
   The other is the new kid on the block, the Asian Champions  Trophy.
     India, Pakistan, Korea and Malaysia, do, remain on the  minds of hockey aficionados, but only in history.
    The domination of India ended somewhere in the Eighties  - Moscow Olympics to be exact - and that of Pakistan a decade  later, probably at the World Cup in Sydney.
    Neither Korea nor Malaysia reached the level of grabbing  the Olympics gold. At least Korea came close to the summit at  Sydney 2000.
    So it goes without saying that unless the former Asian  giants revitalise their development programmes, the  chances of narrowing the gap with the European countries  will remain just that, a chance.
     But with the Azlan Shah Cup at their disposal to play  against themselves, and also two higher ranked teams, it is  visioned that at least three Asian teams from Ipoh will make  the cup to the next year’s World Cup in Netherlands, be it  from the World League, or the Asia Cup -- both of which will  be hosted by Malaysia.


   SATURDAY: New Zealand  v  Pakistan (4pm), Australia  v  India (6pm), Malaysia  v  Korea (8pm).
   SUNDAY: Australia  v  Pakistan (4pm),  Korea  v  India (6pm), Malaysia  v  New Zealand (8pm).
   March 12: Korea  v  New Zealand (4pm), India  v  Pakistan (6pm), Malaysia  v  Australia (8pm).
   March 14: Australia  v  Korea (4pm), New Zealand  v  India (6pm), Malaysia  v  Pakistan (8pm).
  March 16:  Korea  v  Pakistan (4pm), Australia  v  New Zealand (6pm), Malaysia  v India (8pm).
    Note: All matches at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.

    Malaysian time: