Friday, June 20, 2014

Open Letter to the MHC...

Maninderjit Singh (Mike)
Former Hockey International (1990-2002)

As we all are aware the Malaysian Men’s Hockey Team played at the recent Hockey World Cup 2014 at the Hague and created a record of sort. The National Team lost all their matches including the classification tie and completed the event at the bottom of the heap which was the worst ever position in our world cup history since 1973.
The national team now need to play in the coming Commonwealth Games in July and also the Asian Games in September 2014. It is less than a month to the Commonwealth Games and 95 days to the Asian Games. It is also a year towards the FIH World League event which acts as qualifier for Rio 2016.
The team has set the target of winning the Gold Medal at the Asian Games in order to qualify for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Based on my personal view, the following were the prevailing issues faced by the team for their preparation towards the 2014 Hockey World Cup:
  • The Head Coach announced his resignation twice before a major event
  • The blending of the senior and junior players were not properly executed. The junior team finished fourth (4th) at  the 2013 Junior World Cup while most senior players played at at FIH WL Semis to qualify.
  • Salary issues raised by Coaches prior to World Cup did not augur well.
  • A foreign Malaysian born player inclusion without time-tested.
  • Low Quality of Matches for preparation.
  • Managing Players’ Discipline on and off the field was not at their best during training camps and tournaments. Lack of conviction to uphold disciplinary matters in the team.
  • Selection of National Team was not done based on fitness level, international experience (caps), versatility (could play more than one position), special skills (PC flicker, defense including first runner, stopper, pusher and deflector) and finally the players’ current performance at international arena.
  • The number of Coaches involved for the Team do not deserve justification.
The National hockey team is now at a crossroad, where changes are necessary in order to revive it from the results the team has suffered at the recent World Cup. Any improvement to the dire status quo can only be facilitated if we have a team of officials who not only love the game of hockey dearly, but who are also prepared to sacrifice their time towards the cause.
This must be done in tandem with properly planned strategy with the intention of revitalizing the National hockey team and installing the structure that can create world class players and officials.
Therefore, all relevant stakeholders need to look at the following points in order for the National hockey team to firstly survive and then for Malaysia to become a World Class hockey nation:

  • Foreign League Attachment
A minimum of seven (7) players to be attached in Europe and Australia at first class league and the players selected must be below age of 23. These seven players will be the future core of the National team and the proposition will be 1 Goalkeeper, 2 Defenders, 2 Midfielders and 2 Forwards and from this at least 2 players must be Penalty Corner Flickers. Modern hockey is all about Penalty Corners conversion and defending it.

  • High Performance Unit
Employing a qualified and experienced High Performance Director with supporting staff to re-evaluate the followings:
-       National Teams’ Program
-       Fitness
-       Training Methodology
-       Technical and Tactical
-       Supervision & Monitoring
-       Adoption of Innovation
-       Technology Implication
-       Sport Science application

  • Structure of National Teams and National Players Salary Structure
MHC needs to have four (4) National Teams in which are 2 National Senior Team (A & B) with two back up squad of Project 2016 and Project 2020 to address the next Junior World Cups.
A good National Senior Team must have internal and external pressure of players competing among themselves to make the grades. When the team has quality of 40 players, the Coaches can make proper decision and this will create “hunger” for the players to perform in training and matches.
As for remuneration, every end of the month, both these teams will play a series of best of three and after the series the Coaches will rename the players for Team A & B. In doing so, each player is able to ensure that he: 
  1. Earns as many caps by being in first team
  2. Sustains an achievable level of fitness based on scorecard
  3. Gets rewards for winning and is penalized for not performing
The National Team A will play in all the major tournaments where else the Team B will address the lower ranked events such as Sea Games and other invitational tournaments.
  • Quality of Matches for Test and Friendly Matches
From now on any matches for National team must be at least ranked 8th or better. About 30-40 matches of such quality must be arranged. It goes for Senior and all the Project Squads.
And as for annual Sultan Azlan Cup and Sultan Johor Cup, the teams that are invited must be of great credential and I suggest all teams invited must be ranked 10th and better but the participating teams must send at least 80% of first team players and not development squads.

  • Competitiveness of Malaysian Hockey League and Junior Hockey League
Both these events need to “rejuvenate” with -
  • New Purpose
  • New Ideas
  • New Structure
  • New Mindset
  • New Image and Branding
  • Updated Rules and Regulations

When organizing the calendar, the importance of setting of the dates for such events will allow high class foreign players to ply their trade in MHL and JHL. The best period for MHL is always from November to January and JHL from February to April. And 4 years of calendars (2014 till 2018) must be established to comprehend the quality of the tournaments.
This high level competition will provide the National Coaches the chance to gauge and undertake talent scouting for National teams. Therefore, all National Coaches must not be allowed to coach club teams and they must be doing selection and parting knowledge to club hockey coaches and ratifying national players’ mistakes from time to time. This is to avoid any conflict of interest at both levels and its effect on National Team program and quality of selection made by Coaches.

  • Benefit and Burden of Rule Not Equitable
The system in place only seems to reward the players. This is being done in the hope that players perform. More often than not, the system of just paying and rewarding seems not to levy a great burden to perform. A system of penalty must be imposed to ensure that “benefit and burden” rule has an equitable role in the teams’ performance. A code of conduct must be established to curb the disciplinary and absenteeism issues.

  • National Coaches
-       Must have minimum qualification of FIH Level 1
-       More than 10 years of Coaching experience
-       Must handled one of the National Team (minimum period of 4 years)
-       Quality Success Profile with a list of achievement with the various national teams and at least has coached a Olympic or World Cup team and attain results.
-       List of know-how and experience on Technologies related to sport of hockey.
-       Latest training methodology taking into account of changing phases of modern hockey.
-       Manner of experience and interaction with supporting team such as sports science, fitness, physiology, strength, dietician and psychologist.
My intention is to ensure that the standard of hockey is returned to its former glory, so that some day it may even surpass it. It is a matter of national pride that Malaysia re-attains her position as one of the top teams in the world.
This appeal is done for the love of the sport and country and in the hope that the nation’s flag is always hoisted high to fly proudly at international arenas.
And I will end with this phrase – “The price of excellence is discipline and the cost of mediocrity is disappointment”.

Thank you

Hockey to rise from the ashes?

HOCKEY has been among the elite sports in Malaysia and is recognised as world class.
However, after the dismal performance in the recent 13th World Cup in The Hague, Holland, where they finished last, the sport will come under the microscope.
There was a lot buzz after Malaysia finished fourth in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi under coach K. Dharmaraj.
However, the commendable performance of the Junior World Cup team, including having finished fourth in 1979, 1982, 1985 and 2013, has not continued at senior level.
The senior team went to The Haque with false hopes and expectations were running high.
It was forgotten Malaysia were back in the World Cup after missing the last two tournaments.
All was not well in the run-up to the World Cup when national coach Paul Revington resigned due to stress-related illness — the second time he tendered his resignation. He had come back the first time to help Malaysia qualify for the World Cup finals.
When Dharmaraj was appointed as his replacement, together with K. Gobinathan and Nor Azlan Bakar, there was a whole lot of controversy.
The selection of players was also hotly debated while in the backroom, the intrigue and heavy politicking the sport is known for continued.
In short, things were simply not right, but everyone chose to ignore them.
Then, seeing Revington as a consultant raised further questions. What was he doing there when he had already made it clear that he could not handle the team?
So, was Dharmaraj there to be made the scapegoat for the team’s failure? Why did he accept Revington’s presence? Was it because he was not confident of handling the job and needed guidance?
With due respect to Dharmaraj, he got carried away with the junior team’s performance. The World Cup stint was definitely too soon for him.
The World Cup is the mecca for hockey gurus with the best brains behind the teams. Was Dharmaraj on a par with those coaches in the Hague? Was he intimidated?
Now, whether Malaysian hockey can bounce back in the next four years is left to be seen.
After having finished 11th in 1973, Malaysia clinched their best-ever placing in the World Cup — fourth — in 1975. The World Cup was then held biennially.
But home advantage — Malaysia hosted the 1975 World Cup – had a lot to do with it.
With the present set of players, all indications are that we have to work overtime to raise our standard to qualify for the next World Cup.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah can bring in the money to manage the association and for its programmes, but if things are not handled professionally, it is all going to be wasted.
With Tengku Abdullah having to divide his attention between the MHC and the FA of Malaysia, as its newly elected president, “little napoleons” will try to wield their power, which is only going to be detrimental to hockey.
Without doubt MHC and its affiliates need new blood who have the game at heart.
For far too long, hockey has been entangled in internal bickering and interference from outside parties.
Several ex-internationals have commented on Malaysia’s performance.
They have valid points, but surely it would do better if they were actively involved instead of just doling out criticism? In short, put your money where your mouth is.
It makes no sense to keep on talking about our fourth placing in 1975 because many things have changed since then.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than three
decades of experience and is
passionate about local sports. He
can be reached at Twitter handle: