Monday, September 1, 2014

New wind needed for limp AHF sails..


By Jugjet Singh

TENGKU Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s opening address as AHF President was frank, and as close to the truth as one can get.
   The multiple-hats President, who also has FA of Malaysia and Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHF) under his wings, acknowledged that AHF is a new entity, and a challenging one too.
   He is also the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Executive Board member.
   There are 30 AHF affiliates, with 27 attending the Congress in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. And Vietnam will be the 31st country that Tengku Abdullah will have to worry about soon.
   Frankly speaking, only six affiliates play good hockey but they too are being hammered into oblivion by second rung teams from Europe, Oceania and South America (Trinidad and Tobago).
   South Korea is the highest ranked Asian men’s team on number 8, India (9th), Pakistan (11th), Malaysia (13th), Japan (14th) and Oman (22nd).
   As for the Asian women China (5th), South Korea (9th), Japan (10th), India (13th) and Malaysia (21st) are the regulars who promote hockey around the globe.
   The first question that came to mind was how are Tengku Abdullah and his council members going to achieve what former AHF president Sultan Azlan Shah and his trusted lieutenant secretary general Tan Sri Alagendra failed to address in two decades of helming the Asian chapter?
    No less than FIH president Leandro Negre and CEO Kelly Fairweather were present at the AHF Congress, and Negre said this was the first time he was given a chance to address a continental affiliate.
   Negre acknowledged Asia has a big following in India, and Fairweather said the next target for fan-base is China.
   Both the FIH bigwigs were looking at Television money when India and Pakistan play, and have gone to great lengths to help the slide in both the countries.
   But Tengku Abdullah knows the score, when he said his immediate task would be to see Asian teams remain regularly among the top five, and not pummeled at the World Cup and Olympics by second rung European teams.
   Easier said than done, as it can be safely said that out of the 30 affiliates, 24 are deadwood who only contribute by organising seminars, as well as become alive in the Sea Games year only.
   Macau, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Iran, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Nepal, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates.... are the sleepers which Tengku Abdullah will have the mammoth task of waking up.
   The task of reviving the Big Six in the men’s and women’s Asian sides is daunting enough, so one can imagine how difficult it is going to be to revive, shake or awaken hockey in the second tier AHF countries.
   As a clear example, the AHF CEO is Tayyab Ikram from Macau, a country which does not play hockey and will remain a sleeper for a long time to come.
   The AHF boat will need a typhoon from Negre as well as Fairweather to make its gaunt sails flutter again, to realise Tengku Abdullah ambition of helping Asia.