Saturday, October 18, 2014

Arul: I expected too much...

MALAYSIA played their worst game of the Sultan of Johor Cup when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Pakistan at the Taman Daya Stadium yesterday.
   The draw will see last year's silver medallist playing Pakistan again in the Fifth-Sixth classification match today. The final will be between India and Great Britain.
  For the record, Pakistan coach Muhammad Ibrahim said his charges only had 12 days of training and he is very proud of their fighting spirit against Malaysia.
   "We selected the team a day before flying off to Malaysia, and played our first match as a team when we met Britain in the opening clash," said Ibrahim.
  As for Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj: "I expected too much from this team, and I am disappointed that their maturity, physical and tactical side was a letdown. So I blame myself for their failure as I expected too much from this set of players."
    Malaysia needed four goals to play against Australia in the third-fourth classification match, but a pathetic start saw them trail Pakistan by a goal in the 17th minute.
   Pakistan, who had let in 15 goals before the Malaysia match, scored only their fourth goal of the tournament when Ali Mubashar was on target off their second penalty corner.
   As for Malaysia, the cake went to Ashran Hamsani for losing the grip on his hockey stick and letting it fly high instead of the ball in the early minutes of the game.
   And with 40 seconds left, the cake went to Azril Misron for failing to connect a perfect across-the-goal-mouth cross.
   Malaysia had nine penalty corners in the first half, and only perfected number eight in the 31st minute when Shahril Saabah nailed the equaliser.
   And 10 minutes after the re-start, it was evident that Malaysia are not going to meet their target, and will play Pakistan again in the fifth-sixth classification today.
  12th pc 
   Fifty-two minutes into the match Malaysia finally took the lead for the first time, when Shahril scored his brace off Malaysia's 12th penalty corner.
   But even before one could savour the moment, Pakistan equalised in the 55th when Mohsin Sabir's reverse stick went sailing in.
   The heavens opened up with five minutes on the clock, but even after the restart, there was no change in the Malaysian attitude and the score remained.
   India, who had 10 players who came out of the country for the first time, thrashed Australia 6-2 to confirm a date with Great Britain in the final today.
   Coach Harendra Singh had always emphasised that: "I have 10 players who made their first passposts and came out of the country to play. But they have shown that they have what it takes to play good hockey and improve with every match to make the final."
   India, the defending champions, only lost to Britain 2-0 in the pool match.
   RESULTS: Australia 2 India 6; Pakistan 2 Malaysia 2; New Zealand x Great Britain x.
   TODAY: Fifth-Sixth:  Malaysia v Pakistan (3.30pm); Third-Fourth: Australia v New Zealand (6.05pm); Final: Great Britain v India (8.35pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts
G BRITAIN           4  4   0    0  15  3   12
INDIA                     5  4   0    1  18  7   12
AUSTRALIA        5  2   1    2  10  16   7
N ZEALAND        4  1   1    2  8  9    4
MALAYSIA          5 0   2    3  8  12   2
PAKISTAN           5  0   2    3  5  17   2

MALAYSIA: Ridzwan Azmi, Fitri Jasni, Ashran Hamsani, Luqman Nul Haqim, Azril Misron, Najib Hassan, Meor Azuan, Sufi Ismat, Haziq Samsul, Firdaus Omar, Norsyafiq Sumantri, Amirol Aideed, Shahril Saabah, Syed Shafiq, Ahmad Ashraf, Azwar Rahman, D. Selvanayagam, Najmi Farizal.

Products of a rotten system

THE Sultan of Johor Cup is such a popular tournament that Germany, Britain and Argentina have already made requests to play in the next edition.

   Malaysia won gold the first edition in 2011, and the very next year the hosts finished last. A comeback in 2013 saw them clinch silver, and today they will be fighting for their lives against Pakistan, who are again their possible opponents in the fifth-sixth classification on Sunday.

   Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj said he did not have enough time to prepare this side, as the team was only formed in March, but then, these set of players have been playing hockey in school, then 1Mas, and many other age group tournaments before they were spotted and included into national juniors training squad.

   Are these the best players that we have in the country right now? If yes, Malaysia's grassroots development is not working, as the best juniors in the country are not only weak in the basics, but also mentally not ready and possibly will never be ready.

   The senior team  is now dubbed as 'the almost there' players, after they missed the boat to Rio de Janeiro by dishing out an almost there performance in the Asian Games.

    And by the present trend, one can also judge that hockey is no longer played by the Punjabis, Indians, Chinese and Eurasians. At the Asian Games, goalkeeper S. Kumar was the sole representative of the lain-lain category, while in the juniors at the SOJC, we only have D. Selvanayagam.

    This is a worrying trend, as schools no longer have a sound development programme to cater for this team sport, and the task has beeen left in the hands of states, where 1Mas is the biggest shareholder, while a few clubs are also active in developing players, but it is still not enough.

   Overall it looks like there has been a drastic increase in the number of players since five years ago, but quality has been compromised as the present batch of players look like they have no mindset of their own, and are akin to robots who do not know what to do when faced with a new problem which they are not programmed for.

    Former national coach and K. Dharmaraj and his assistant K. Gobinathan are now in Europe and have been to Spain, Germany and Netherlands and are still moving from club to club looking at their development programmes, with an eye of forming a blueprint which will hopefully take Malaysia out of the doldrums in the next decade.

    Their travel jottings are posted on FB at Dharma Hockey Academy. And among the points which hit this scribe hard was that hockey is being played by five-year-olds who are taught the basics. They are also taught how  to run properly, by athletics coaches, so that they keep the good habit for the rest of their  hockey playing lives.

   These are just two examples of how great the developments are at club levels in Europe.  In Malaysia the planning and execution is still at a haphazard level, and that is why we have a rojak team in the Fourth SOJC.

   SATURDAY: Australia v India (4pm); Pakistan v Malaysia (6pm); New Zealand v Great Britain (8pm).


                                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts

G BRITAIN           4  4   0    0  15  3   12

INDIA                     4  3   0    1  12  5   9

AUSTRALIA        4  2   1    1  8  10    7

N ZEALAND        4  1   1    2  8  9   4

MALAYSIA          4  0   1    3  6  10   1

PAKISTAN           4  0   1    3  3  15   1