Monday, May 25, 2015

Kumar: My final shot at Olympics ...

Kumar after conducting a coaching clinic for boys and girls from all over Negri Sembilan at the Seremban II Stadium Saturday. It was organised by the Negri Sembilan HA.

NATIONAL No 1 goalkeeper S. Kumar will be going for broke at the  Belgium World League Semi-finals on June 20 to July 5.
  The 35-year-old custodian is at his prime to help Malaysia qualify for the Olympics, but if he fails, he will call it a day.
  "I have played at the World Cup but Olympics has eluded me over the years and Belgium would be my last chance to make the grade to Rio de Janeiro next year. Age is catching up with me and if I miss Brazil, I would be 40 by the next Games," said Kumar after conducting a goalkeepers coaching clinic organised by the Negri Sembilan HA at the Seremban II Stadium on Saturday.
  About 50 youth from all over Negri came for the clinic, which was also conducted by national goalkeeper's coach M. Nadarajan.
  Kumar took Malaysia to the 2014 World Cup as well as handed Malaysia the gold medal at the World League Round Two in Singapore in January.
  On both occasions, he showed nerves of steel to stop Japan in a penalty shoot-out. 
  During the World Cup Qualifier in Johor Baru, Japan held Malaysia to a 1-1 draw in the World League Semi-finals fifth-sixth placing match, but Kumar made some heroic saves to win the shoot-out 4-3 to take Malaysia to the World Cup in Netherlands.
   And in the World League Round Two, Malaysia were again held to a 1-1 draw by Japan in the semi-finals, but in the shoot-out, Kumar held the fort and took his team into the final on a 3-1 score which booked a ticket to the World League Semi-finals in Belgium.
  "Hockey is all about speed and reflections today, and goalkeepers need to be on their toes the entire game. The more saves we make, the more confident the team becomes and winning becomes that much easier," said the Tampin-born Kumar.
  The second goalkeeper is Roslan Jamaluddin, and both of them are sure bets to play in Belgium, leaving coach Tai Beng Hai to select 16 more outfield players.
  Malaysia are in Group B of the World League Semi-finals with Belgium, Great Britain, China and Ireland. In Group A are Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland and France.
  "We play China and then Ireland and need to win both the early matches to book a quarter-finals spot early as there are five teams in each group and the last placed teams will not be involved in the play-offs," said Kumar.
  Malaysia need to play in the last four in Belgium to seal their Olympic ticket.
  At the coaching clinic, Kumar and Nadarajan drilled the aspiring goalkeepers for three hours on basics.
  "The turn-out is good, but the majority are still struggling with basics," said Nadarajan.
  There were a handful of teachers who were also taught how to polish the basics of their students, and now its up to them to nurture their goalkeepers and strengthen the basics.
  Negri Sembilan HA secretary P. Tamilselvan said: "Kumar and Nadarajan have shown the teachers on how to strengthen the basics in goalkeeping and we will follow up with the teachers from time to time by holding more clinics. Hopefully another goalkeeper from Negri Sembilan will follow Kumar's footsteps."