COOL HEAD: Farah Ayuni Yahya.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian women hockey team ended fourth, but Farah Ayuni Yahya was named as the Best Goalkeeper in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Donghae, South Korea, on Sunday.
It was her second back-to-back recognition, as she was also awarded as the Best Goalkeeper in the ACT in Singapore two years back -- even though Malaysia ended last among five teams.
The policewoman has been instrumental in the rise of women's hockey in Malaysia, and was at the centre of attention when she helped score a sensational 2-1 win over higher-ranked Italy in a sudden-death shoot-out to join Ireland in qualifying for the World League Semi-Finals at the women’s Hockey WL Round Two in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia had held Italy 2-2 then, and in the shoot-out, goalkeeper Farah made super saves to take Malaysian women into their first ever World League Semifinals.
Coach Dharmaraj's charges will next play in the Jakarta Asian Games, and Farah will be expected keep the score low again.
The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) have yet release the fixtures, but ten teams, in two groups, will play at the Asian Games, .
The ten are hosts Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kazahkstan.
Malaysia should have no problems against Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kazakhstan -- going by the standard displayed at the ACT where they beat a half-strength Japan 3-2, and narrowly lost to China (3-1), South Korea (3-1) and India (3-2) in the pool. In the bronze match, China could only win 2-0.
And the mission in Jakarta is to win bronze, an achievement last seen at the 1982 New Delhi Games.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal had said in February that he believes with all the support given by MHC to to the women's team, they are good for bronze even though their Asian ranking is fifth.
And if Malaysia do win bronze in Jakarta, it would be partly because of our strength between the posts -- Farah.
"She has always been an asset for Malaysia in any tournament because of her daring saves which motivates the entire team. And in the Asian Games in Jakarta, we will need her to pull off upsets against higher ranked sides.
"The MHC has set us a bronze target in Jakarta, and I believe my players are up to it. We have a fighting chance, and we will fight for the medal," said Dharmaraj.