Thursday, August 27, 2009


Having talked about the preparation of the team, national coach Tai Beng Hai bares his soul on matters affecting the team as a whole, right down to his unassuming nature that has been misinterpreted by many. Beng Hai was a “reluctant” candidate for the post of national coach when MHF appointed him in December 2008, yet he took up the appointment, as he believed in the players and their ability. His confidence till today is unraveled, as he believes that Malaysian hockey has what it takes to be among the “big” boys once again. Such is Beng Hai’s believe in the ability of the team that he is confident the team, given the right preparation can deliver a gold medal at the Asian Games next year.

(Note: This interview was done before MHF President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah made the statement that Beng Hai must take the team to the World Cup or risk being replaced incase of failure)

MH: Your appointment is till the World Cup Qualifiers, after which you could well be out of a job if Malaysia does not qualify. Do you think it is fair to assess a person’s ability as a Coach after just a year on the job?

BH: When I was appointed I was the Interim Coach, a position that I have held since day one. So in reality I have come to accept that my services could be done away with at any time the MHF wishes to do so. Normally coaches are given a time frame to deliver and ideally it should be over a two-year period. Next year there is the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to think about, and not to mention the World Cup. So really it is 2010 that we should be working on right now but since I have been told to deliver by November, I shall do my level best. This team has what it takes to win gold at the 2010 Asian Games and in the process an automatic place in the 2012 London Olympics, but the planning should start early.

One must always remember that I am the interim coach so planning beyond November is something I cannot do.

MH: What has been the turn over of players in your squad ever since you have taken over? Have you chopped or made significant changes to the team since January and are there plans to add on more players?

BH: I took over the team in January and basically it has been the same team with exception to three players (Zulkifli, Suffian, Sasidharan) dropping out due to retirement or long-term injuries. And we have roped in some promising youngsters after Junior World Cup, so basically there have been minimum changes. However the team management has made a request to NSC via MHF to increase the squad to 35 players and a decision is expected next week when the Joint Committee meets.

MH: There have been unconfirmed reports that several players are thinking of quitting the national team. Have you been informed of any such withdrawals or intentions? Two of the players said to be considering early retirement are Azlan Misron and Chua Boon Huat as they were peeved at statements made by certain quarters as to why they were left out of the team for the Australia and New Zealand tours. Any truth to this?

BH: As far as I am concerned no players have quit the team and I expect to see Chua and Azlan at training next week. I was told of the intention of Azlan by the Team manager when the team was overseas and intend to meet Azlan to clarify certain things. I also will be having a heart to heart with Chua to find out what his problems are. Frankly leaving them out of the tours was to give others a chance and allow these two to recuperate. At no time did I say that the two are not part of my plans for the qualifiers. I cannot be responsible for what others might have said or was reported in the press, as it did not come from me. Ultimately it is my decision and my intention to talk to these two players is to get to the bottom of the matter, so lets just wait and see what happens.

MH: Is there a problem within the team since most of the players come from a club formerly managed by the Team Manager (George Koshy). Is there any form of compromise over discipline for these players?

BH: The coaches are responsible towards training the players and deciding on the team for tournament and matches and George does not interfere at all. On the question of discipline it is our joint responsibility and there is no question of favoring any player from a particular club. In the national set-up there is no division of players by clubs as they represent Malaysia and not their clubs nor employers. The coaching staffs share a cordial yet professional relationship with the Manager and we standby all decisions made by the management as it is done collectively.

MH: You have often been accused of standing in the way of players intending to play in the foreign leagues. What is your reaction to this?
BH: I have no problems with players wanting to play in foreign leagues so long as it will serve national interest. There are two criteria that I will look at before deciding to release a player to play overseas, firstly is the player disciplined enough to train on his own and secondly will his commitments affect the call of national duty. If the player can deliver on both aspects, then why should I stop them? For example we have Selvarajoo who will be playing in the NZ League and I am happy for him, and at the same time I hope youngsters like Faizal (Saari) will try to get stints with foreign clubs, as ultimately this will help Malaysian hockey.

MH: Some have labeled you difficult to communicate with while others feel that you are at times too reserved. What is your take on this?

BH: Ever since I was a player I shunned publicity and I am just the same person I was during my playing days as well as when coaching the clubs. I am reserved by nature but that should not be seen as being unfriendly. I have had some run-ins with certain personalities but it was just a case of miscommunication or a difference of opinion. To be honest I have no qualms of talking to anyone and have an open door policy for my players and I intend to get my players to open up. A two-way communication is vital to the success of any team.

MH: The European Championships are on, yet you are not there spying on our possible opponents? Why is that so?

BH: I made a request to go but it was denied so what I can do about it. After all I am the interim coach.