Friday, November 20, 2009

Hockey - no yesterday ' s solutions to tomorrow ' s problems

By a hockey observer.

Harban Singh

I watched the hockey World Cup hockey qualifier game between New Zealand and Malaysia held in New Zealand live over TV on Sunday, Nov 15 and I thought we played our hearts out and it was definitely one of our better games of late.

Congratulations to coach Tai Beng Hai and his boys. However, it was not good enough for Malaysia as we lost to the most consistently unbeaten side 2-1 . namely New Zealand .

What intrigues me is the inefficiency of Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) in hiring a foreign coach. Tai Beng Hai was only supposed to be an interim coach. Why couldn ' t we hire a foreign coach in time? It could have made all the difference!

Even if his salary demands were high, had we qualified, it would have brought gross returns to our economy, branding and more tourists inflows. In these days of ' outsourcing ' , did not the Malaysian Hockey Federation think of hiring a ' headhunter ' to help in this specialised job of recruiting a world class hockey coach?

Recruitment headhunters are efficient and reliable. The opportunity is lost now and this when we have to prepare for the Olympics and the World Cup in advance. We also need the Malaysian Hockey Federation officials to have strategic intent and common sense on the need to develop hockey to a new level.

There must be political will and a paradigm shift. We cannot apply yesterday ' s solutions to tomorrow ' s problems. We need to look ahead. I have been following some of the national-age group competitions involving the youths and I must say the standards are pathetic.

MHF should address this problem in the bud and make it a national issue so that there is political will for the schools to have the incentives to develop this world-ranking sports for Malaysia .

The decline of our hockey ' s standards should be brought to Parliament where it can receive the attention it deserves. This happened in India and Pakistan .

I am afraid if MHF continues to operates the way it has been done, we will soon follow the negative path of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). FIH ' s international hockey rankings as of Sept 1, places Malaysia at 16th place.

How come we are behind nations like Canada , China , South Africa and Belgium when our infrastructure in terms of stadium facilities and support by the government are either the same or ahead of them?

The problem lies in developmental measures and the mechanisms. This infrastructural weaknesses have not been tackled for decades. We are not producing enough good players continuously which results in our national team lacking consistency as the same players know that even if they don ' t train hard, they will still don national colors.

We need competitiveness. Wake up, MHF! By the next World Cup, I am certain we will be relegated further behind the US , France and Ireland if no serious action is taken now. Forget about qualifying and look at the developmental measures immediately.

It is at the schools where the future Sarjit Singhs, Poon Fook Lokes, Khairuddin Zainals and Mahendrans lie. Spot them young, nurture them and ensure the processes are in place in the system to produce quality players.

Collaborate in partnership with the Education Ministry and emulate the ' best management hockey practices ' of Korea and Japan . From the statistics of missing the last two World Cup toournaments and several Olympics, it appears MHF is bankrupt of ideas and needs far-reaching focus and ambition.

Even the respective state hockey associations have followed into and continued in this rut where even the state league championships are non-existent in certain states. Let ' s face reality and check the rot. Please don ' t let Malaysians give up on hockey as they totally have on soccer.