Friday, November 6, 2009


An apt way to describe the situation Malaysian hockey is at the moment is to take a cue from Michael Jackson’s a planned series of 50 concerts that ended up as a concert film entitled Michael Jackson's This Is It following his death.

This Is It, is how one can best describe the fortunes of Malaysian hockey as it attempts to make it to, for current Malaysian standards, the biggest prize in world hockey, that is to play in the 2010 World Cup that will be held in New Delhi next February.

Malaysia will play in the World Cup Qualifiers in Invercargill, commencing tomorrow and during the one week long tournament, the team will be competing against the likes of New Zealand, China, Austria, Scotland and Wales for the sole ticket to the World Cup.

Not to adopt a defeatist attitude though, the truth of the matter is that our record in getting through the qualifications for the World Cup leaves much to be desired.

For the Malaysian team, this really is it for we have yet to qualify on merit for the World Cup, on merit since making the grade during the qualifiers held at the National Hockey Stadium in 1997 and in 1981 via the Intercontinental Cup.

It started in 1985 when we finished eight followed by in Madison USA in 1989 when a sixth placing was not good enough to make the grade. Next was in Poznan in 1993 where it was another eight-place finish.

As a result, we missed the 1986 (London), 1990 (Lahore) and 1994 (Sydney) editions having played in 1975 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1978 (Buenos Aries). Finishing runner up to Russia in the Intercontinental Cup in 1981 held in Kuala Lumpur assured us of a spot for the 1982 Bombay World Cup.

In contrast, New Zealand have played in a total of six qualifiers and made the finals five times, missing out only in Madison in 1989.

Malaysia played in the 2002 World Cup, but that was held in Kuala Lumpur and we qualified as hosts, something that the present administration tried to do by trying to capitalize on the situation in India.

Since 1997, it has been one failure after another, starting from Madrid in 2004 where Malaysia failed to make the grade for the Athens Olympics.

It was followed by our dismal outing in the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers in Guangzhou where the team finished in 9th placing after winning a bronze at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games a month prior to that.

Next was our failure to make the grade for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the team ended up in Kakamighara Japan when Malaysia finished in the 3rd spot.

So we have to accept reality that this team may not make it as historically the odds are against them.

But it is not merely the odds coupled with the blustery conditions at the venue that could derail our chances. This is because the team that was picked by coach Tai Beng Hai lacks the necessary ingredients to make the grade in such an important tournament.

The fact that the coach opted to blood three junior players who were part of the Junior World Cup team that finished 12th in Johor Baru just four months ago, speaks of the lack of depth in terms of experienced players.

The fixtures have been kind, as Malaysia opens its campaign tomorrow against Austria, followed by Wales before facing favorites New Zealand. Then it will be Scotland before wrapping up the fixtures against China.

Malaysia has to finish amongst the top two at the end of the preliminary round and should they do so, it will only be 70 minutes separating them from a place in the World Cup.

Win that and the team can be assured of a place on Malaysian hockey folklore, failure would means heads will roll, but there are doubts that the right heads will be chopped to take responsibility.