Monday, February 14, 2011


Once the region's hockey kingpins, the Republic's men have not tasted gold medal success at the SEA Games since 1973.

The statistics are far worse at the global level, with Singapore's last appearance at the Olympics dating back to the 1956 Melbourne Games.

But local fans could be cheering on a Singapore team at the 2020 Olympics if the Singapore Hockey Federation's (SHF) proposed Sports Development Pathway programme takes off.

The national sports association revealed the initiative last week and plan to develop and nurture the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) under-17 boys' team to qualify for the 2020 Games.

Hockey veterans MediaCorp spoke to embraced the SHF initiative.

Said 82-year-old Ajit Singh, who was part of the 1956 Olympic team and was a YOG torchbearer last August: "I'm always for it and I think it's possible. I met the players during the Youth Olympics and saw them play - they played well and improved day-by-day, which is a good sign."

The SHF's 10-year programme aims to provide 10 to 15 players with training, local and international tournament experience to allow them to mature into recognised international players and improve the nation's world ranking.

Two youngsters, Muhammad Haseef Salim (striker) and YOG captain Nur Ashriq Ferdaus, have expressed interest in training and study stints in Perth, Australia and the SHF have submitted a $50,000 subsidy request to the Singapore Olympic Foundation to fund the players' ambitions.

The association have also requested a further $350,000 from 2012 to 2018 to fund other athletes who are keen to study and train in Australia.

Part of the pathway for the national team in the lead-up to 2020 includes major tournaments from this year till 2019, such as the Under-18 Asia Cup, Junior Asian Hockey Federation Cup, Under-21 Junior World Cup, World Cup qualification events, SEA Games, Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Former international goalkeeper Anwarul Haque, who competed under the Malaysian flag at the 1964 Olympic Games (Singapore was part of Malaysia from 1963 to 1965), believes the conditions are ideal for Singapore to make their Olympic bid.

"I really want to see it happen - there's no issue with management, the infrastructure is there, the key to success is getting young players who can deliver," said the 71-year-old former hockey chief.

"In 1967, we beat the Malaysian team at a pre-Olympic tournament in Pakistan and it was sheer ecstasy, such great joy because the rivalry between both countries was phenomenal. We must first compete in and win tournaments like the Razak Cup, which will give us an opportunity to measure our standards against Malaysian state teams.

"I would like to see us beating Malaysia for a start, and if it's possible, for Singapore to take part in Malaysia's professional hockey league."

While response to the SHF's initiatives has been largely positive, former defender Farouk Marican sounded a note of caution yesterday.

Said the 65-year-old: "It is good, but how you go about it is the main concern. There must be commitment from both the players and officials.

"But first, we must have a good programme for youth development - starting from eight to nine-year olds.

"Australia is a very good example and they have developmental squads for under-12, under-14, under-16 and under-18. We need to identify talent…and in time we will have an assembly line churning out players but we don't seem to have that."