Monday, March 19, 2012

Failure is not an option.

But fail indeed Malaysia did in their quest to make it to the Olympics, thus equaling the infamous record of 16 years hiatus from the World Cup, as we did from 1982 to 1998.

The last Malaysia played in the Olympics was at Sydney in 2000 and since then it has been one failure after another – Spain 2004 and Japan 2008.

And with that in mind, the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) must shoulder the complete responsibility on the failure of the national team in qualifying for the London Olympics via the qualifiers that were held in Dublin.

While the coaching staff, in the likes of Tai Beng Hai and Nor Saiful Zaini Nasiruddin must shoulder the blame for the failure, the MHC Council are equally to blame as all plans and preparations of the team were endorsed by the council.

It is learnt that Beng Hai had sent a short messaging service (SMS) to the MHC President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah after the match against Ireland – offering his resignation. But Tengku Abdullah it seems has told the coach to hang on and wait for the decision of the Council.

While pondering on what are the next steps of MHC pertaining to accepting responsibility, we should look at what went wrong with a team where millions were spent but nothing was achieved.

Firstly the team was not short or lacked preparation for they played some 40 odd international matches since the Azlan Shah Cup in May 2011.

The players were assembled for full time training and in contrast Ireland train on part time basis. What was more fascinating was the fact that the Irish players had to fork out money from their own pockets to fund their 15 matches playing tour of Europe in January.

It all boils down to looking at the preparation of the team after the qualifiers were decided. It was shocking to know that the MHC had failed to get suitable matches and all the arrangements were left to the manager George Koshy.

How is it that the MHC administration failed to convince countries that are regularly invited to play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to play matches? Perhaps it is time to reconsider the invite list for the Azlan Shah Cup, especially India since they put a spanner in our preparations by denying us matches in February despite confirming earlier.

Looking at the qualifier, it was always going to boil down to the matches against Korea and Ireland and it was against these teams that we failed to deliver.

The strike force was awful, safe for the performances of Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tg Jalil who gave his all and was easily Malaysia’s most outstanding player.

It was the failure of players such as Izwan Firdaus and the much-touted Faisa Saari that let the team down upfront. We just do not have players who can think on the pitch but rather have remote controlled players who depend on instructions to perform.

No doubt youngsters in the likes of Fitri Saari gave a good account but when push came to shove, nothing beats experience, especially in must win situations.

Which now boils down to the fact, were the best players selected to represent the country? Korea showed that recalling players who have loads of experience actually helps the cause, as they had two players who won silver in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in their squad.

The truth be told – we faltered to deceive and the reality is we were never good enough to make it. No matter how much the MHC talks on the movement in world rankings, we do not have the material to deliver at the international stage.

No denying the fact that the players tried their best, but it was tactically where we lost out. And the match against Ireland proved that we do not have coaching staff that could handle pressure.

Malaysia needed a win, and there was 10 minutes remaining. Ireland kept the ball, and Malaysia was defending with all 11 players behind the ball. So why did we not push players upfront which would have forced Ireland to pull players back to defend?

So we will just have to live with the fact that we cannot match even third rung teams unless we do something drastic. There is much to be done, but I would rather those who went on the junket and witness matches to come up with solutions. After all they are part of the MHC Council, a body that should really look at itself properly, for MHC is doing more damage then good.

Beng Hai and Saiful should have principles and leave, and as to who succeeds them, lets wait the learned personalities from MHC to decide.