Monday, May 14, 2012


It is when the likes of heavyweights India and Pakistan try to avoid playing Malaysia does one realize that Malaysian hockey is indeed on a dawn of a new era.

For that was what happened in the preliminary rounds of the 7th Junior Asia Cup at Malacca.

Pakistan and India did their level best to avoid playing hosts Malaysia in the last four and this was evident from the manner the green shirts went about piling up the goals in order to pip India for the top spot in their group.

" Why would we want to play Malaysia in the semis and get knocked out," was the retort from Pakistan coach Rana Mujahid when asked after his team's 14-0 thumping of hapless Sri Lanka.

And India coach Baljit Singh Saini, a former Indian juniors captain was more direct.

"The manner which the Malaysians play is something we all envy as no other nation gets to keep its team together for three years as what Malaysia has done,"conceded Baljit.

So getting the opponents to sit up and take notice is certainly what the youngsters of the Project 2013 squad have done with their title winning performance in Malacca over the weekend.

The question that begs to be answered is just what direction will Malaysian hockey take after winning the title for the first time since the tournaments inception in 1987?

For starters the preparations must continue and the search for capable replacements of the six players that will not play in the Junior World Cup proper will have to take place now.

Hence it was not only surprising but shocking when coach K.Dharmaraj had in his post final press conference revealed that as many as four of the players that will be overaged for the Junior World Cup could well see action in the Sultan Johor Cup this November.

Dharma has had three years to develop a tile winning squad and surely after going through some 163 players over many different training camps and tours would have more then an inkling as to just which players that he needs to expose in order to try to match if not beat the achievements of the 1979 and 1982 Junior World Cup squads that finished fourth.

Having a project squad is not a new phenomenon in Malaysian hockey as the 79 and 82 squads were teams that were given special attention by the National Sports Council, as were the juniors of 1989, of which Dharma and Mirnawan Nawawi were members.

The 1989 squad benefitted greatly from playing as a team in the Malaysian Hockey League and this is what Dharma should plan for in preparation for the Sultan Johor Cup and the World Cup proper.

Credit and kudos to the players, the coaching and back room staff for landing Malaysia the title. And they will be duly rewarded as qualification or the Junior World Cup bags them RM7,500 each, and a further RM500 per win ensures that RM10,000 per player/official. This is not taking into consideration what Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah will top up from his own coffers. The NSC incentive scheme will raise the cash incentive by another RM1,500.

As we wait with abated breath as to just how many of these promising youngsters will make the Sultan Azlan Shah cup squad, we can all rest easy that there is yet a silver lining for hockey.