National hockey coach Paul Revington is concerned at the direction the Razak Cup is heading. And the South African has made significant observations at the standard of play as well as planning put into the tournament, which is the second most significant domestic event after the Malaysian Hockey League.
In making clear that it is no one party to "blame" with regards to the current status of the Razak Cup, he however felt that the starting point to enhance the status of the event is simply to settle dates in advance. And in doing so the Malaysian Hockey Confederation should not change these dates randomly, and give states and coaches a fair chance to be accountable for performance.
Revington has a point with regards to planning as the MHC Competitions Committee has failed to implement its domestic calendar properly for the Razak Cup dates were moved from September to July and back to September while the National Under 21 Tournament has yet to be held.
“There is no question that this event should be a bigger and more high profile event in the local Malaysian calendar,” said Revington when met while catching the action in the ongoing Razak Cup in Kuantan.
“The reality is that players in Malaysia are only playing between 5-8 weeks of competitive local hockey in the MHL and thus the Razak Cup should become a critical 10 day competition period for all players and coaches at a high performance and development level.
The South African was also posed with the question on what proposed changes ought to be made to make the event more attractive and useful for the standard of the game to improve.
“Without being too critical, I think there are several. There seems to be a lot of confusion from everyone involved in the event (players, coaches, officials, administrators) as to exactly what Malaysia want to achieve from the event,” contends Revingoton.
“For a start the actual Razak Cup dates are not set firmly in the Malaysian calendar (the year before) to allow the states, players and coaches to plan and prepare properly.
“Drawing up a calendar that truly makes sense to everyone is the first step toward enhancing the status of the Razak Cup. The fact that the Razak Cup seems to become an event "that moves date" suggests to me that no one really values it - a feeling that definitely filters through to the players.”
Revington added that once a date is set and adhered to it makes it very hard for the states to find excuses for poor preparation.
“The 2013 MHL finished on 19 May 2013. I am sure there are factors I am unaware of - however I find it hard to work out why so many teams have waited until a week or two before the Razak Cup starts to select their squads (not actual teams just squads),” asked Revington.
His argument makes sense as countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have strong provincial/state competitions and traditionally manage to fit in these competitions despite obvious International events.
“The one obvious "addition" or change to the Razak Cup that I believe could enhance it is promoting 2 teams from division 2 and relegating 2 teams from Division 1 each year,” suggested Revington.
“This might ensure no state arrives complacent for the Razak Cup. They must be very clear what their goal is for the event - to win it or get promoted OR to develop a team and group of players to win the event in a year or two's time.
Revington who has watched the Razak Cup over the past two years was also symphathetic to the plaight of coaches whe asked if the state coaches are applying the modern tactics of world hockey or are still in the stone age.
“I don't think It is fair to just criticize the state coaches because the state coaches seem as confused as everyone else with regards to the status and position of the Razak Cup in the Malaysian calendar,” said Revington.
“The process of re-establishing the status of the Razak Cup starts with setting a date one year ahead (minimum), then the State administrators appointing coaches and managers for the team at least a year ahead.
“This is followed by the State administrators setting various performance targets and objectives for the Management Team, then the Coaching and Management Team designing a suitable program (that ties in with international Malaysian Team commitments) and communicating this to their selected state squad.
“All this enhances goal-setting, performance standards and motivates the state coaches to keep their knowledge and skill level high. This in turn motivates players to perform. All conversation and communication around the stadium currently revolves around blame and excuses - and this helps no one especially our Malaysian players.”
On the issue of some national players being forced to turn out for state teams after a gruelling period of international duty over the past three months, Revington, he felt that the national players were duty bound to turn out for their states.
“This again has to do with the calendar and planning in advance. The FIH and AHF set their dates and communicate them to Malaysia. Malaysia then set their MHL and Razak Cup dates, the two primary local events, based on FIH and AHF dates and on the Azlan Shah Cup and Sultan Johor Cup dates,” clarified Revington.
“It should be that simple. National players should be forced to play - but not when injured! The Razak Cup must be used as a selection opportunity for Malaysian Teams and Squads - which it is doing currently - however it is a real challenge selecting players within an environment of minimal preparation.”