Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Megat Azrafiq will be back to marshall defence in Azlan Shah Cup

Megat Azrafiq Megat Termidzi will be back to marshal the national team's defence in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, which will be held in Ipoh from May 8-18.

Azrafiq was not in the team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan early this month after suffering a shin injury in a friendly match against South Korea last month.

However, another defender and penalty corner specialist Zulkifli Rejab continues to be out of the team because he has not recovered from a knee injury he sustained last November.

Veteran defender S. Kuhan is a doubtful starter as he is still nursing a groin injury he suffered in the Olympic qualifiers.

National coach Sarjit Singh said: “We have to wait for a few days more to know whether Kuhan can play in the tournament.”

He added that they had again called up Jiwa Mohan, who quit the team after fulfilling his one commitment to come out of retirement to play for Malaysia in the Olympic qualifiers.

“We need Jiwa's services to beef up the defence and also the penalty corners. We have set a target of finishing among the top three position in the tournament,'' said Sarjit.

The other defenders in the team are Mohd Madzli Ikmar, Mohd Amin Rahim, Baljit Singh Charun, Baljit Singh Sarjab and Engku Abdul Malek Engku Mohamed.

Sarjit added that there were 30 players in training and they would name the final squad of 18 players on Sunday.

“We will play two friendly matches against the national juniors on Thursday and Friday before finalising the team,'' he said.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Pakistan on May 8. The other teams in the fray are Argentina, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand and India.

Last year, Malaysia were beaten 1-3 by Australia in the final.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Indian Hockey Federation suspended

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said yesterday it was taking over the administration of the men's national field hockey body following accusations of bribery against a key official involved in team selection.

The IOA has suspended the Indian Hockey Federation and appointed a five-member panel to take temporary control until all issues have been resolved, association president Suresh Kalmadi told reporters.

Indian Hockey Federation official Kumaraswamy Jothikumaran resigned last week after a television channel claimed to have filmed him accepting a cash bribe to include a player in the national squad.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Malaysia lose to S. Korea

Malaysia were beaten 0-5 by South Korea in their second outing in the Olympic women's hockey qualifying tournament in Victoria, Canada, on Sunday.

Malaysia, who lost 0-3 to Ireland in their opening conceded goals to Eom Mi-young (5th), Kim Jong-eun (20th, 22nd), Park Mi-hyun (48th) and Kim Jin-kyoung (55th). It was the second win for the Koreans, who thrashed Uruguay 10-0 in their opening match.

Malaysia play Canada in their third match.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Malaysia lose opening tie

Malaysia were beaten 3-0 by Ireland in their opening match of the Olympic women's hockey qualifying tournament in Victoria, Canada, on Saturday.

Ireland, who are ranked 18th in the world, earned the win over Malaysia with goals by Clare Parkhill (21st), Eimear Cregan (30th) and Cathy McKean (40th).

The 25th ranked Malaysian, who are competing in the Olympic qualifying tournament for the first time, will play against eighth-ranked South Korea in their next match.

The Koreans got off to an explosive start, hammering Uruguay 10-0. In the other match of the six-team tournament, which offers only one ticket to the Beijing Games, Italy defeated Canada 2-1.

MSSM Hockey: Gritty KL clinch boys’ title with late penalty conversion

Kuala Lumpur captured the boys’ Under-18 National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) hockey title in dramatic fashion at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Trailing twice, Kuala Lumpur hit back to finally seal a 3-2 victory over Selangor with a last-minute penalty converted by Mohd Yusof Mat Nor.

Mohd Nor Faez Ibrahim, named man-of-the-final, had put Selangor ahead in the ninth minute through a penalty corner set-piece.

Kuala Lumpur, who dethroned Penang by a similar score in the semi-finals on Friday, then equalised through Mohd Faizal Nizam through penalty corner set piece in the 22nd minute.

Selangor shot ahead again in the 50th minute, this time through a Shahrul Dennis Roslan Henry field goal.

Kuala Lumpur hit back just two minutes later, thanks to a Mohd Shamin Yusof field goal.

The city lads continued to surge forward in search of the winning goal and their persistence paid off when they were awarded a penalty stroke after Mohd Shamin was fouled in the final minute.

Up stepped Mohd Yusof to do the job.

Kuala Lumpur coach Lokman Yahya was happy with the fighting spirit shown by his players despite having to play in the hot weather. The game started at 9.30am.

“We were trailing twice but my players fought for every ball to win the match.

“I want to praise my players for their determination and commitment,” said Lokman.

“They have not had any rest since the tournament started on Tuesday and they had to play six matches in five days. It definitely took a toll on my players.”

In the fight for third place, Penang went on a rampage to hammer Pahang 6-0.

Penang gained some consolation in the girls’ final when they edged Perak 2-1.



Best Player of the Tournament: Ahmad Termizi Ismail (Pen)

Man of the Final: Mohd Nor Faez Ibrahim (Sel)

Best Goalkeeper: Shahrul Azuddin Aliskarzie (Kul)

Top Scorer: Mohd Firhan Ashaari (Ter – seven)


Best Player of the Tournament: Siti Nuruhade Sadri (Pen)

Man of the Final: Rashidah Mahmud (Prk)

Best Goalkeeper: Masturah Jalah (Mal)

Top Scorers: Nur Izwan Ahmad Tajuddin (Pen) and Nursuhaili Sapie (Ter – seven)

Friday, April 25, 2008

MSSM Hockey: Rifhan steers KL past defending champions Penang

Rifhan Azhar scored a golden goal in the 65th minute to steer Kuala Lumpur to a 3-2 win over defending champions Penang in the boys’ Under-18 semi-finals of the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) hockey championships at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

The match had to be decided in sudden-death extra-time after both the teams were tied 2-2 in regulation time.

Penang twice led through Ahmad Termidzi (14th) and Fadzly Shah (42nd) but Kuala Lumpur managed to equalise through Hafizul Nizam (35th) and Shukri Johar (57th).

Rifhan then scored the brilliant winner to lead KL into the final against Selangor today.

Selangor, who edged Pahang 2-1 in the other semi-final, went ahead in the second minute through Mohd Nur Faez. Pahang equalised three minutes later through Fitri Manan but Faridzul Afiq got Selangor’s winning goal in the 11th minute.

KL coach Lokman Yahaya was delighted with his team’s good performance against Penang.

“They played well and I am confident they will put up a good fight in the final,” he said.

> Today’s matches


Third placing: Penang v Pahang (8am, Pitch 1).

Final: Selangor vs K. Lumpur (9.30am, Pitch 1)


Third placing: Kedah vs Terengganu (8am, Pitch 2).

Final: Perak vs Penang (9.30am, Pitch 2).

(All matches at National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil)

MSSM Hockey: Penang recover to enter last eight

Defending champions Penang bounced back from their opening game defeat to beat Perak 3-1 in Group A and qualify for the boys’ Under-18 National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) hockey quarter-finals at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Penang, who lost 3-5 to Selangor on Tuesday, needed a two-goal win but they were down 0-1 in the second minute through a Sabri Mohamed penalty corner.

Penang then hit back with three goals in the second-half. Rashid Baharom started the fightback with a brace in the 45th and 47th minutes. Adam Ahmad sealed victory with the third in the 51st minute.

Last year’s runners-up Negri Sembilan made it to the last eight despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Malacca in a Group B match yesterday.

Negri, Kelantan and Malacca all ended their Group B matches with five points each. But Negri and Kelantan make the quarter-finals with better goal difference.


Boys’ quarter-finals: Selangor vs Terengganu (8am, pitch I), Negri Sembilan vs Pahang (8am, pitch II), Kuala Lumpur vs Kelantan (9.30am, pitch I), Johor vs Penang (9.30am, pitch II).

(All matches at the National Hockey Stadium, Bukit Jalil)

Girls’ quarter-finals: Penang vs Kuala Lumpur (8am, KLHA Stadium), Terengganu vs Malacca (8am, Tun Razak Stadium), Selangor vs Kedah (9.30am, KLHA Stadium), Perak vs Sarawak (9.30am, Tun Razak Stadium).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MSSM Hockey: Pahang and Johor book passage into the last eight

Pahang and Johor chalked up their second consecutive wins to book places in the quarter-finals of the boys’ Under-18 National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) hockey championships yesterday.

Pahang, hammered Sarawak 6-0 in Group D match on Tuesday, outplayed Kedah 3-0 yesterday.

Pahang’s last group match will be against Kuala Lumpur and the winners of this match will top the group.

Adrizal Arif Rahim gave Pahang the lead with a field goal in the 13th minute before Mohd Fitri Abdul Manan increased the lead in the 43rd minute off a penalty corner. Four minutes later, Mohd Aminuddin Abu made it 3-0 with another field goal.

Johor, who edged Terengganu 4-3 in a Group C match on Tuesday, beat Putrajaya 4-0 yesterday.

Johor scored all their goals in the first-half through Mohd Faiz Helmi Jali (5th), Mohd Hanif Sehat (29th), Mohd Fariq Saadon (30th) and Mohd Noraqmal Abdul Ghafar (33rd).

They will wrap up their fixtures against Perlis today.

Selangor, who upset defending champion Penang 5-3 in the first match, were beaten 1-3 by Perak in a Group A match yesterday.

Selangor will have to wait for the outcome of the match between Perak and Penang today to know if they will advance into the quarter-finals.



Group A: Perak vs Penang (5pm).

Group B: Kelantan vs sabah (11am), N. Sembialn vs Malacca (3.30pm).

Group C: Terengganu vs Putrajaya (9.30am), Johor vs Perlis (11am).

Group D: Kedah vs Sarawak (8am), K. Lumpur vs Pahang (9.30am).


Group A: Sabah vs Terengganu (3.30pm).

Group B: Sarawak vs Penang (2pm).

Group C: Pahang vs Perak (8am), Malacca vs Kelantan (9.30am).

Group D: K. Lumpur vs N. Sembialn (11am), Perlis vs Selangor (12.30pm).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Beijing Olympic Hockey: Dutch threat for Aussies in Olympic tournament

Defending champions Australia were pitted against world number three Holland at the draw for the men's Olympic hockey tournament, but they avoided top-ranked Germany.

The Australians, the world number two, will also play Britain, South Africa, Pakistan and Canada in a round robin format with the top two teams progressing to the semi-finals.

In Pool A, Germany take on world number four Spain, South Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and host China – the lowest ranked of all the teams at 17.

Australia's men finally exorcised their Olympic demons by winning the title that had long eluded them by beating Holland 2-1 in the Athens final four years ago.

Germany took the bronze, defeating Spain 4-3.

The pools for the women's tournament will be released after the last round of qualifying in Victoria, Canada, from this Saturday.

Men’s draw

Pool A: Germany, Spain, South Korea, New Zealand, Belgium, China.

Pool B: Australia, Holland, Pakistan, Britain, South Africa, Canada.

Top India official quits after taking bribes

A leading Indian field hockey official resigned yesterday after a undercover television probe caught him allegedly accepting bribes to include a player in the national team.

K. Jothikumaran, secretary-general of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) for the last 14 years, denied corruption but stepped down after the TV programme late on Monday snowballed into a major controversy.

“It's disgraceful,” IHF chief Kanwar Pal Gill said in response. “I have no words to condemn such an act. He was shown taking money. What is there for me to say?

“Jothikumaran talked to me over phone and informed me that he has resigned and will not be associated with the Federation until his name was cleared.”

The Hindi-language channel “Aaj Tak” approached Jothikumaran through three undercover reporters posing as businessmen keen to organise an international tournament.

Jothikumaran was shown accepting 200,000 Indian rupees (US$5,000) to look into the matter and demanded another 300,000 rupees once the tournament was approved.

The reporters, who met Jothikumaran over two days on April 10 and 11, then asked him if an unidentified player – picked randomly by the channel from a list of probables – could be included in the national team.

TV footage apparently showed Jothikumaran promising to support the player's inclusion even as he accepted cash from the reporters and put it in a bag. – AFP

MSSM Hockey: Gritty Selangor shock champs Penang

Selangor fought back magnificently from two goals down to stun defending champions Penang 5-3 in the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) boys’ Under-18 Group A match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

With the win Selangor took a step closer to reaching the quarter-finals. They just need a draw against Perak in their last group fixture today to seal a last-eight place.

Penang started off well by taking a 2-0 lead with goals from Mohd Rashid Baharom (13th minute) and Ahmad Termidzi Ismail (22nd) respectively.

But Selangor showed tremendous fighting spirit to score three goals in the space of nine minutes to take a 3-2 lead in the first half.

Faridzul Afiq (26th), Shahrul Dennis Roslan Henry (32nd) and Abdullah Sani (35th) scored the goals for Selangor.

Penang managed to equalise in the 45th minute through Mohd Azri Hassan off a penalty corner. But Selangor made good use of their two penalty corners in the second half to win the match.

Mohd Nor Faez Ibrahim (49th) and Hairul Nizam Mazlan (54th) converted both the penalty corners to give Selangor a deserving victory.

Pahang also got off to a flying start by hammering Sarawak 6-0 in a Group D match yesterday.

Mohd Syamim Rosle was the hero for Pahang after scoring a hat-trick in the 14th, 37th and 44 minutes. Mohd Aminuddin Ali (2nd), Mohd Fitri Abdul (4th) and Mohd Izwan Mohd Rodzi (69th) completed the rout.

Pahang will face Kedah today and a win will see them through to the quarter-finals.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Only the best for Azlan Shah Cup

National Hockey coach Sarjit Singh has dispelled any notion of picking a weakened side for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which will be held in Ipoh from May 8-18.

Sarjit said yesterday that they will field the best players for the meet but added that injured players will be given a longer rest period and could be left out.

“The team will be picked from the 30 players that we have in training. I can say that the best will be picked and I will not select a weak team for the tournament.

“The training started today (yesterday) and we are currently assessing the injured players to see if they can be fit enough for duty. I do not want to rush them and will not pick them if they are not fully recovered,” said Sarjit.

Before the team went to Japan for the Olympic qualifiers defenders Zulkifli Rejab, Megat Azrafiq and midfielder Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Nor were left out because of injury. Then S. Kuhan and Mohamed Shahrun Nabil joined the crock list in Japan. Both have yet to recover.

Sarjit added Megat had made good speed with his recovery and they will see how he does in training before making a decision.

He also said players from the junior squad will not be involved in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

“We will do with only the senior players in training. We have a large pool and there is no reason to look at the juniors who have their own programme to follow.”

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh will feature seven teams. Argentina, India, Pakistan, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand and Malaysia are in the fray.

Four of the teams will play in the Beijing Olympic Games. They are New Zealand, Belgium, Canada and Pakistan.

MSSM Hockey: Champs Penang wary of hectic schedule

Penang will have to exercise caution in their bid to retain the title in the shortened National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Under-18 hockey tournament which starts at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

The meet, featuring 15 teams, will be held over five days. Penang are drawn in Group A, which have only only three teams including Perak and Selangor.

Penang coach Yap Gark Soo said that the tight schedule will be a big factor.

“Previously it was held over seven days during the school holidays. But this time MSSM decided to shorten the meet. Even the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be held on the same day,” said Gark Soo yesterday.

The girl’s Under-18 and Under-12 categories will also be held simultaneously. The matches are at the Tun Razak Stadium and the KL Hockey Stadium in Jalan Pantai respectively.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Hasliza aims to get her flicks right in qualifiers

Nineteen-year-old Noor Hasliza Mohd Ali will shoulder a heavy responsibility in the women’s Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Victoria, Canada, from April 26-May 4.

The Kuantan lass will not only have to marshal the midfield but also deliver the penalty corner goals for Malaysia. However, her conversion rate has been poor in tournaments.

Hasliza, the country’s top penalty corner flicker, has only scored three goals in 11 matches. She only managed to score two goals in a seven-match playing tour of Australia in February.

In the four-nation tournament in Azerbaijan last month, she only scored one goal in four matches.

Hasliza, who has 60 international caps to her credit, is concerned with her conversion rate.

“I have been given a big task in the qualifiers to deliver the goals from penalty corners. But to date my flicks have been lacking in power and accuracy. My poor conversions could affect our performance in the qualifiers,” said Hasliza.

Hasliza, however, has been working extra hard in training to get her flicks right.

“Penalty corners are important in winning matches and I hope I can deliver the goals this time,” said Hasliza.

Besides Hasliza, the other penalty corner flicker is midfielder Juliani Mohd Din.

The Malaysian team have been targeted to finish among the top two in the qualifiers. The team are ranked 25th in the world and they will face strong challenges from world number eight South Korea, Ireland (18th), Italy (23rd), Canada (24th), and Uruguay (28th) in the tournament.

Only the winners will qualify for the Beijing Olympics in August.

“The tournament will be a good exposure for us in preparation for the Asian Games in Ghuangzhou in 2010,” said Hasliza.

The team left on Monday for Canada to get used to the chilly conditions. The team, coached by Yahya Atan, will play three friendly matches before they open their campaign against Ireland on April 26.

Their other matches are against South Korea (April 27), Canada (April 29), Italy (May 1) and Uruguay (May 3).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coach Sarjit plans to retain squad for long-term preparations

National hockey coach Sarjit Singh does not plan to overhaul the senior team despite their failure at the Olympic qualifiers in Japan.

He said the attention would focus on the preparations for the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics.

“The players will not be dropped. We will keep the same team of 33 players in training and embark on the long-term preparations.

“Having said that I want to prepare a team that can gain an automatic berth to both these big tournaments without having to go through another qualifying tournament. That must be our target,” said Sarjit.

Failures at a qualifying meet are becoming a familiar story for Malaysian hockey. This is the third straight qualifying tournament in which the Malaysians have failed to make the cut.

The first was at the 2004 Madrid qualifiers for the Athens Olympic Games. Then it was the 2006 World Cup qualifiers in China. And they missed out on the Beijing Olympic Games after finishing third in Japan over the weekend.

“I have no plans to drop any player. Senior players can make up their own minds about retirement. They are still an asset to the team and they showed in Japan that they could still guide our younger players.

“Players like S. Kuhan, Mohamed Amin Rahim and Mohamed Madzli Ikmar are good enough to play and they can stay as long as they can follow our programme.”

Sarjit said that there are a few reasons why they failed in Japan. But he admitted that two-time world champions Germany were a class above the other teams and it was a formidable task from the beginning.

The Malaysians ended the round robin group with two wins, two draws and a defeat. They missed out on a place in the final when they drew the last match 3-3 with Japan.

But the match, which put paid to the Malaysia hopes was the 4-4 draw with Italy. It could have been a different scenario had Malaysia won the match.

“That is true as we had some erratic moment in the tournament where our players did not play to their potential. The finishing was bad and this contributed to the hard matches against weaker teams. The forward line was supposed to be our strongest but yet they failed.”

For the record Germany won the qualifying tournament to earn the last berth to Beijing.

The players will return today and will be given a break before starting their training for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup from May 8-18 in Ipoh.

A new-look Pakistan squad for Azlan Shah Cup

A rejuvenated Pakistan hockey team, who are being groomed for the Beijing Olympics in August, will be participating in the Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament in Ipoh next month.

Pakistan chief coach Khawaja Zakauddin said a brand new team would be arriving in Ipoh and was confident of lifting the trophy, after last winning the tournament in 2003.

“We should win this tournament. Our players are fit and in top form. About 10 days ago we beat China 3-2. We are taking this tournament seriously because it will be part of our preparations for the Olympics in Beijing,” said Khawaja.

Last week, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) announced a new team of 37 players for the tournament, slated from 24-31 May.

He said the final 15-player squad for Ipoh would be announced once the players complete their training in Lahore.

The new side, with six players from the junior team and the rest comprising senior players, including striker Rehan Butt, is the new set that PHF had put together to regain Pakistan’s past glory in world hockey.

So far, four teams, Pakistan, their arch-rivals India, Belgium and New Zealand have agreed to play in the Azlan Shah tournament, touted as a premier meet since its first debut in 1983.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Germans hit it big

Two-time world champions Germany booked their berth to the Beijing Olympics when they trounced Japan 4-0 in the final of the Olympic qualifiers at the Green Stadium in Kakamigahara yesterday.

The Germans probably created a record of sorts in world hockey when they remained unbeaten and also did not concede a goal throughout the tournament.

Malaysia finished third when they defeated Poland 3-0 in the classification matches while Italy edged Switzerland 3-2 for fifth place.

Germany booked their 2008 Olympic ticket with a brilliant open play goal from Florian Keller, two penalty corner efforts from Christopher Zeller and a Sebastian Draguhn field attempt. They also beat Japan by the same scoreline in the preliminaries.

Malaysia overcame their disappointment of Saturday's 3-3 draw with Japan, which cost them a place in yesterday's final, to clinch the third spot.

The Malaysians took some time to settle down but soon warmed up to dominate the game and scored three well taken goals to romp home easy winners.

Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin scored a brace in the 26th and 69th minutes while Mohamed Amin Rahim added the other in the 53rd minute through a penalty corner attempt.

There was some consolation for the disappointed Malaysians when goalkeeper S. Kumar was voted the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament. Germany’s Timo Wess was named Best Player.

Italy chalked up their first win of the tournament with a 3-2 victory over Switzerland to claim fifth spot.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Controversial equaliser puts Japan in showdown with Germany

Malaysia’s bid to qualify for the Beijing Olympics ended in controversial fashion when they were held to a 3-3 draw by hosts Japan at the Green Hockey Stadium in Kakamigahara yesterday.

The draw sees Japan making the final of the Olympic qualifiers against Germany. Only the winner will get to play in Beijing in August.

Malaysia, leading 3-2, were two minutes away from sealing a place in the final when Kenichi Katayama scored a hotly-disputed equaliser in the 68th minute off a penalty corner set piece.

The goal angered the Malaysian players, who surrounded umpire Murray Grime of Australia and the match was held up for almost 10 minutes.

The Malaysians, who felt that there had been an infringement prior to the goal being scored, wanted Grime to consult the third umpire before making his decision.

Instead, Grime only consulted the other umpire, Britain’s Hamish Jamson, before awarding the goal – and snuffing out Malaysia’s hopes of a place in the final and a shot at qualifying for the Olympics.

The Malaysian camp later lodged an official protest, but it was thrown out by tournament director Wiert Doyer of Holland.

National coach Sarjit Singh said after the match that they could have beaten the Japanese if not for the controversial goal.

“The players stuck to the game plan and performed better than expected. They were confident and all of them played their part well,” Sarjit said in a telephone interview from Kakamigahara.

“That controversial goal could have been give against any team and it so happened that it’s been given against us this time. It was not a goal as the ball touched a Japanese player’s leg before going in.

“It is a big blow to us as we played very hard and it is difficult to accept defeat this way. Anyway we hope to be ready for the classification match tomorrow (today) as we want to finish third, at least.”

As for the match itself, Malaysia adopted a defensive approach in the first-half but still managed to open the scoring through Chua Boon Huat in the 10th minute.

Akira Ito equalised for Japan in the 21st minute, Jiwa Mohan (28th) and Kelvinder Singh (33rd) struck to put Malaysia in control.

Although Tomonori Ono reduced the deficit in the 35th minute, Malaysia were looking good for a place in the final.

Then came the controversial goal. And, this time, it was game over for Malaysia.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Protest thrown out

Malaysia’s protest against the controversial goal scored by Japan during the Olympic qualifiers yesterday has been thrown out by tournament director Wiert Doyer of Holland.

The Malaysians had filed the protest immediately after the match, stumping up the required 500 euros as protest fee.

The Malaysians had claimed that there was an infringement before the goal was scored. The goal, scored in the 68th minute by Japan’s Kenichi Katayama, ensured the matched ended 3-3 and allowed Japan to pip Malaysia to a place in the final against Germany today.

Malaysian team officials refused to comment on the contents of the protest filed.

After Doyer had made his decision, the Malaysians then appealed to the tournament’s Jury of Appeal.

The three-man jury, comprising Stephen Abel, Jan Meurer and Leandro Negri, upheld Doyer’s decision but refunded the protest fee to the Malaysians.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Malaysia robbed of a place in the final


That’s how the Malaysian national hockey team felt after their 3-3 draw with Japan in the Olympic qualifiers at the Green Stadium in Kakamigahara, Japan, yesterday.

The Malaysians were understandably distraught over the last-minute goal awarded to the Japanese by umpire Murray Grime of Australia as it denied Sarjit Singh’s men a place in the final against Germany today.

Midfielder Jiwa Mohan said although it was disappointing to go out this way, felt that they only had themselves to blame for it.

“Denied, robbed. I just don’t know what to say. It’s all just a little bit hard to take. Two minutes to go and everything blew up on our faces,” he said.

“We, the players, realise that we are also to be blamed for the draw. We had victory in our grasp and we all played well enough to get the job done.

“The (Japanese) goal came as a shock as it should not have been allowed. We all agree on that but then you have to realise that the umpire’s decision is final. That was why we were pushing for him to consult the third umpire.

“We worked so hard and to end a match in such controversial fashion is like getting hit below the belt.

“I do not want to blame the umpire as he did his job the way he saw fit. I feel there must be some way to overcome this kind of problems from cropping up again. It is up to the people higher up to take up the matter.

“We players have to learn to take the good with the bad (decisions) and play the game in the right spirit. I know we could have done better and I’m proud that the players today (yesterday) showed they have what it takes to play under pressure.

“We were clearly the better side and yet we won’t be in the final.”

The Malaysians, who needed a win yesterday, were leading 3-2 in the first-half before being hit by a sucker punch in the 68th minute through Kenichi Katayama’s controversial goal.

Jiwa said goalkeeper S. Kumar was speechless and could not believe that the umpire had blown for a goal.

“All the players near the incident were angry. It is to be expected as the goal came at a crucial time. Mistakes happen and umpires are humans well. So we have to take it in the chin and get on with it,” Jiwa said.

“We must recover to play against Poland and make sure we finish third, at least.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Tough task for Sarjit’s men

Malaysia have never had it easy against Japan and it won’t be any different when the two teams clash in a crucial match in the Olympic qualifiers in Kakamigahara, Japan, today.

With a place in the final against Germany at stake, it should be a no-holds-barred affair.

Unfortunately, Malaysia will not be able to field their best side against the hosts as first-choice midfielders S. Kuhan and Mohd Shahrun Nabil have been ruled out with groin and hamstring injuries.

The duo suffered the injuries in the team’s 4-3 win over Switzerland on Thursday.

This, coupled with the fact that Malaysia have yet to hit top form in the tournament, has made today’s match a daunting one for Sarjit Singh’s men.

Despite these setbacks, the Malaysian players are ready to soldier on to get past the Japanese and qualify for tomorrow’s final against Germany. Only the winner of the final will qualify for the Beijing Olympics in August.

Sarjit, however, doesn’t want to look beyond the Japan match.

“Let’s not talk about the final yet. The match that counts now is the one against Japan. We need to focus on it. I do not want the players to be distracted by the final,” Sarjit said in a telephone interview from Kakamigahara yesterday.

“We have a problem as Kuhan and Shahrun are injured and will not be available for the Japan game. I will reshuffle the line-up but the options are pretty limited at the moment.”

Sarjit is also aware of the fact that his players have yet to play to their true potential, admitting that the only time his men were on top of their game was during the 0-3 defeat by Germany.

He has warned his players to produce the same kind of performance today as “we will not be able to relax for even one minute against Japan.”

“They are good defensively and effective going forward. We have a chance but only if our players can play their normal game,” said Sarjit.

“To be honest, we are not playing well and that is a big worry. The Japanese also have a good penalty corner flicker in Takahiko Yamabori.

“The problem with us is that the players are slow to respond to different situations and they tend to make mistakes at crucial moments.

“Only a concerted effort will give us a win over the Japanese. We have to convert whatever chances that come our way.”

That's where the forwards have been a huge letdown.

With Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim set to take over Shahrun's centre-half role, the forward line will have just four players to depend on.

They are Chua Boon Huat, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Ismail Abu and S. Selvaraju.

Boon Huat, Tengku Ahmad and Mohd Razie have scored two goals each while the other two have yet to get off the mark.

Since Sarjit took over as coach last year, Malaysia have played Japan twice – winning both matches in the Asia Cup in India.

But Sarjit is not one to dwell on the past. He knows that his team will have to put in a “super human effort” to get past Japan and keep their Olympic dream alive.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Young Razie relishes midfield role in crunch match

Young forward Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim is ready to assume a new role in today’s crucial Olympic qualifying match against Japan at the Green Hockey Stadium in Kakamigahara, Japan.

The 21-year-old Bukit Jalil Sports School player is tipped to take over the right midfield role following the injury to centre-half Mohd Shahrun Nabil.

Mohd Razie, who has played well in the previous three matches, came alive in the match against Switzerland, scoring a brace to lead Malaysia to a 4-3 win.

And now he is relishing the prospect of a new role in such a big game. Malaysia must win to qualify for the final against Germany on Sunday. Japan only need a draw.

“It is not a big problem as I have played in midfield before. The important thing is for all of us to play as a team and show that we can play good hockey. I will certainly do my part,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The player admitted that they have not performed to their full potential.

“There is no question of any player slacking in his task. It is just that we sometimes make mistakes and are generally slow getting into our rhythm,” he said.

“Japan will be tough as they are also fighting for a place in the final. We will just have to go all out against them.”

Malaysia can take heart from their recent record against the Japanese.

The two teams last met in the Asia Cup in India last year. They played twice and Malaysia won both times – 2-0 and 5-3. In the 2006 Doha Asian Games, the teams drew 1-1.

Mohd Razie did not feature in the Asia Cup but was part of the team in Doha.

“The Japanese play a very fast game. They are also good at set-pieces, so we cannot afford to make mistakes. I’m looking forward to the match,” he said.

“I feel that all the players are fired up for the match and we will try our best to win it.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Mighty Germans storm into the final

Two-time world champions Germany qualified for the final of the Olympic hockey qualifiers in Kakamigahara, Japan, with a match to spare yesterday.

The Germans remained unbeaten after four matches after whipping Japan 4-0 yesterday.

They will go into the final on Sunday as the favourites to make the cut for the Beijing Olympics.

Their opponents in the final will be either Malaysia or Japan. The two teams will play in the final round-robin match tomorrow, with the winners meeting the Germans.

A draw yesterday would have still put the Germans in the final and, at the same time, virtually sealed Japan’s spot in the final as well.

But the well-oiled Germans were not about to take their foot off the gas, going about their task with minimum fuss to make sure they are the only team yet to concede a goal in the tournament, thus far.

The Germans were under siege in the early stages and only managed to score their first goal in the 21st minute through Philip Keller’s penalty corner attempt.

From then on it was all one-way traffic although Germany failed to increase their lead in the first-half.

Moritz Fuerste finally made it 2-0 for Germany in the 49th minute with a hefty hit from the top D.

Christopher Keller then added two goals in the 62nd and 65th minutes from penalty corner set pieces for a convincing win.

The two strikes took Christopher’s goal tally to six in the tournament.

In another match, Poland produced their best display to thrash Italy 6-0. It was the second win for the Poles, who will wrap up their fixtures with a match against Germany tomorrow.

Poland dominated the first-half, taking the lead in the 16th minute through Tomas Choczaj. An unmarked Tomasz Gorny made it 2-0 in the 26th minute before Martin Strykowski made it 3-0 in the 34th minute.

The Poles came back after the breather to knock in three more goals through Thomas Marcinkowski (41st minute), Marcin Grotowski (63rd) and Strykowski (67th).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Out of our hands but Sarjit and Co not giving up yet

The national hockey team’s fate in the ongoing Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, is no longer in their own hands.

Even if Malaysia were to win their remaining two matches – against Switzerland today and Japan on Saturday – a draw between Germany and the hosts today will spell the end for Sarjit Singh’s men.

That’s because Germany and Japan are tied on nine points each from three matches. Malaysia are next with four points and our men have an inferior goal difference compared to the hosts.

But, for now, Sarjit and his men will do what they have to do in the hope of reaching the final.

“We will take it one match at a time, meaning we will go all out to collect full points against Switzerland,” Sarjit said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“We have to make full use of the chances that come our way if we hope to get better of Switzerland. I am concerned with the forward line as they have not been playing to their true form in the tournament.

“They have to rise to the occasion and start delivering the goals.”

There are five forwards in the team but only Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin has scored two goals – both in the opening match against Poland, which Malaysian won 2-1.

The other forwards are skipper Azlan Misron, Chua Boon Huat, Ismail Abu and S. Selvaraju.

He added that they couldn’t afford to make the same mistakes they made when they drew 4-4 against Italy on Sunday.

Sarjit was livid with the forwards for giving away the ball too often and missing several good scoring chances.

“Although Switzerland are lying bottom of the table without a point after three matches, we cannot take them lightly,” said Sarjit.

Former national skipper S. Kuhan, who skipped the match against Germany because of a groin injury, will be back for the match against Switzerland.

Sarjit said Kuhan’s return would help steady the backline and provide an alternative to their penalty corner set pieces.

“The pressure is on us to win both our matches and I hope we can do it,” said Sarjit, who took the boys out for a game of baseball yesterday to help them relax before today’s crunch match against Switzerland.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Our boys in tight spot, Germany on course

Germany virtually sealed their place in the final when they defeated Malaysia 3-0 in the Olympic hockey qualifiers at the Green Hockey Stadium in Kakamigahara in Japan yesterday.

Germany are now on track to earn the one berth from the qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics.

All they need is to win one point from their remaining two matches against Japan and Poland to add to their nine points to make the final.

Malaysia remained in third place with four points and their hopes of reaching the final for a showdown with Germanay hinges on winning the next two games against Switzerland tomorrow and Japan on Saturday.

Japan kept their hopes intact with a 5-1 win over Italy to also garner nine points and need only one point from their remaining matches against Germany and Malaysia to earn a final berth.

National coach Sarjit Singh said after the match that the players were finally showing their form and there were enough chances in the match to have got a point off the match.

“Credit to the Germans as they had too much firepower and were better all round.

“For me the important thing is that the players are finding their form and it should stand us in good stead for the last two matches,” said Sarjit.

During the match Germany had seven penalty corners and only managed to score one goal. Malaysia had only one penalty corner and Mohamed Amin Rahin's attempt hit the bar in the first half.

After failing to score from three penalty corners, Germany netted from the fourth in the 23rd minute when Christopher Zeller pounced on the penalty corner rebound to score the only goal of the half.

Germany started aggressively in the second half and in the 43rd minute they increased the lead through Oliver Korn who latched onto a poor clearance to slot home from close range.

And Timo Wess made sure of all three points when he took over the penalty corner flick from Zeller and made his shot count in the 58th minute.

Sarjit said that they would now have to review their play and ensure the players are ready for the two crunch matches in the coming days.

“There was a lot of positive play today (yesterday) and all the players work as a unit. We could not match the Germans but the players can learn from the experience.

“We must stay focussed. Germany and Japan need only one point to make the final,” he added.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Jiwa wants mates to keep Beijing hopes alive

Veteran midfielder Jiwa Mohan (pic) yesterday called on the Malaysian players to buck up and work as a team to put their bid for a place in the Beijing Olympics back on track.

Malaysia are currently playing in the Olympic hockey qualifiers at Kakamigahara, Japan.

They beat Poland 2-1 and drew 4-4 with minnows Italy.

The draw with Italy dented Malaysia's hope of reaching the final of the qualifier. But they are still in the hunt if they can win their remaining three matches against Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

But first the players must raise their game for the cruncher against Germany today and Jiwa believes a win is not impossible.

“We have not been playing to the ability we showed in training. We had full control of a match and yet could not find a winner. There is a lot of room for improvement and we just have to find our touch quickly,” said Jiwa yesterday.

“The Germans are the hot favourites. It will take a major effort to upstage them and I believe we can do it if everyone play to form,” said Jiwa.

Jiwa scored one of the four goals in the match against Italy. Malaysia have only managed to score six goals in the two matches. Germany have scored 18 while the Japanese have scored eight.

“Goals will be important in the final run up especially if we are tied on points. The other two front-runners have a lead on us and we need to catch up.

“But first we need to ensure getting three points from each match. We do not have the luxury of relaxing against Germany,” he added.

Jiwa said Germany's biggest asset is their consistency.

“No matter who they play or where they play the Germans are the most consistent team in terms of performance. That is why they are ranked No.1 in the world.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Malaysia in sticky spot

The battle is not over yet but the Malaysians have a mountain to climb in the ongoing Olympic hockey qualifiers in Kakamigahara in Japan.

A win and a draw from two matches have put a dent in their effort to make the final on Sunday. They still have a chance but it will depend on the results they achieve against their next three opponents – Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

Today the Malaysia face two-time world champions Germany and a defeat will virtually kill off their qualifying chances.

Sloppy and disjointed displays against Poland and Italy have caused considerable headache for coach Sarjit Singh.

“We should be improving with each match but the players are not playing their usual game. This is a big worry.

“It is not going to get any easier and the players have to buck up considerably in the next three matches.

“I’m disappointed with some of the players as they have not been up to the mark in both matches,” said Sarjit yesterday.

Germany lead the standings with six points, ahead of Japan by goal difference. Malaysia are third with four points.

Sarjit said that Malaysia need to snatch at least a draw with Germany today.

“Germany as we know are a very disciplined side and play at quite a fast pace. The first 15 minutes are crucial as that is when they are at their most dangerous.”

Both teams met in the Champions Trophy in Kuala Lumpur in December and Germany won 3-2.

In that match Germany had taken a 3-0 lead with early goals but Malaysia fought back to reduce the deficit.

In the ongoing qualifiers Malaysia beat Poland 2-1 and drew 4-4 with Italy.

“Our forwards have been a big let down. Only Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin has been playing up to expectations. They must not lose the ball during attacks.”

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Shahrun saves Malaysia from defeat with last-gasp equaliser

A last-gasp goal helped Malaysia salvaged a 4-4 draw against minnows Italy in an Olympic qualifying match at the Green Hockey Stadium in Kakamigahara in Japan yesterday.

Midfielder Mohamed Shahrun Nabil was Malaysia’s saviour when he scored in the last seconds of each half from field attempts. The other Malaysian scorers were Mohamed Amin Rahim and Jiwa Mohan.

National coach Sarjit Singh termed the draw as lucky but insisted that they are still on track to reach this Sunday's final.

He added that for the second consecutive day the team did not play well and he was at a loss over the poor form of the players.

“I just cannot understand it. Italy played well but we were not in the game and could not convert the chances. We also gave away far too many balls in our half and this proved costly. If we had lost it will be all over but I believe we will make the cut for the final,” said Sarjit after the match.

He added that goalkeeper S. Kumar was also nervous but he could not replace him as Malaysia had registered only one goalkeeper for the match. Reserve goalkeeper Mohamed Hanafi Hassan and defender S. Kuhan, who has a groin injury, were left out of the 16 for the game.

Malaysia went into their first ever meeting in world hockey against Italy with a 2-1 win over Poland from the opening match while their opponents had lost 0-8 to Germany on Saturday.

Italy took the lead against the run of play in the 11th minute when Alessandro Nanni scored from their first penalty corner of the match.

Malaysia fought back to find the equaliser in the 35th minute when Shahrun picked up a loose ball to slam it home just before the horn.

Jacopo Lunetta put Italy ahead in the 45th minute when he deflected in a penalty corner attempt. Malaysia were on level terms barely a minute later when Mohamed Amin scored from a penalty stroke.

Jiwa gave Malaysia the lead at 3-2 from a penalty corner flick.

Then disaster struck in the space of two minutes which saw Italy took the lead again.

Daniele Malta scored the equaliser from the penalty corner in the 64th minute and a quick counter attack two minutes later allowed Massimo Lanzano to slot home from close range.

And it looked like the Italians were going to win until the final minute when Nabil flicked the ball in off a goalmouth melee for a face-saving draw.

The Germans and Japanese lead the table standings with six points after two matches while the Malaysians are in third place with four.

Sarjit said that their next three matches will be crucial and they have to win at least two to stay in the hunt for a final berth. Their remaining matches are against Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

World champions Germany continued to flex their muscles when they whipped Switzerland 10-0 in their second match to stay on track for the Beijing Olympics.

Timo Wess and Florian Keller scored a hat-trick each while Mattias Witthaus scored a brace in yesterday's win. The other two goals came from Benjamin Wess and Philip Witte.

Germany have now scored 18 goals in just two games without conceding any. The Germans are expected to face a tougher challenge when they play Malaysia tomorrow while Switzerland will be looking to raise their spirits with a victory over Poland.

Japan also stayed on course for a final spot when they defeated Poland 6-1 in their second match of the tournament. On the opening day the hosts had beaten Switzerland 2-1.

Poland had taken the lead in the 11th minute when Tomasz Dutkiewicz converted a penalty stroke.

Japan drew level in the 22nd minute through Akira Ito from a penalty corner variation. From then on the Japanese did not look back. They took full control with Yoshida Kazuo giving them the lead in the 35th minute through a penalty corner flick.

This was followed by second half goals from Kenichi Katayama (45th), Yoshihiro Anai (52nd), Takahiko Yamabori (60th) and Hiroki Sakamoto (63rd)

The losses effectively ended the hopes of Poland and Switzerland. Japan play Italy tomorrow and then take on Germany and Malaysia.

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Bumpy pitch makes Kuhan ineffective

GOOD news for Malaysia is that veteran S. Kuhan is back in peak form but don’t count on him scoring through penalty corners in the hockey Olympic Qualifier in Kakamigahara, Japan, starting on Saturday.

National coach Sarjit Singh, as expected, picked Kuhan as the main penalty corner flicker but the slippery and uneven conditions at the main pitch in Kakamigahara may make him ineffective.

Sarjit admitted this as after three training sessions, his players have yet to get their penalty corner variations on track.

“The players are getting their coordination all wrong in penalty corners. They are making basic mistakes due to the adverse conditions especially in the ’D’ area,” said Sarjit when contacted in Kakamigahara yesterday.

“As it will be tough to score from direct flicks or hits through penalty corners, extra effort will be made to get the players to work on set pieces.”
On why he had picked Kuhan as the main flicker, Sarjit said the defender has been impressive in training and friendly matches.

“His experience will be vital in scoring goals via penalty corners. The good news is that Kuhan has gotten back his touch and is 100 per cent fit for the Qualifier,” he said.

The Qualifier is Kuhan’s first major event since he was dropped from the national team after the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Sarjit has also advised his players to take their chances well when opportunity arises to score from open play.

“I have instructed my players not to be focused on earning penalty corners but to take early shots in the ’D’ area for goals.”

Sarjit also witnesseddarkhorses Italy in a friendly against hosts Japan yesterday.

“I have never seen Italy play hockey in my life but from what I have seen, they are a very fit and young team. We cannot afford to take them lightly.”

Besides Malaysia, Japan and Italy, the other teams competing in the Qualifier are top seeds Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

Only the champions will qualify for Beijing.

FIXTURES — Saturday: Germany v Italy, Malaysia v Poland, Switzerland v Japan;

Sunday: Switzerland v Germany, Japan v Poland, Italy v Malaysia.

Tuesday: Poland v Switzerland, Japan v Italy, Germany v Malaysia;

April 10: Malaysia v Switzerland, Italy v Poland, Germany v Japan.

April 12: Poland v Germany, Japan v Malaysia, Switzerland v Italy;

April 13: Final and classifications.

Olympics Qualifiers Kakamigahara, Japan

Latest table

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Forward nets second-half brace in Malaysia’s laboured win

Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin shrugged off an injury to help Malaysia stage a gallant fight back to beat Poland 2-1 and ensure a winning start to their Olympic hockey qualifiers at the Green Stadium in Kakamigahara, Japan, yesterday.

Forward Tengku Ahmad, who injured his little finger during training on Thursday, struck two opportunistic goals in the second-half to help Malaysia take full points from the match.

Poland had earlier shot into the lead in the 20th minute through Dariusz Rachwalski.

National coach Sarjit Singh was happy to get the opening match out of the way, especially with the Malaysians not hitting top form.

S Selvaraju

Malaysia even missed a penalty stroke when S. Kuhan’s attempt was saved by Polish goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak.

“This is not a good game at all for us. We allowed too much space for the opponents to attack and there were too many mistakes in our half. We cannot play like this in the coming matches. This is a lucky win considering the way we played,” Sarjit said.

“But it is good to have started off on a winning note and we must ensure that we do not drop points in our coming matches. The target is to make the final and we need to win at least four of the matches to achieve that.

“Overall, we need to improve on certain aspects of our game. We will be ready for the Italians tomorrow.”

In the other two matches yesterday, world champions Germany hammered Italy 8-0 while hosts Japan edged Switzerland 2-1.

Poland and Malaysia were evenly matched in the first-half.

Poland, the world No. 21, took the lead in the 20th minute when Rachwalski deflected the ball high into the Malaysian net after receiving a pass from outside the circle.

Malaysia came back stronger after the break and needed just three minutes to find the equaliser through a Tengku Ahmad field attempt.

The Malaysians continued to attack and earned a penalty stroke in the 49th minute. But Matuszak used his right foot to keep out veteran Kuhan’s flick.

Malaysia piled on the pressure and, in the 57th minute, earned their third penalty corner, which resulted in the winner when Kuhan’s indirect attempt was deflected by Tengku Ahmad past Matuszak.

The Poles tried hard to get back into the game and even had two penalty corner attempts but both came to nought.

Malaysia had another chance in the 69th minute when S. Selvaraju and Azlan Misron broke away. Selvaraju’s attempt beat the goalkeeper but defender Miroslaw Juszczak managed to clear the ball on the line.

Earlier, two-time world champions Germany led 4-0 at half-time en route to an 8-0 rout of Italy.

Penalty corner specialist Christopher Zeller was the hero for the Germans, scoring a hat-trick from set-piece moves in the 23rd, 25th and 37th minutes.

Sebastian Draguhn (11th, 30th) and Mattias Witthaus (40th, 55th) chipped in with two goals each while Benjamin Wess scored the last, thanks to a deflection, in the 68th minute.

In another match, Japan also had to claw back from a goal down to snatch a 2-1 win over Switzerland.

The Swiss went ahead in the 40th minute through Michael Kotter before Japan hit back through Kenichi Katayama (43rd) and skipper Takahiko Yamabori (61st).

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Azlan: We must not take Italy for granted

National skipper Azlan Misron has warned his team-mates not to take Italy for granted in the Olympic qualifiers.

Malaysia will play Italy for the first time in the international arena and have no knowledge of their rivals’ capabilities.

Malaysia opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over Poland while Italy suffered a 0-8 defeat by world champions Germany.

Azlan said although Italy looked quite ordinary against Germany, Malaysia must not under-estimate the Italians.

“What is important is bagging full points from the match. Let us not worry too much about the goals. We had a good start by beating Poland and we need to build on that victory. We can be happy with the game against Poland,” he said.

Italy are ranked 37th in the world while Malaysia are 14th.

National coach Sarjit Singh agreed, saying: “We are a better side and we should win if we play our normal game.”

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Poland play a very robust game, says coach Sarjit

Malaysia begin their quest for a place in the Beijing Olympic Games with what looks like a relatively easy opener against Poland in the qualifiers in Kakamigahara, Japan today.

But then looks can be deceiving.

Hence, coach Sarjit Singh’s word of caution

Forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin

“We watched a video of Poland’s friendly game against South Korea, which was played last week, and found that they (the Poles) play a very robust game,” Sarjit said in a telephone interview from Kakamigahara.

“They are physically bigger and taller and we can expect a tough time against them.”

Malaysia last played Poland, who are ranked 21st in the world, in the Four-Nation Tournament in Poznan in 2005, winning 3-2.

Sarjit has told his players to play an aggressive and fast match from the start to put pressure on their opponents.

“I hope the forwards will make use of their chances. We are also banking on S. Kuhan and Mohd Amin (Rahim) to deliver from penalty corner set pieces,” said Sarjit, who guided Malaysia to their first-ever bronze medal in the Asia Cup in Chennai last September.

Despite the relatively easy opener, Malaysia’s task in Kakamigahara is actually fraught with danger.

With only the winner qualifying for Beijing, the odds are stacked against Malaysia in the six-team tournament.

Malaysia, who are ranked 14th in the world, also have to contend with the likes of world champions and world No. 1 Germany, Japan (No. 11), Switzerland (33rd) and Italy (37th).

That’s not all, Sarjit’s men are also struggling to adapt to the slippery pitch and chilly weather conditions. “We bought some long sleeves and tights for the players to keep warm during the matches as the weather here is chilly, with the temperature hovering around the 10°C to 15°C range,” said Sarjit.

Worse still, Malaysia may not have the services of three key players – midfielders Jeevan Mohan and Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib and forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin – for today’s match against Poland.

Jeevan and Sukri are down with fever and flu respectively while Ahmad injured his little finger during training on Thursday.

While Jeevan is definitely out for today’s game against Poland, Sarjit is keeping his fingers crossed that Sukri and Tengku Ahmad will be fit to see action.

“Sukri’s condition has improved and may play in the opening match. Ahmad’s finger was swollen after being hit by the ball and we sent him to hospital for an X-ray.

“Luckily, there is no fracture,” said Sarjit.

“However, we will have to wait until tomorrow (today) to know if he will be able to play.”

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Amin out for a splash

While many have complained about the poor and slippery condition of the pitch in Kakamigahara, Japan, one man though is not bothered at all.

Defender Mohd Amin Rahim, who is one of the penalty corner flickers, said the venue for the Olympic qualifying tournament from April 5-13 would be ideal for penalty corner set pieces.

“It’s a fast pitch and that’s good for penalty corners. The ball will move very fast when it is pushed during penalty corners. The stopper will have ample time to stop the ball and this will give the penalty corner hitter or flicker time to execute his shot well,” Amin said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The 28-year-old Amin, who is the proud father of a 10-month-old boy, said that he had had three training sessions on the pitch since arriving in Japan on Monday and was comfortable with his penalty corner flicks.

“Even (defender S.) Kuhan feels that it’s a good pitch for penalty corners, which are important to win matches and we hope to deliver the goals,” said Amin, who has scored 40 goals in his career from 109 international caps.

Amin was the top scorer for Malaysia in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, scoring six goals en route to guiding the national team to the bronze medal.

Amin and Kuhan were dropped after Malaysia finished sixth in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

However, they were recalled last December when the country’s top penalty corner flicker, Zulkifli Rejab, was ruled out for a year after injuring his knee last November.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Jiwa wants team-mates to stay focused until the final whistle

National hockey players have a tendency to “go to sleep” in the last 10 minutes of their matches and this has always led to the team's downfall in major tournaments.

And veteran defender Jiwa Mohan has warned his team-mates to stayed focused until the final whistle of every game in the Olympic qualifiers, which will begin in Kakamigahara, Japan, on Saturday.

Only one of the six teams from the qualifiers will earn a ticket to the Beijing Olympics in August.

The other teams competing in the qualifiers are hosts Japan, Poland, two-time world champions Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Jiwa, who quit the national team in January to concentrate on his job with Sapura, was recalled for the qualifiers after defender Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi was ruled out with a shin injury.

Jiwa, who has 221 international caps to his name, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the defenders needed to stay alert for the entire 70 minutes of each match.

“A slight mistake in defence can be costly as all the teams will be going all out to beat each other for the single ticket to Beijing,” said Jiwa.

“The defence had, in the past, crumbled in the dying minutes, resulting in us losing matches we could have won.”

He also said that their task would be more difficult as the playing surface was slippery.

“It's not going to be easy playing on a pitch which is slippery.

“The players, especially defenders, are bound to make mistakes and this could spell trouble for the teams.”

The Penang-born player added that he would do his best to help Malaysia make it to Beijing before calling it quits for good.

Malaysia, who arrived in Japan on Monday, will open their campaign against Poland on Saturday.

Malaysia’s other matches are against Italy on Sunday, Germany (April 8), Switzerland (April 10) and Japan (April 12).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

2010 World Cup hosts India warned to shape up

India are in serious danger of losing the right to host hockey's men's World Cup in 2010, the world governing body warned on Monday.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH), worried at India's falling standards, devised a “Promoting Indian Hockey” project last year to raise standards in the country's national sport.

FIH president Els van Breda Vriesman warned Indian officials they could miss hosting the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi if the project was not implemented immediately.

And the issue and the organisation of the World Cup were again addressed during a three-day meeting of the FIH Executive Board ending on Saturday.

“After having carefully studied the progress made with the project 'Promoting Indian Hockey' as well as the actions taken in the preparation of the World Cup 2010, the Executive Board noted that satisfactory progress had not been made in either area,” the FIH said in a statement.

“However, the Executive Board decided to give Indian Hockey some additional time ... to urgently address those issues before taking a final decision.

“In the meantime, FIH is looking for alternative host countries in case the FIH would be forced to take the decision not to host the World Cup in India,” the statement added.

Eight-time gold medallists India have failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time.

Since winning the last of their eight Olympic golds at the western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980, India claimed just one major title when Dhanraj Pillay's men took the Asian Games gold in Bangkok in 1998.

India finished seventh in the last two Olympics and were forced to qualify for Beijing after failing to win an Asian Games medal in Doha.

MHF to hold trials for U-16 national team

A three-day trial will be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil starting tomorrow to pick the national Under-16 team for a four-nation tournament in Meinheim, Germany, from May 9-12.

Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary Hashim Mohd Yusoff said those born in 1991 were eligible to attend the trials.

“We hope all the 16-year-old players who featured in the MJHL (Malaysian Junior Hockey League) will attend the trials,” he said.

Hashim added that Tenaga Nasional's K. Rajan would coach the team and MSS-Kelantan's Wan Noor Zuhari Wan Yusoff would be the manager.

Rajan steered Tenaga to the runners-up spot behind Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) in both the Division One and overall championships. MSS-Kelantan made a grand debut in the MJHL, winning the Division Two title.

In the tournament in Meinheim, Malaysia will be up against Germany, Holland and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Hashim said that Kedah would host the national Under-16 tournament in Alor Star from May 24-June 1.

Slippery task for keeper Kumar

National number one hockey goalkeeper S. Kumar was disappointed with his performance in the Champions Trophy tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil last December.

The Negri Sembilan keeper conceded a few soft goals and he was replaced by Khairulnizam Ibrahim in the last two matches of the eight-team tournament in which Malaysia finished last.

The 28-year-old Kumar, who has 105 international caps to his credit, faces yet another daunting task in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, starting on Saturday. And the slippery old pitch conditions have made his task even tougher.

Kumar said in a telephone interview from Japan yesterday that they found the pitch bouncy as well after using it for the last two days.

“Under these conditions, I have to be sharp and fast to stop all direct attempts at goal, including those from penalty corners,” he said.

“It’s really going to be a big challenge for me to play on such a pitch. The qualifying tournament is an important assignment for us and I don’t want to be blamed for the team’s defeat.”

Kumar added that there was no excuse for his disappointing performance in the Champions Trophy tournament, which was played in good pitch conditions.

“Now that we have a poor pitch, I have to more alert and cautious. I have to adapt to the conditions quickly before the tournament begins,” he said.

Kumar added that the cold Kakamigahara weather, with the temperature of 10°C, would also be a problem.

The reserve goalkeeper in the team is Mohd Hanafi Hassan, who made his international debut in the Asia Cup in Chennai last September. The Malacca goalkeeper has only 15 international caps to his name.

Kumar and Hanafi have been training under goalkeeper coach Shahid Ali Khan of Pakistan since May last year.

Shahid said that it was unfortunate that an important hockey tournament would be played on one of the worst pitches.

“There are patches all over the pitch and in some areas, the turf is worn out. I hope Kumar will be able to adapt well to such appalling conditions,'' said Shahid, who was rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the world in the 80s.

The Malaysian team, who arrived in Japan on Monday, will open their campaign against Poland on Saturday. Their other preliminary round matches are against Italy (Sunday), two-time champions Germany (April 8), Switzerland (April 10) and Japan (April 12).

The classification matches and final will be held on April 13. Only the winners will take the last berth in a 12-team Olympics competition in Beijing in August.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MHF pick 14 new players for junior training squad

The just concluded MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League (MJHL) has thrown up 12 new players for the national junior training squad.

Besides the 12, another two players who featured in the Under-21 meet in January were also selected.

These 14 players will join the current list of 24 players for a three-day camp, starting tomorrow at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. And a squad of 30 will be named after the camp.

National Junior coach V. Muralidharan said yesterday that the 14 will be joining national training for the first time.

“We will assess them thoroughly during the camp and determine whether they are good enough to remain in the training squad. We had 36 players earlier this year and we dropped 12 of them in stages. The junior training programme will go into full swing after we come up with the new list of 30 players,” he said.

Muralidharan added that their first priority was to work on the player’s fitness and there is a plan to have a special camp in Langkawi from April 16-28.

Four friendly matches have also been lined up against the Singapore senior team at the National Hockey Stadium from May 2-6.

“Our main assignment this year is the Junior Asian Cup in India in July. The performance of the team there will give us a good indication on how far the players have progressed,” said Muralidharan.

“The tournament is also a qualifying event for the Junior World Cup Finals next year.

“But we will not be vying for places because we are automatic qualifiers by virtue of being the hosts of the Finals together with Singapore. The matches will be good tests for the players.”

In June, the team may go on a playing tour of Europe.

From MJHL: Shahrul Anuar Ibrahim, Mohamed Fadli Ismail, Mohamed Halimim Hakimi Ripin (MSS-Kelantan); Mohamed Amirul Rashid, Nur Hrsikesa Mohamed Murni, Mohamed Kamaruzain Kamal (Olak); Mohamed Andika Norarahis (MSJ-Batu Pahat); Mohamed Syair Mohamed Hatta, Meor Mohamed Ridhwan (Tenaga); Mohamed Marhan Mohamed Jalil (TBSS); Mohamed Ismat Imadi (BPSS); Mohamed Iderus Ali (MSN Malacca).

From Under-21 tournament: Mohamed Firdaus (Navy); Mohamed Amirul Syafiq Ahmad (CIMB Bank).

BJSS set to dominate humdrum tournament

It has become boring and predictable. And the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League will continue to be dominated by one team unless the others work harder and prepare for the tasks with a year-round training programme.

Bukit Jalil Spots School (BJSS) won the double for the fourth time to underline that they are still a class above the rest. Only Tenaga Nasional, and to some extent, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and Bandar Penawar Sports School offered some resistance.

The competitions this year were staged over seven weeks and some teams had to play five or six matches within two weeks while some had only two matches.

“The organisers were lucky that teams did not raise an issue over the disparity and went about their business,” said a team manager who has been involved in the league for the last 10 years.

“There is no point in complaining as the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) hardly listen to us. They cannot even draw up proper fixtures and that tells you a lot of their organising abilities.”

BJSS are set to continue their dominance. Since winning their first league title in 2003, BJSS have won six league and four overall titles.

Coach S. Prakash said that having a second team in Division One had helped them to maintain their grip on the league.

“Each year, players from our junior team will make the grade to the senior side. They will come with the experience of having played in the junior team for at least two years. Further more as a sport school we have a year-round programme,” he said.

“But there are problems as well when our players go for national camps or represent their states in national competitions. Our programme then is disrupted.”

On the bright side, it is refreshing to see MSS Kelantan putting up a team for the first time since the league's inception in 1995. They won the Division Two title and will feature in Division One next year. Runners-up MSJ-Batu Pahat will also move up to the top flight.

The MHF must make a concerted effort to ensure that each state have at least one team in the league. They should convince the State Sports Councils to sponsor the teams who are part of their Sukma programme.

This year Perlis, Penang, Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Perak had two teams each while Malacca, and Kelantan had one each. KL contributed three while the two Sports School had two teams each.

A frosty reception in Japan

The national hockey team learnt on their first day in Japan that the weather would also be a factor in their Olympic qualifying campaign, which begins on Saturday at the Green Hockey Stadium.

The team arrived in Kakamigahara yesterday morning and they were out on the pitch to check out the conditions after barely three hours of rest. And what hit them was the cold weather made worse by strong winds. The temperature was around 10°C.

Skipper Azlan Misron in a telephone interview said: “It was bearable today but we were told that it could get worse.

“We were more concerned about the condition of the pitch. The coach (Sarjit Singh, who was in Japan earlier to inspect the venue of competition) was right . It is an old pitch and it is very slippery.

“The players must tread with caution in training to avoid injury. We had a useful workout today as we were able to get a grip of the pitch conditions.”

Ahead of their opening match against Poland on Saturday, Sarjit said that they would have daily two-hour training session on the competition venue and the emphasis would be on set pieces.

“I want to ensure that the players execute the moves well and have a good read of the pitch. We cannot do anything about the weather. We have got the players warm clothing and they have to get used to it over the next few days,” he said.

Only the winners of the qualifying take the last berth available in a 12-team Olympic competition in Beijing in August. Besides Poland, Malaysia will be up against Italy (Sunday), Germany (April 8), Switzerland (April 10) and Japan (April 12).

Two-time world champions Germany are the favourites to take the ticket to Beijing and Sarjit said that they had been in Kakamigahara since March 28.

“They are very serious and have had several days of training here. For us, the main priority is to get ready for the first match against Poland. We will take one step at a time and the first objective is to make the final,” he said.

In the next two days, the team will also view recordings of the Polish team in action in two recent friendly matches against South Korea.

Former national player Reduan Ponirin, who recorded the matches won by the Koreans (7-0 and 3-2) and arrived from Seoul yesterday morning, said: “The Polish team play a typical European game. The second game was not fully completed due to heavy rain.”