Monday, July 14, 2008

National Juniors among 15 teams for Razak Cup tourney

The National Juniors are among a record 15 teams for the Razak Cup hockey tournament, which will be held at the Tun Razak Stadium here from Aug 2-10.

Entries closed yesterday and only three teams will not feature in the tournament – Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary, Hashim Mohamed Yusof, said that the juniors were included at the request of the team management.

“Although they are newcomers to the tournament, we have decided to place them in Division One to give them better quality matches as part of their preparations for the Junior World Cup next year,” he said.

“We will retain the two-division format. With the inclusion of the juniors there will be seven teams in Division One.”

Sixteen-time champions Kuala Lumpur will be making a return to Division One after a three-year lapse.

KL did not play in the 2005 and 2006 tournaments.

They returned to the fold last year and had to play in Division Two, winning it to gain promotion.

Last year’s tournament in Kuantan featured 12 teams and those making a comeback this year are Kedah, Perlis and Police.

Hashim added that a few matches would be held at either the KL Hockey Stadium or the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

He also said that players in the national training squad would also be allowed to represent their state sides.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Asia Junior Cup: Skipper Ahmad is fit to lead the charge in Hyderabad

Skipper Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin (pic) has recovered fully from a knee injury and will lead the Malaysian hockey team’s challenge in the Junior Asia Cup, which begins tomorrow in Hyderabad.
Coach V. Muralidharan said in a telephone interview that Ahmad showed no sign of being bothered by the injury in a workout yesterday.

“We were a little worried about his conditions but he has recovered fully. I now have all the players available for selection. We will not take any team for granted in this tournament and will be at full strength in the opening match against Singapore.

“The tournament is a big test for the players. They do not have to worry about qualifying for the Junior World Cup (Malaysia are automatic qualifiers as co-hosts of the Finals next year with Singapore) but still we want them to be at their best.”

Ahmad is the mainstay of the Malaysian defence and as the specialist flicker of the team, his biggest contribution will come from penalty corner set pieces.

He shoulders the burden of having to deliver the goals because the team do not boast of having a very sharp forward line.

Malaysia are in Group A and their other opponents are defending champions India and Japan. Group B comprises Pakistan, Oman, Bangladesh and South Korea.

Muralidharan added that not having to go through the qualifying process for the World Juniors at the Asian Juniors did not mean that the players could take it easy.

“We will not hesitate to drop players who slacken during the tournament. We want to push them as hard as we can and to see how they rate against the best in Asia,” he said.

“The majority of the players in the team will form the core of the side for the World Juniors. They have to show their full potential here (Hyderabad). The team are weak in several areas and we will work on them in this tournament.”

Still at number 14 in the world despite failure to make Olympics

Malaysia remained in 14th place in the latest world men’s hockey ranking list even though they failed to qualify for the Olympics.

But coach Sarjit Singh said that two lower ranked sides – Canada (15th) and China (17th) – were expected to overtake them after the Beijing Games next month.

Two other Asian teams who failed to qualify for the Games, India and Japan, who are among the top 10, can also expect a drop in rankings.

“We are without any tournament that offer ranking points. But we need to look ahead and make sure that the team follow the programme well and build on their fitness level,” said Sarjit yesterday.

“The target is the Asia Cup next year. It offers direct entry to the 2010 World Cup Finals and we must go all out to secure it and avoid the qualifying process.”

For the moment, the national team do not have any assignment following the Malaysian Hockey Federation’s (MHF) decision not to send the team for a five-match Test series against China, who are preparing for the Olympics.

Malaysia also have an invitation to play in the four-nation German Masters in October but the MHF have not made a decision on it.

Sarjit said that his training schedule would continue until the MHF make a review.

The National Sports Council (NSC) indicated recently that they were keen to hire a foreigner to take charge of the national team and showed interest in South Korean Kim Sang-ryul.

“I have no comment on the matter. It is their prerogative to make changes. But for now I still have a job to do because I have a contract until 2012,” said Sarjit.

Malaysia ready to take over as hosts of 2010 World Cup

Malaysia are ready to take over from India as hosts of the 2010 World Cup Hockey Finals.

The tournament was awarded to India last year but the current turmoil in the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) has prompted the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to look for an alternative venue.

The MHF secretary, Hashim Mohamed Yusof, said yesterday: “We have informed the FIH of our willingness to stage the Finals even though they have not called for bids. We want to make sure that we are in the running to host the tournament if the FIH decide to make a change at their congress in Los Angeles in November.”

Malaysia have hosted the Finals twice before – in 1975 and 2002.

The IHF were disbanded recently and an ad-hoc committee under the jurisdiction of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) were set up to run the sport in the country.

Last year, Malaysia replaced Pakistan as hosts of the Champions Trophy because teams refused to go to Lahore for security reasons.