Thursday, February 19, 2009

Expect the usual suspects to vie for Under-19 title

The tournament’s name may have been changed but expect the same teams to contend for the title.

The Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Under -19 category, which starts with 11 matches today, is basically the 14th edition of the Malaysia Junior Hockey League (MJHL).

The Division Two is for the elite teams (12) while the other 10 also-rans and development teams will feature in Division Three of the new one-system MHL.

Call it what you want but expect the same teams — Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak), Tenaga Nasional and Bukit Penawar Sports School (BPSS) — to be in the thick of the title challenge, as usual.

BJSS, the reigning double champions, will be the team to beat although they claim that this year will see a more open race for the two titles.

They have decided to use their Under-17 players as the National Juniors are barred from playing. Even then, BJSS can expect to walk away with at least one title, thanks to their strength — teamwork.

BJSS coach S. Prakash hopes to see his team prevail although he expects more than four teams to be in contention this year.

The four teams had better be wary of another former champions — Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), who have recruited some talented players.

With the National Juniors not allowed to compete in the MHL, hockey fans can expect a more open fight for the titles.

The Juniors are preparing for the Junior World Cup in June and the MHF have barred all the 31 players in the training squad from taking part in the MHL.

Overall, the one-league system offers nothing new. If anything, the youngsters stand to lose more than they gain because they will not be able to play in the higher divisions.

Previously, the junior teams were allowed to field a team in the senior category to gain experience.

Now, those who are playing in the Under-19 category will not be allowed to feature at the senior level.

And the teams are irked by this ruling.

BJSS’ Prakash said the previous system allowed them to develop their teams in a structured manner and gain valuable experience by playing in the senior category.

“Many other teams also hired some of these talented players by giving them contracts. So I do not see the rationale of this one-system league,” he said.

“Nothing has changed in terms of the playing format or even the prize money. Why not allow the youngsters to play in the open category as well?”

Many of the other coaches felt that same way.

Only time will tell if the move by MHF is the right one.

For now, 22 teams will battle in the Under-19 category. Hopefully, there will be some quality matches and some new talents will come through the ranks.

Bogged by the same old problems

The Malaysia Hockey League (Under-19 category), which begins today, is still bogged down by the same old problems.

The more urgent matter is the shortage of umpires.

There will be 11 matches played on most days and the organisers need at least 33 umpires for each day.

But as it stands, four of today’s matches will only have two umpires. There will be no reserve umpires on stand-by.

It is not clear why the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) are unable to get umpires for the matches concerned. But when the fitness test was held for the umpires on Feb 15, only 37 turned up. And nine failed the test.

Some of those who turned up were international class umpires, although there have been suggestions that the MHF utilise Class Three and Two officials for the preliminary rounds.

Team managers have also called for more quality umpires to overcome the problem of dubious decisions.

This year, the umpires will also have to come to grasp with some new rules which the International Hockey Federation (FIH) will introduce in May.

Another problem the MHF need to tackle is the late payment for umpires and technical officials.

The officials have yet to receive last year’s payment.

It is learnt that Milo, one of the main sponsors of the Malaysia Junior Hockey league (MJHL), had paid the money to the National Sports Council (NSC).

Match officials claimed that this was not the first time such payments had been delayed.

“This is the norm for the last few years. Yet, they expect us to turn up whenever we are called. This is ridiculous. We have to use our own money,” said the umpires, who did not want to be named.

“Why can’t the MHF pay us for last season’s competition when they have collected the money?”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chance for Joel, Manraj to emulate their illustrious fathers’ achievements

There is something unique about Joel van Huizen and Manraj Singh apart from the fact that they will be spearheading Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) assault in Division Two of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), which begins tomorrow.

Their fathers — Stephen van Huizen and Sarjit Singh — are living legends as far as hockey in the country is concerned, having captained and coached the national team.

So, all eyes will definitely be on Joel and Manraj when they make their debut in Division Two, which is for Under-19 players.

Joel, a Form Five student of the St. John’s Institution, is keen to follow in the footsteps of his father, who captained the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics team.

“I picked up hockey from my father and I also happen to be a midfielder just like him. He was a good centre-half,” said Joel, who helped Kuala Lumpur win the National Under-16 title in Kedah last year.

“It’s great to know that I am the third generation hockey player in my family.”

Joel, whose grandfather Lawrence also skippered and coached the national team.

Joel has set himself a target of representing the national senior team in three years’ time and featuring in the 2013 Junior World Cup.

“I have improved a lot in the last few years but I still have to train harder to become a good midfielder,” said Joel, whose ambition is to become an accountant.

Forward Manraj too wants to be a great player like his dad, who was regarded as one of the best midfielders in Asia during his days.

“My dad was a utility player ... he could play in all positions. He was also good with penalty corners and overhead flicks,” said the 17-year-old Manraj.

“He is my role model and I am proud of his achievements as a player and coach.”

Manraj said he could not play in the junior league last year because of a dislocated shoulder.

“I was out of action for six months.

“But this year I hope to give my best by scoring as many goals as possible in the league,” said Manraj.

“I also want to win a place in the national team in four years’ time.”

If they are half as good as their dads, these two lads should be worth watching.

Special :: Break Defenses, lead the Attack

Dear Hockey Player,

Is it possible to play too safe?

This week a colleague said to me, "We kept great possession, but did not make any progress forward in attack." Having discussed the problem further we came to conclusion that the team was playing great possession hockey and players were supporting the players with the ball offering easy passes sideways or backwards, but the team was failing to transform all this possession into attacking opportunities.

So this week we look at transforming possession into attacking possession and encourage players to make leading runs into space and for the player on the ball to see the runs and make the passes which break the gain line and create opportunities.

Key skills in this weeks session: Passing and switching positions, Moving ahead of the ball, Through Pass!

Moving ahead of the ball

Pass and follow. Player 1 passes the ball to player 2 Player 3 runns one way then back to receive the ball to continue and shoots at goal.

Juniors get to assess strength of World Cup foes during tour

The National Juniors will get a chance to assess the strength of the Spanish and England teams during a four-nation hockey meet in Germany in April.

The tournament from April 8-12 is also part of the Malaysian team’s programme for their tour of Europe.

Spain and England are in Malaysia’s group in the Junior World Cup, which will be held in Johor Baru and Singapore from June 7-21. The other two teams in the group are the United States and South Korea.

National Juniors coach K. Rajan said the tournament would give them a good chance to assess the two European teams before the Junior World Cup.

“These two teams will certainly be among the main oppositions in our bid to finish in the top-two bracket of our group. Of course, they too will be taking notes of our team,” said Rajan, who added that the Juniors would also play friendly matches in Germany and Belgium during the tour.

The coach hoped the team can play at least eight quality matches in Europe.

Malaysia will most likely play two matches against Germany and three against the Belgians.

The National Juniors will also compete in a four-nation meet at the Junior World Cup tournament venue at Taman Daya in Johor Baru from March 11-15. The other teams in the fray are India, Pakistan and Singapore.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation’s (MHF) hopes of bringing in a European team for the meet has fallen through.

Rajan said the Juniors would shift their training base to Johor on March 2.

The Juniors were to have undergone an army training programme earlier this month but the MHF failed to make the arrangements.

Instead, physical trainer Behrad Honar Baksh from the National Institute of Sports (ISN) will work on their fitness. The Canadian has been working with the team since Feb 2.

Monday, February 16, 2009

MHF yet to secure sponsors for Div 2 and 3 categories

The Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) starts in four days’ time but the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have yet to secure the sponsors for the Division Two and Division Three categories.

Teams playing in the two divisions for the Under-19s can expect lower prize money. For starters, there is a RM2,500 reduction in the prize offered for the two divisions.

And there is also no word on whether the incentive payment for each win will be continued this year. Over the last five years, each team received RM200 for a win in the preliminary round.

And there is also no word if any subsidy will be paid out although the MHF secretary Hashim Mohamed Yusof told the team managers that a final decision will be taken on Thursday.

The only thing the teams have confirmation of is that they will receive two sets of attire for the tournament.

Since the inception of the Malaysia Junior Hockey League in 1995, Milo and the National Sports Council have been the main sponsors.

This year there is no word about their involvement since the MJHL is now “dead” and replaced by the four tier MHL.

Divisions Two and Three are for the junior teams and in every respect the same as that of the MJHL in terms of format and rules.

But there has been talk that Tenaga Nasional may step in to cover the entire MHL for this season.

Negotiations are said to be on-going.

The competitions committee, however, decided to reverse the order of the prize money structure.

Two years ago the MHF decided that the league champions should receive more money than the overall winners.

This year it will revert to the old structure whereby the overall champions will be rewarded with a higher amount.

The top six teams from Division Two and the top two teams form Division Three will play in the knockout stage.

There will be a home and away quarter-final and semi-final matches before the final on April 26.

The total prize money offered this year is RM80,500 while it was RM83,000 for 2008.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Former Malaysia coach Shahid to handle Pakistan

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) and the National Sports Council (NSC) did not want him. But on Friday the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) named Shahid Ali Khan as the chief coach of their national hockey team.

Shahid was Malaysia’s was the goalkeeper coach with the national juniors from 2005 and in 2007 worked with the senior team when Sarjit Singh was at the helm.

In October last year they decided not to renew his contract when it expired in December.

Shahid’s first international assignment with the Pakistani team will be the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh from April 6-12.

Shahid said in a telephone interview from Karachi yesterday that his priority was to prepare Pakistan for the Asia Cup.

“There is no question that we want to win the Asia Cup which will allow us to qualify automatically for the 2010 World Cup in India.

“Our full attention is on that tournament for the moment. We have 40 players in the training squad and we will trim the team to 25,” he said.

Shahid also said that he will also look at including several of their junior players in his team for the Asia Cup which will be held in Dubai in May.

“We must have a youthful team with a blend of experienced players. This is the long term objective. The more immediate priority is Dubai where we must try and secure the automatic berth to India,” he added.

Shahid said that he had no regrets leaving Malaysia although he would have loved to work longer with the team.

Batu Pahat to replace Clifford School in MHF

Kuala Kangsar’s Clifford School have withdrawn from the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) and have been replaced by the Johor Sports Council-Batu Pahat team.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have accepted the late entry by the Johor team and have placed them in Division Two. Under the new MHL format, Division Two and Three will cater to Under-19 teams.

With the Johor team’s inclusion there will be 12 teams in Division Two and 10 in Division Three.

The two divisions will start on Feb 20 with the preliminaries being held over a single round-robin format followed by the knockout stage. The top six teams from Division Two and first two from Division Three will qualify for the quarter-finals.

At the league’s team managers’ meeting yesterday, four teams were caught up in a tussle for a player.

MSS Selangor and Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) had registered the same player and was told to sort it out by Wednesday or the player will not be allowed to take part in the league.

A similar situation arose with Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) and Nur Insafi and both were also given a Wednesday deadline.

MHF competitions committee deputy chairman Johari Abdul Aziz said after the meeting that the teams will be asked to settle the matter among themselves or the players will be kept out of the competition.

“The rules are clear on the eligibility of players and the clubs just need to follow it. We are not going to make a decision. If by Wednesday the teams do not settle it then we will act,” said Johari.

Yesterday, Setapak High School wanted to play in Division Three but it was shot down by the committee.

“The Setapak High School is a school of excellence for hockey and they will benefit playing in Division Two,” added Johari.

The teams in Division Two are Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), BJSS Juniors, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), Kijang Mas Kelantan, MSN Malacca, Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak), Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS), BPSS Juniors, Setapak High School, Anderson, Tenaga Nasional and JSC-Batu Pahat.

The Division Three teams are Matri of Perlis, Sultan Abu Bakar College (SAB), MSS Perlis, Nur Insafi, SMK Datuk Taha, Tunku Besar Juniors, Selangor State School Council (MSS Selangor), SMK Pengkalan Permatang Kuala Selangor, SMK Seberang Temerloh and Penang State School Council (MSS Penang).

National juniors must top group to stay in hunt for medal

The National Juniors must finished on top their group during the preliminary round of the Junior World Cup if they want to stay in the hunt for a medal.

The tournament will be jointly hosted by Malaysia and Singapore from June 7-21.

Under the new format, the matches for the second round will also follow a round-robin system before the knockout stage.

In the first round the 20 teams are divided into four groups of five teams each.

Group A and C matches will be played in Johor Baru while Groups B and D matches will be held in Singapore.

Malaysia along with Spain, England, South Korea and the US are in Group C while the Group A teams are defending champions Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia.

The teams in Group B are Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan and South Africa while Group D has India, Holland, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore.

In the second round the top two teams from each group will then be divided into two groups of four teams.

One group will play in Johor Baru while the other in Singapore. Each country will also host one semi-final match each. The final will be played in Johor Baru.

The third and fourth placed teams in each group will vie for the positions nine to 16. They will also be placed in two group of four teams each and play a round-robin format before moving to the play-off stages.

Malaysian coach K. Rajan said that they are aware of the format and for the initial stage they need to aim for a top-two finish.

“It is going to be a tough tournament as we have three other teams that are capable of going to the play-off stage. We understand that there is no quarter-final stage for this tournament,” he said.

In the medal groupings for the second round the champions from Group A and D along with the runners-up from Group B and C will form one pool while the champions from Group B and C along with the runners-up from Group A and D will play in the other group.

The venues for the second round matches will be decided after the first round ends.

Army training for national juniors unlikely

A proposed one-month long army training for the national junior hockey team is unlikely to materialise.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretariat has not made any arrangements although it was announced that the team will start the training this month.

National Juniors’ coach K. Rajan has now turned to National Sports Institute’s (NSI) physical and conditioning coach Behrad Honar Baksh to work on the players for the next four months.

The Canadian expert started work with the team last week and will stay with them until the Junior World Cup in Johor Baru from June 7-21.

“I do not know about the proposed army training as this was supposed to be arranged by the MHF.

“But for us the main thing is that we have an expert on board and he will give us the edge we need in preparing the team physically. He has made an assessment of the players last week and will prepare a comprehensive programme for them to follow.

“I am happy that he will be able to work with us until the Junior World Cup,” said Rajan.

The Juniors have also started on a series of practice matches with the senior team since Monday. The matches will be held three times a week.

In the first match on Monday the seniors won 6-3. On Wednesday the teams drew 4-4.

“The results are not important.

“For me the main thing is for the players to keep up their game structure and gain exposure.

“These matches give me the chance to evaluate the players and also work on their weaknesses.

“There was a distinct improvement in the second match and we need to keep that up. Consistency will be crucial in the Junior World Cup,” he added.

In the Junior World Cup, Malaysia are grouped with Spain, England, South Korea and the United States for the preliminary round.

The 20-team tournament will be jointly hosted by Malaysia and Singapore.

Skilful Shaharul is the player to watch in MHL

Sixteen-year-old forward Shaharul Dennis will be the player to watch in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

The Form Four student of SMK Damansara Jaya is a skilful player who has caught the eyes of the national selectors.

Shaharul, who is the son of former international Henry Fidelis, will make his debut for Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) in Division Two, which is for players under 19.

MBPJ coach Paul Raj said that Shaharul has excellent dribbling skills and has the potential to become the country’s top forward in the national team.

“He is only 16 but he can play much better than players older than him. He was twice named the Best Player in the Selangor Schools Sports (MSS) Under-18 age category in 2007 and 2008.

“Shaharul has received a call-up to join the National Under-16 team in April,’’ said Paul.

He added that Shaharul would lead the forward line and hope he would be able to deliver the goals during the tournament.

Shaharul, who helped Selangor finished runners-up in the Malaysian Schools Sports Council’s (MSSM) Under-18 tournament last year, said that he only took up hockey seriously four years ago.

“I am happy that I have impressed the national coaches to be selected for the National Under-16 team.

“I want to become a national player like my father and to achieve that I have to continue training hard,’’ said Shaharul.

He added that this would be the first time he would feature in the MHL and he has a set a personal target in the league.

“I hope to score 12 goals in 10 league matches,’’ said Shaharul.

Besides MBPJ the other teams in Division Two of this year’s MHL are double champions BJSS, BJSS Juniors, Kijang Mas Kelantan, MSN Malacca, Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak), Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS), BPSS Juniors, Setapak High School, Anderson of Ipoh and Tenaga Nasional.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Studies prevent long time MBPJ coach from training team

Former champions Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) will not have the services of their long time coach Roslan Salikon in this year’s Malaysia Hockey League.

Roslan, who has been coaching the team since 1999, has opt out because of studies.

Roslan, guided the PJ team to win the overall title in the Junior League title in 2007, said that he cannot train the team this season because he is doing his Phd degree at University Malaya.

“I really love to coach the team but I had to take a break this year to complete my studies,’’ said Roslan.

Under the guidance of Roslan, MBPJ reach the final three times in 2001, 2005 and 2007, the year they won the overall title.

Selangor coach Paul Raj will be in charge of the team this year in the MHL which begins on Feb 20.

MBPJ assistant team manager Zanal Abidin Ismail said that they definitely would miss Roslan, who has coach the team for nine years.

“However, we have an experienced coach in Paul to handle the team this season and we have set a target of winning the Division Two league title.

“We have competed in the junior league since it’s inception in 1995 but have never won the league title,’’ said Zanal.

MBPJ will feature in Division Two of this year’s MHL. Teams in Division Two and Division Three are for players who are under 19. Each division will have 11 teams.

The other teams in Division Two are double champions BJSS, BJSS Juniors, Kijang Mas Kelantan, MSN Malacca, Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak), Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS), BPSS Juniors, Setapak High School, Anderson of Ipoh and Tenaga Nasional.

The Division Three teams are Selangor MSS, SMK Pengkalan Permatang Kuala Selangor, SMK Seberang Temerloh, Penang MSS, Cliffordian Kuala Kangsar, Matri of Perlis, Sultan Abu Bakar College (SAB), MSS Perlis, Nur Insafi, SMK Datuk Taha and Tunku Besar Juniors.

Zanal added that only midfielder Mohd Faud Azis has been retained from last year’s squad.

“We have a new team with an average age of 16 and have been training for the last two months.

“In preparation for the league the team have played many friendly matches and I believe that they are ready to win the elusive league title,’’ said Zanal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Special :: Positional Practices

This week we feature some fantastic positional practices from the coachingHockey library. Improving individual skills of players is a must at all times. However, during the season it is rare that a team has the time to focus on individual postional skills during a scheduled team session. So practice these exercises with individuals or use time in the off season to work on your teams positional skills.

Training in the Off Season
The purpose of training during the off season is to spend time with players to improve their personal skills and work on things that players don't have enough time for during the season. The weather is not warm enough during the season for long player specific sessions, which often involve other players who are not the focus playing static roles. Summer sessions can be done with the minimum of 1 player and maximum of the whole squad (16).

It is great to train during the summer it allows you to do more skill based session without the pressure of having to keep moving to stay warm. There is no pressure of having to tactically train the team therefore this period is ideal to spend time with the individual players (positional skill training).

Receive with a lift.
Used when a flat stick tackle is coming in close to receiver’s stick.
Ideal skill for centre forwards on the break with one man to beat, but a useful skill in any player arsenal.
Coaching Points:
Use the basic grip. Player must be very aware of his opposing player and the situation around them. Scan as you approach the ball.
Angle stick back so first touch lifts ball about six inches in the air
Receive slightly behind right foot
Move back quickly to outside right foot
Scan – Awareness of the defender is important to execute this skill safely and effectively.

Receive from the left fake inside receive out
Receive the ball from the left, fake inside, play on to the right.
Ideal skill from right back/half to bring the left winger inside leaving the right hand channel clear to attack but another useful skill in any player arsenal.

Coaching Points
Use the basic grip.
Scan - Move to ball, fake to receive by left foot
Push strongly off left foot
Let ball come outside right foot before controlling.
Player should then drive forward to get the other side of the player they have just deceived.
Sweeper feeds (hard slap pass) to right half. Right half drives in field to receive pass, turns hard and allows ball to cross body before control and driving forward into channel created by run.

Click here to see interactive video.

Special :: Reverse Stick Hit

Reverse stick hit
- Grip the stick with both hands at the top of the stick with the flat side of the stick pointing upwards (this can be achieved by putting the stick on the ground , flat side up for the players then to pickup the stick.
- Step to the ball with the right foot
- Both feet and ball on one line
- Hit the ball with the side of the stick important to keep stick low to the ground in approach and follow through.
Try to discourage the use of this skill in the presence of inexperience players in game situations because of the danger to defenders trying to win the ball

Click here to see interactive video

Advanced Team Possession

Last week we looked at keeping possession, and presented quite junior session. We had some good feedback from last weeks session, but some of you have been asking for drills to work with possession in your senior teams, and getting your players moving the ball around faster.

So this week we look at some advanced drills for Team Possession.

Teams that keep possession well, are drilled with some basic key principles: The importance of the players without the ball moving to make themselves available to those with ball. Players with ball, should never stand still, simply drifting slowly left or right can open up passes. In all drills really concentrate on speed and accuracy of passing.

Top Tips

* Communicate, Communicate, communicate
* The biggest mistake that players make is to run with the ball in confined spaces. This invariably means loss of possession.
* The better teams are the teams with the players that run off the ball, not with the ball.

Pass and recive static wall

Split the group in half. The white team each have a ball. The blue team position themselves statically around the area. Players with the ball make a pass to one of the static players but are not allowed to receive the ball from that same player. On receiving a different ball, they then make the next pass - (1 minute, see how many passes you can make.)

Click here to watch video interactive.

Nine in good physical condition, others almost there

Only nine players in the national hockey team passed the fitness test conducted by the National Sports Institute (NSI) last month.

Another nine were a little short of the required mark.

The remaining 12 players in the squad of 30 have a fair bit of work to do in order to catch up with the others.

The players underwent a full testing with the NSI when they started training on Jan 5. They are preparing for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April and the Asia Cup in Dubai in May.

At least they are not as bad as their football counterparts. Last month, only three national footballers passed the fitness test conducted by the NSI prior to their Asia Cup qualifying match against the United Arab Emirates. The outcome: a 5-0 mauling and public outcry!

National interim hockey coach Tai Beng Hai said that the report had given him a good idea of the fitness level of the team and he would now start working on the specific areas with the players concerned.

“There are four levels in the fitness test that we conducted. Nine are in the excellent category while the other nine are in the good category. The rest come under the fair category,” he said.

“We have been emphasising on their fitness since we started training and I am sure that the players have done a fair bit of work since then.

“But we are not stopping there as we want to raise the fitness level of all the players and we want to see the not-so-fit catch up with the fittest. Only then can we perform at our peak against the top teams consistently.”

The coach, however, did not specify the players in the different categories.

He said Mohd Sallehin Abdul Ghani, who suffered a thigh strain last December, had rejoined training while Zulkifli Rejab (knee injury) and Riduan Nasir (leg injury) are still undergoing rehabilitation.

Riduan underwent surgery on his leg and is not likely to be picked for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Zulkifli is still undergoing treatment for the knee injury suffered in December 2007.