Sunday, December 6, 2009

MHL :: MHF bank on six-team league to re-ignite waning interest

Tenaga National and Sapura will provide the opening fireworks for the Premier Division of the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) at the Tun Razak Stadium here today.

The six-team league offers new ingredients that may well re-ignite interest in an ailing competition.

Besides the two former champions, the other teams in the fray are Maybank, Nur Insafi and two newcomers Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) and University Kuala Lumpur (UniKL).

And for the first time, matches will be played on a carnival basis and the other venues of competition are in Johor, Penang and Malacca.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will bear the transportation cost and provide lodgings for travelling sides.

For the first time too, there will be live television coverage of preliminary round matches with the clash between Tenaga and Sapura coming on at 8.30pm on Astro Channel 816.

The MHF secretary, Hashim Mohamed Yusof, said that they hope the new features would lead to bigger things for the MHL.

“We want to generate greater interest in the MHL in other states. We hope that it will lead more teams to compete in the Premier Division,” he said.

“For now, we have six teams to keep the quality high. But if more teams can find the money to get good players, we will increase the numbers in the top flight. We are experimenting and hopefully we will see a keener competition this year.”

Although KLHC are the new kids on the block, they can be counted as one of the favourites to win the title. The club have all the players from the double-winning Ernst and Young side last year. Ernst and Young have decided to stop taking part in the MHL.

Penang outfit Nur Insafai are the other team coming in for attention. They have hired 16 foreign players in their rank, including star players in Pakistan’s Mohamed Nadeem and India’s V. S. Vinaya.

And whether they are really the team to beat this season will be indicated in their opening match against Maybank tomorrow.

Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini said yesterday that the MHL was heading in the right direction with the changes but more must be done to ensure it remained competitive.

“I think it is a more open affair in the race for the title. This will allow for some good matches and create greater interest among the fans,” he said.

“The MHL had been dominated by a few teams for a long time. Let us hope that it will a change this year.”

The main reason for a few teams hogging the limelight previous was their financial resources to buy the best players.

But this year’s league will see the inclusion of more juniors in teams to even out the field. And with Nur Insafi adding the foreign glamour, this season’s MHL may well turn out to be the best in the series.

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