Monday, August 3, 2015

Looking for a chance


Level Field

Waiting to be tapped

More than 200 Under-12 Indian boys and girls played in the inaugural Datuk R.S. Thanenthiran Negri Sembilan Tamil schools' one-day, nine-a-side hockey tournament at the Seremban 2 stadium last Saturday.
It was by chance that I witnessed the tournament as I had gone to the stadium to watch the St Paul’s Institution's "homecoming" hockey match between past and present Paulians in honour of two of their best coaches, Lawrence Van Huizen and William Fidelis.
The stadium was packed with not only the enthusiastic young players but also their parents who were there to support their children.
Seeing these children immediately brought to mind what Project 2016 (Junior World Cup) team manager Mirnawan Nawawi had said recently when naming a training squad: "I would love to see all the races represent Malaysia like a decade ago but at the moment, not many non-Malays play hockey. Even among the current Under-16, one can count the number of non-Malays on one hand.
"In Project 2020, we need to groom players from the other race groups. Of the 25 players training in Project 2016, (Sabahan) Maxhans (Christi) is the odd one out."
Six new players were added to Project 2016 after the conclusion of the Junior Hockey League that saw 540 players from 30 teams compete in two divisions. But sadly, no Sikh, Chinese or Indian player will be representing Malaysia in the 2016 Junior World Cup that will be held in New Delhi.
Thus, it was heart-warming to see the sincere effort of the Tamil schools in Negri Sembilan to give their boys and girls an opportunity to excel in the sport.
Praises to the Parent-Teacher Association of SJK Tamil Ladang Air Hitam for organising the tournament, Sakti Foundation for funding it and Datuk Thanenthiran (president of Makkal Sakti Malaysia) for his support. Their plan is to go national next year.
A total of 14 boys’ teams and seven girls' teams competed in the tournament but what made the whole affair meaningful was that the teachers, technical officials, umpires and coaches were multiracial.
Sadly, no top Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) official was there to witness the tournament and see how it could be tapped for future players.
I am sure similar tournaments are organised by the Chinese schools. I know for a fact that the Petaling District Football Association organises a national football tournament for Tamil schools every year and easily 60 to 70 schools compete in it.
Among the Paulians at the stadium were several ex-national players, including Stephen van Huizen, Kevin Nunis and Colin sta Maria, and former MHC vice-president and competitions committee chairman M. Gobinathan. They all agreed that there were talented players in the tournament.
“It is sad that no scouts are present. If ex-national players are utilised, they could watch tournaments like this and also comb schools, districts, estates and local leagues for talent and recommend them for screening,” said Kevin.
“Those days we had teachers and lovers of the sport, like Lawrence and William, who spotted, coached and developed players to the top level. This is lacking in schools today, where teachers are not prepared to spend long hours on the field.”
Kevin was coached by both Van Huizen and Fidelis.
So, as we continue to neglect development at the grassroots, the standard of hockey deteriorates.
The net has to be cast far and wide, to the national, school and even estate levels to catch talent that is multiracial. The best players need to be selected and it is about time the administrators and coaches stopped saying that there is a dearth of talent in this country.
The same goes for football, especially with national coach Dollah Salleh calling for the naturalisation of foreign players.  
He claims that local players do not have a professional mind-set. And whose fault is that? Why haven't the coaches instilled or cultivated professionalism in their players?
Do we really need to look beyond our shores to lift up sports in this country?
Since Dollah does not believe in Malaysian players, maybe he should give up his post to a foreigner.
Are we Malaysians not capable of charting our own destiny? Are we going to flood the sports arena with foreigners like every other sector in this country?
Before that happens, hopefully, our sports associations will come up with some comprehensive plans and utilise our own resources, especially the ex-internationals, to spearhead their projects.
Malaysia is rich in talent. It is just a matter of looking for it in the right places, and the sooner the better. We don't want local sports to be ruled by foreigners and Malaysia to lose its identity.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

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