Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hockey can still walk tall


Level Field

Hockey may not have qualified for the Olympics since 2000 but at least it is better off than the more popular game in the country – football.
While Malaysian footballers hardly make their mark on their own M-League, Malaysian hockey players are a wanted lot in the international market.
News that seven players from the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division are all set to play in the Italian and German leagues is surely reason to acknowledge the players.
The seven are Faiz Helmi, Mohd Marhan Jalil and S. Selvarajui of Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and Rashid Bahrom and Kevin Lim of Kuala Lumur Hockey Club.  Selvaraju and Kevin are former internationals while the rest are national players.
Selvaraju will play in the Italian League while the rest will feature for teams in the German League.
All of them, who have attained their release from the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC), will be playing in Europe after the MHL ends this weekend.
Three others, goalkeeper S. Kumar, Mohd Razie Rahim, Faizal Saari, and Kevin have been given the go-ahead by MHC to vie for places in the Hero Indian League (IHL) to be held in January.
Six franchise teams were vying for the services of the four yesterday, together with 142 other foreign players.
That these players have secured places with foreign teams through their own initiative is indeed commendable.
Besides earning money from playing overseas, these players certainly have ambition and are willing to uproot themselves from the comfort of their home country to venture out and meet the challenges and prove themselves.
Without doubt, these players will return mature and richer with experience.
Several football players have gone overseas for stints on contract only to end their stints prematurely and returning home, citing weather, food, non-conducive local environment and inability to adapt to a tough training regimen.
Malaysian hockey players going for stints overseas has been the norm for some time now. One of the reasons for Malaysia’s qualification for the 1998 World Cup after last qualifying for the Bombay World Cup in 1982 was the stint in Germany, then organised by Satwant Singh Dhaliwal, who was then the International Preparations officer with the National Sports Council (NSC). He worked out the stint with the assistance of German Paul Lissek, who was the hockey consultant then.
Among the players who benefited from the lead taken by NSC in 1997, prior to the World Cup qualifiers, were R. Shanker, Chairil Anwar Abdul Aziz, Nor Azlan Bakar, S. Kuhan and Kerpal Singh. They went on a three-month stint. Kuhan and Kerpal played for Limburg HC, Shanker represented Safo HC while Chairl and Nor Azlan donned the colours of Frankfurt 1880.
The stint paid dividends as the players returned more mature and helped Malaysia qualify for the 1998 Utrecht World Cup, after a hiatus of 16 years.

Prior to that, some players - including S. Selvarajoo, the late Chua Boon Huat, Mohd Sallehin Ghani, Kuhan, Faisal Saari and S. Bubalan - were plying their trade in foreign leagues, but through their own efforts.

Maybe, MHC should take the lead in placing more players overseas, which will definitely be beneficial to the development of Malaysian hockey players.

All is certainly not lost for Malaysian hockey and it certainly looks like it is only a matter of time before it bounces back to be placed among the top in the world.

With newly appointed technical director Terry Walsh, who is no stranger to Malaysian hockey, together with Stephen Van Huizen, an experienced, dedicated and passionate coach, Malaysian hockey certainly looks set to see better times in the near future.

While many hockey players have found places in higher education institutions and have earned scholarships, maybe MHC can encourage more of them to utilise Yayasan Hoki Malaysia (Malaysian Hockey Foundation).
To have more hockey players who are intellectually bright, will certainly help in the game which has advance greatly and need thinking players.

Set up in 1992, the foundation helps national players further their studies and provides them with financial assistance when they retire. 

The foundation, which started with funds of RM2.9 million from sponsors and contributors, is still going strong.
The late Sultan Azlan Shah and Tan Sri P. Alagendra were instrumental in setting up the foundation to give players the opportunity to have a better future when they hang up their hockey sticks, apart from the retirement benefit scheme.
Some of the players became professionals, such as doctors and engineers, while several earned sports science degrees, for example Dr Brian Jayhan Siva, Dr Calvin Fernandez, Maninderjit Singh, Mirnawan Nawawi, Atul Kumar, Nicholas Ivan Pereira, Conrad Fernandez, Nor Saiful Zaini, Nor Azlan Bakar, Mohamed Nizam Nordin, K. Kevan Raj, Aphtar Singh, Logan Raj, M. Jayamaran, I. Vikneswaran, Zam Zam Ali, Redzuan Ponirin, Nishel Kumar and Roslan Jamaluddin, to name but a few.
Maybe, some of the other sports associations should emulate the MHC.

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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