Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MHF elections: "Status quo and no room for former internationals."

5 posts were up for grab last weekend in the MHF election at their BGM. The contest was for Deputy President (DP) and for 4 Vice Presidents (VPs) and interestingly the winners hold the posts for 4 years. There were 4 contenders for DP including the incumbent, a former DP, a incumbent senior VP and a former national hockey player. As for the VPs, there were 8 candidates including 3 incumbents, an Affiliate VP, 3 former hockey internationals and a Secretary of an Affiliate.

Once every 2 years, although now it shall be once in 4, the delegates to the BGM have that very important role when they carry with them the ballot paper that dictates collectively who would be occupying the various posts to lead the MHF Management Committee. Whilst the TM returned unopposed during the nomination, it would seem the contestable posts have enough candidates reflecting a growing interest in MHF. This obviously gives the impression that the TM must have done a good job at the helm of MHF and that there are more than sufficient candidates who want to be part of his new team.

Last Sunday the delegates silently spoke through their ballot. If there is anything we can infer from the results of 4 incumbents reelected and an Affiliate Secretary becoming the 4th elected VP, it is that the delegates were pleased with the TM and his team for the last 2 years. Although the Deputy President may have been a close call, still he was reelected. We can sit and gossip till the "cows come home" but the point is the results of the election reflect a "status quo".

Notwithstanding this, it must be recognised that the TM had taken an ethical position of remaining clear of the election by not naming his team and above all he chose not to exercise his vote. In that sense the results had more significant meaning for it was free of any of TM's influence. The TM must be praised for such a stance as in this way he shall always be the unifying force for Malaysian hockey.

The other inference that could be made from the results is that there was no room for the former internationals. 4 former internationals were in the race, 1 for DP and 3 were for VPs. Of the 4, 3 were former national captains and save for 1, the 3 others were involved with the Affiliates. For whatever reasons the delegates did not give these former national players the sufficient votes to get them past the post. It would seem that even if you serve the country as a former national player or as national captains, there is no guarantee that such credentials can hold in an election. It shows the delegates have their own mind and candidates must be fully aware of this.

Now that the election is over, the various parties if it did exist, must get back together and work for the betterment of Malaysian hockey. The TM has kept his bridges well intact and therefore he is the unifying force, which means we must give him our full support to ensure his vision to make Malaysian hockey as a highly world ranked nation materialises. This has to be the immediate mission and with the TM at the helm nothing is impossible.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TM need the right people who can serve Malaysian hockey properly and are loyal to the President.

TM is the Crown Prince of Pahang and is conducting himself regally in his position as President of MHF. Staying away from the "bitching" that is taking place in the contest for Deputy President (DP) and Vice Presidents (VPs), the TM is probably doing the right thing. Someday in the future all of us would be his "raayat" and therefore wanting to interfere in the process of an election by stating who he thinks should be in the MHF Management team would probably be shortsighted. This is where the TM displays his "greatness" as he gives every candidate the fair opportunity to participate without being biased if they are genuine in their endeavours.

Strangely, this outlook of the TM may create a "dichotomy" in MHF. The TM's greatness may permit the candidates with varying outlooks to solicitor support in whatever manner they deem fit to get voted to the positions. This may not give a "team" spirit in the new MHF Management as people with different outlooks may pull MHF in different directions. This itself in the initial period may give rise to sufficient confusion including distraction and disturbances which may take the focus from MHF. It is not because the TM is not in control of the situation, rather it would be his nature to permit everyone the opportunity to give their views and some may take this as a licence to push their agenda. The time-wasting that may be caught in the "verbal diarrhoea" may in a way be an "opportunity cost" to Malaysian hockey as to the delays in implementing programmes to shift Malaysian hockey to world class.

The proponents of "verbal diarrhoea" generally have the ability to be the centre of attraction so as they can become closer to the TM for reasons best known to them. Of course it is not difficult to guess the reasons and it is mind boggling on the measures they take. The sad aspect of this is that these people do not have an "iota" of knowledge of what to do and they use their external sources to "feed" them with pertinent points to make them look extraordinary. Rather than being creative they display their skills in "punching holes" on other people's work. It is "dulling other people's boots" rather than "shining their own" that is their modus operandi in showing off themselves. The glaring aspect of all this is how they are able to be present at functions where the TM and certain VVIPs are present and yet they do not appear at any other times when they are most needed.

These are the people whose whole actions contradict the famous statement of late President John F Kennedy ie "ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". Similarly these people are there in hockey to derive something from hockey rather than giving something to hockey. Of course there are exceptions and mind you a very few only.

This is where the delegates to the BGM on Sunday must decide carefully to differentiate such people. It would be difficult but there are enough stories, some may be truthful while others maybe a figment of one's imagination. The bottom line is whether the candidate can support the President's vision on Malaysian hockey. He should catalyst the vision rather than catalyst his own self interest in being in hockey. Enough stories have been told and the delegates have that opportunity to judge for themselves to give a "team" that can work with the TM. Although the TM will not ask for one yet the delegates for the sake of Malaysian hockey can give the TM a "workable" team. The important thing is not to be swayed by the dinners, drinks and promises rather be guided by the sense of justice so as the people elected can work with the team loyally to turn Malaysian hockey as a world force.

Enjoy the dinners, the drinks and what else that comes with it, but end of the day the delegates must have to answer to their conscience that they gave Malaysian hockey and the TM the right persons for the right positions to take Malaysian hockey into the next 4 years. If the delegates get it right then we have good years to come in hockey or not they themselves have to be blamed and no one else.

So delegates touch your heart and use your head to make that wise choice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Battle for MHF Vice Presidents - "One of contenders may seem to lack the apprenticeship service in administration of Malaysian hockey".

The current President of MHF has made MHF an attractive proposition to encourage the numbers to gather to battle out for the various posts in the offering. MHF these days is much more solid both in administration and wealth as it has come clear of its sloppiness and debts. The recent constitutional amendments to permit the appointment of Secretary plus Treasurer and with the period extended to 4 years for Office bearers seem to have provided the extra interest to compete for the remainder contestable posts. The focus seems to be on the Deputy President and Vice Presidents (VPs).

As for the VPs there are 6 positions of which 4 are contestable and the other 2 are reserved for Sabah and Sarawak. For the 4 contestable positions there are 8 candidates of which 3 are incumbents and they are:
  1. Datuk Seri Che Khalib, Chairman of the Finance Committee.

  2. Datuk Rahim Ariff, Chairman of the Competition Committee.

  3. M Gopinathan, Chairman of the Special Projects Committee.

The 4th incumbent is going for the "broke" and has offered himself as a candidate for the Deputy President's position.

The other 5 candidates who believe they too can be a VP are:

  1. Manjit Majid Abdullah, Secretary - Johor Hockey Association.

  2. DSP Mohinder Singh, Head of Hockey in Polis DiRaja Malaysia

  3. Johari Abdul Aziz, Vice President - Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association.

  4. Rahim Ahmad, Coaching Chairman - Selangor Hockey Association

  5. Ow Soon Kooi, former national player

Without any doubt, looking at the list of candidates all save for one has done "yeoman" service for Malaysian hockey administration either at National or State or both. Although there is no condition precedent of a prequalification criteria, it yet provides persuasive indicators of the contesting personalities.

Ow Soon Kooi is relatively a "newcomer" to administration of Malaysian hockey although directly or indirectly he is involved in businesses that have connections to the sporting world. Some of this may provide a "convergence of interest", which could be helpful while at times the convergence of interest could become a "conflict of interest". This thin dividing line can become problematic if it is misconstrued and can put Malaysian hockey in disrepute.

The other key question Ow Soon Kooi has to answer is whether he has the time? As a Malaysian "hockey watcher", this question begs an answer because early this year he was offered the post of one of the 2 team managers of the senior national team. Ow Soon Kooi refused that appointment on grounds of time and that answer may come to haunt him as he offers his services for VP, particularly as the post is for 4 years.

There is no doubt Ow Soon Kooi has served the nation well both as a national player and as a former officer with Polis DiRaja Malaysia. As a player, not only did he don the national colours but also became the Captain of the national team. His close relationship with people like the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye and Datuk R Yogeswaran while employing a few national hockey players plus other sports related personalities have kept him abreast with the developments in hockey. He has also indulged in having a hockey team starred by a few former internationals and coached by a known sports journalist.

Does this mean Ow Soon Kooi has done his "apprenticeship" to be among "equals" to be considered for the VP post? This is not something that can be answered by us but rather by the Affiliates who would have their representatives at the BGM. What would be good is for Ow Soon Kooi not to contest but rather be nominated by the President either as Chairman of Coaching Committee or Chairman of Development Committee. These are key positions and the future of Malaysian hockey is dependant on the performance of such Committees. I am sure if he offers himself for such positions MHF would be more than willing to have the services of such a distinguished former national captain. In a lot of ways this may help to suppress any potential "innuendos" that may arise that could bring unnecessary colour to the elections.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Commonwealth Games hockey - "Malaysia's idea of match practice for Asian Games reinforces our current standing in international ranking".

Lack of match practice before the Asian Games, notwithstanding the tours to China, Australia and Europe, had got MHF to reset its position of sending a mix team of juniors and seniors to our best team for the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The idea being the CWG would provide a suitable tournament for good match practices for our team to the Asian Games, which is a key cog in world hockey qualifiers ie a direct entry to the 2012 London Olympics for the Asian Games hockey gold medallist. The CWG does not provide any form of such incentives.

Therefore Malaysia's silver in 1998 and bronze in 2006 CWGs may give the impression that our hockey lads were then only going to glorify themselves in non-consequential events. Not really, because it did contribute to the nation's medal haul, which is very important to the statisticians in NSC, who have to proudly present the figures to justify the huge resources spent in preparing the teams for both the Commonwealth Games. Somewhere this rationale seems to have gone astray for the 2010 CWG.

Today, after our "match practices" in the CWG in New Delhi, can we be proud of the fact the team came 8th out of 10 teams? 1stly on record this is our worst performance in the CWGs and maybe this could be justified because MHF had reset the CWG to "match practice" status. The interesting aspect is that the international ranking is kept quite intact as the Commonwealth hockey nations who are in the top 12 ensured that Malaysia was of no threat to them as they all were above the 8th spot. Does this mean that our boys are lacking the skill and playing ability to to be in the top 10 in the world? A difficult question to answer as the lads were on "practice match" mode and as such they may not have given their best.

Now i wonder whether the team management have a better idea of the performance of the lads and the team that they can make the timely adjustments to achieve their set target of "gold" for Asian Games. This is important as they may want to reset their target for the Asian Games as they had done for the CWG. Is the gold medal target a figment of imagination of MHF or is it something that is achievable?

Following the CWG, where we had loss to India and Pakistan, itself may put us out of reach of achieving the "golden" position in the Asian Games. In the round robin in our Group at the Asian Games we have to contend with South Korea and China who are above us in world ranking. The other team in the Group is Oman. Beating China would take us to the semis but we must recognise that they have well over a billion population behind them on a home ground advantage. Should we get to the semis, then there lies the hope, and it is not insurmontable, to make it to the final. The other Group has India, Pakistan, Japan and Singapore. The probable semi-finalists emerging from that Group would probably be India and Pakistan, both of who we had "practice matches" with in the current CWG and lost 3-2 and 4-1 respectively.

In a nutshell, the 2 coaches must know what to do, now that they are aware of the performance level of their players and the team following the "practice matches" at the CWG. The coaches have about 3 to 4 weeks to fine tune the team and work towards the "incredible" target of gold set by MHF. A tall order but somehow it seems to have been stuck as the KPI for the team. Mind you i do not envy the position Stephen and Beng Hai are currently in. All we can do is to wish the Malaysian team the very best for Asian Games.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Incredible India" - It is dented but still can be saved.

"Incredible India", the advertisement that is supposed to attract millions of tourists to India, must have been severely dented with the catastrophic events that have been taking place in New Delhi, the venue of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) which is to begin on 3rd October. Yes! it is incredible how the Indian Organisers of the CWG left it so late that it nearly jeopardise the whole CWG. Indeed an international news reporter summed it by stating that the whole event is compared to organising an Indian wedding where everything comes together at the last minute. However the CWG is no Indian wedding; rather it is an international sporting event that is two third the size of an Olympics, yet having all the events of the Olympics.

India has spent anywhere from US$6.0 to US$10.0 billion including construction of a new airport, Metro system for Delhi and roads & bridges let alone the sporting infrastructures plus the CWG sports village. Despite the huge spending, the unhygienic environment leading to deplorable conditions at some of the accommodation units at the Games village and the shoddy work that permitted the collapse of a foot bridge connecting to the main stadium plus the crumbling of the ceiling at the weightlifting stadium, has given rise to enough complaints from participating countries that is putting the whole CWG into jittery position. All these without doubts has devastated India's image and some have called into question India's qualitative skills and standards in organising such a mammoth event. Indeed India was given 7 years to get their act together and today questions are even asked why was India considered for 2010.

India is now the 4th economic power house in the world and the events unfolding with regards to organising the CWG is not doing good to India's international image. Some in India may argue this as a media conspiracy to hurt India but what is more important is that the Indian Organisers allowed it to happen. Obviously if the Games itself moves smoothly without any further glitches and brings the best in sports, that in a way may help to mitigate the disastrous aspects which existed prior to the commencement of the CWG. Still we cannot discount the fact that what happened in India will remain a negative stigma everytime one talks about CMG or if there is another major event to come to India.

It is a pity as "Incredible India' has so much to offer. Its multi-ethnicity that provides the multi-dressing with multi-colours, its multi-culture with multi-culinary dishes combined with multi-language and multi-religion brings out the kaleidoscope that is India. The combination of tradition and modernity with English predominantly spoken provides everyone with something to enjoy and slowly people grow fond of India. It is this attachment that brings back the people to India. I am sure the athletes from the 76 countries participating in the CWG would share the emotions of the wonderful memories of India when the curtains come down at the end of the Games.

Mind you, one would have thought the only challenge India would have to face in this CWG is the aspect of security. Troubled by multi-layers of threats from Assam to Kashmir, Maoist to Nazalites, Hindu to Islamic fundamentalists, it literally keeps India's law enforcement both at national and state level extremely busy. Indeed this is one area that had usually troubled visiting sporting teams prior to their visit to India but the successful hosting of the World Cup hockey early this year has shown that India can get on top of the situation. There is no doubt the security services would be on full alert, which itself may be inconvenience to people but such inconvenience is needed as a sacrifice for public safety and peace.

It is not easy for India to organise the CWG when the country has its fair share of natural to man made challenges to face. It took on the challenge 7 years ago with its economy prospering and having a wealth of human resources, it is "dumb founding" how India got entangled in such a scenario before the Games. There would be numerous post-mortems, many finger pointing, scapegoats and above all people who would want to benefit from such disasters. End of the day is whether India would do enough in the future to assure the world that such things would not reoccur. This is something that is important for India and its people.

Good Luck India for the Commonwealth Games.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Hope" - The key operative word for the Malaysian national hockey team.

Before we put a Plan together, we must have a vision as to what we want to achieve. Most times this would be guided by historical facts and the prevailing scenarios including taking account of the time span. Once we are equipped with such details it makes the planning exercise that much easier. The Plan that is drawn up by its architects needs to be scrutinised by independent experts in the field, who can endorse or fine tune the Plan. Once that is done then it is becomes the responsibility of the architects to ensure the Plan is adhered to.

This brings me to the Malaysian national team's preparation for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. After the 2006 debacle, where the national hockey team won the bronze medal for the Commomwealth Games, yet in the tournament that mattered, they achieved the worst record of coming 6th at the Doha Asian Games. The opinions that followed seem to indicate that since Commonwealth and Asian Games are in the same year and side by side, there is a need for a rethink for the preparation of both the Games. The guiding issue here is that in hockey the Commomwealth Games has no bearing whatsoever on any nation's international ranking, whereas as gold medallist of the Asian Games it provides a direct entry to the Olympics.

Armed with this historical fact, it was always envisaged that we would sent a mixed team for this year's Commonwealth Games and the best XI for the Asian Games. At least this was the thinking as there were over 30 trainees for the centralised training. Sadly our preparation plan seems to have been simply "rubber stamped" by NSC and also by MHF. I use the word "rubber stamped" because the Plan had 3 overseas tours, all playing with 2nd rated teams or tournaments including almost all the countries which were ranked below us. The preparation showed its weakness as there were no warm-up matches lined-up before the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Effectively, meaning our boys were going for tournaments that we planned well ahead ie 8 months and somehow there were significant gaps that were left that became so glaring as the time got closer. Now probably you understand why the scribe stated the aspect of "rubber stamping".

In desperate times, desperate measures were required and this is where MHF hastily organised 2 warm-up matches with New Zealand. Even then, it must be recognised that the Kiwis are assembling together as a team for the 1st time after the Champions Trophy, which was a good 2 months ago. Most of the players are flying into KL after their own national league and the rest are coming in from Europe. Therefore the Malaysian team would be playing against the New Zealanders who are trying to gel together as a team. Yes! it is "warm-up" for the Kiwis and i wonder what would it be for the Malaysians? In realistic terms what are we hoping for? Maybe to understand the art of Kiwis training without the long centraliseed periods which is so predominant in Malaysian hockey.

Now, there seems to be a change of thought insofar as the Commomwealth Games. Suddenly, it is made known that the Commonwealth Games is more like a practice tournament as a built-up for the Asian Games. This is probably why they are sending their best team to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. What expensive practice matches the Commonwealth Games is going to be for Malaysian hockey. Maybe the writing is already on the wall that our boys may find it hard to compete with some of the best teams in the world in Delhi. Probably that is why they have started creating the excuse the Commonwealth Games is serving as practice matches. Therefore the thinking that is set for us to follow is that the results in Delhi in theory should not matter.

There is no doubts that the best of Plans would also have their shortcoming. This is usually not during the planning stage but at implementation due to unavoidable circumstances. In our case it would seem at planning itself we have made the necessary judgement errors. Either the architects lack the knowledge of proper planning or they just do what they are capable which may not be the best. What compounds the blunder is the subsequent endorsement by the relevant parties without the proper scrutiny. Now we must leave it to "hope" and probably wait for divine assistance. Even then we must appreciate that this can only happen if we do our bit of the work properly and correctly.

Anyway there is not much choice for our national hockey team other than to live in "hope" whichever way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

MHF constitutional changes will be a move in the right direction but is it enough ?

On 4th September, MHF would have their Extra Ordinary Meeting (EGM) which is being called to make amendments to the MHF constitution. Not having the full details, yet from the grapevine the information emerging seems to relate to the rights of the President to appoint the Secretary and Treasurer of MHF. Effectively it means that both these posts would not be contestable in the future if the amendments are successfully approved.

There were talks before the last Council Meeting which agreed to forward the amendments for the EGM, that some of the Affiliates were not happy with the proposed changes. With his "royal touch" the TM did the "magic" of putting the Affiliates at peace of mind as to why such appointments were deemed necessary. I also believe that the appointments of Chairman of Coaching Committee and also for Development would be amended thereby incorporating them into the Management Committee.

All these amendments make sense if we subscribe to the believe that "the bug stops" with the President ie he is ultimately responsible. So if we vote the President then it is only right he be given the mandate to appoint the key officials too. Some may argue that there is no "check and balance". I think that is a bit "dumb founded" as the MHF constitution provides for at least 5 Affiliates together to summon a EGM on resolutions they believe need to be debated and voted upon. This could also include a motion of "no confidence", if they believe that the responsible people are not doing their job properly.

This brings me to the rumour that some Affiliates in conjunction with this EGM may propose that the period for Office Bearers to hold office should be extended to 4 years from the current 2 years. There is wisdom in such a proposal as it coincides with the 4 year cycle of the World Cup, Olympic Games and Asian Games, which are the premier tournaments. This provides an uninterrupted objective basis to judge the President and his team on how they performed in the administration of hockey for the specified period. Obviously, the "downside" is we provide a continuous opportunity for the President and his team to allow the slide to continue if they are unable to arrest the decline. Fortunately,the constitution provides a pathway for an EGM to make changes in the administration if such a situation does arise. Fundamentally, there is room to redress such scenarios but we hope it does not come to such a situation.

All in all, the proposed amendments seem to set MHF in the right direction. However, as a "MHF Watcher", i believe the proposed changes are not comprehensive enough to overhaul the system, which is antiquated. The current approach seems to be a "piecemeal" and therefore the process to see changes may be time related. One area that is not addressed is the question of "full' affiliation rights. This seems confined to rules that came from "time in memory" and therefore has been confined to States and to the Armed Forces and Police. Looking at modern hockey it seems to omit the clubs and universities where most of the national players are emerging. This means that we are running hockey on an old system while hockey itself has modernised and is supposed to be manned by people who encompass technologies and corporate principles. These are the very people that are missing in the MHF administration because the MHF constitution does not "open" its doors for clubs and universities that could make the difference.

The other area that needs attention is the right of MHF to be informed of the activities of its Affiliates and the consequences if the Affiliates fail to perform. Currently there is an inequitable position where active and inactive Affiliates have the same powers, thereby not discriminating between them. This itself is totally unfair as inactive Affiliates which, i believe, are of significant number in MHF, can decide MHF's future. How ironical? There has to be a system of "benefit and burden" rule imposed to ensure that only active Affiliates are allowed to participate in the decision making process of MHF.

What is important is MHF must have a "living" constitution that provides dynamism to the affairs of MHF. This can only happen if a broad spectrum of people can come and participate in MHF and the only way this can happen is MHF has an "open door" policy to its membership for active hockey clubs and universities. Someday it has to come, and the sooner the better.

Maybe the TM may have his wisdom as to why he is approaching issues of constitutional changes in a conservative manner rather than a radical fashion. As a President he has the prerogative and he probably knows what should be done at the appropriate time. Lets go with him on this and time would probably bring the results that we are looking for.