There is no doubt that the National Coach was very determined that his team performs well at the Hamburg 4 Nation Tournament. Malaysian hockey needed it, and more so the National Coach, the Chairman of Coaching Committee and the Deputy President. They have been going through a torturous time since Malaysia's failure to qualify for World Cup, Beijing Olympics and a series of other poor performance including Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy. Poor performances on the field, allegations of match fixing and money lending, plus the fiasco related to the bidding for Junior Hockey World Cup have all created a bad image for MHF.
Coming in as runners-up at Hamburg must have been a great relief for these personalities. Mind you, a draw with Olympic Champions Germany and another draw with Asian giants Pakistan must also be a great confidence boost for the players. To top it off, they thrashed Belgium 6-2, an Olympic qualifier. What an achievement!
Seriously, with such results we must be proud of our boys, coaches and administrators. All the cries of dismal performance of the Malaysian team seems to be just an exercise of people venting their frustration.
But: All this excitement came to an abrupt end when I was duly informed that the other teams were using Juniors and uncapped players. I knew that the other teams were on a rebuilding strategy, mixing their older players with the inexperienced younger players. The extent of this is what that disappointed me in being runners-up. Germany were literally on a 50:50 ratio of experienced players to Juniors.Indeed. in most of their games they had utilised a higher proportion of Juniors. Pakistan had 5 uncapped players combined with a far greater percentage of Juniors. Insofar as Belgium, it seemed to be a Junior team.
So were we doing an"apple to apple" comparison? In effect we cannot overpraise our boys, coaches or administrators. A full national side with fair number of experienced players were taking on teams that were rebuilding with majority Junior and inexperienced players. How can we take pride of the 2 draws and the massive win?
This is where the coach and the administrators should have carefully thought and planned what sort of team to sent to Hamburg. If they had sufficient "grey matter", they should have blended the team with Seniors and Juniors as a basis of exposure. This would have helped the Juniors and at the same time started a rebuilding exercise to replace our older players. MHF thoroughly and evidently lacks the foresight; but equally shocking is how NSC also commits the full expenditure without questioning the overall strategy and purpose of the tournament.
It seems when MHF makes any request, NSC just readily "rubber stamps" it. Perhaps NSC is just prepared to spent the monies without understanding what is going on. Indeed it would be worthwhile to see what MHF had put in their paper to NSC to justify the trip for the Hamburg tournament. It would be even more interesting to determine if NSC entered into a dialogue or discussion with MHF to ensure the trip is justifiable. I honestly would be surprised if NSC did that!
Therefore being runners-up at Hamburg is a "hollow" victory. In years to come people would not realise that the other teams were with rebuilding squads. So the statistics would look good until we get involved in tournaments that make a difference i.e qualifiers for World Cup or Olympics. We will then wonder why we did well in tournaments like Hamburg and yet fared badly on the ones that matter. When that situation rolls around, we would only end up regretting the shortsighted planning.
Seriously, insofar as the current people who manage MHF are concerned, please do not expect anything from them. Can things truly stoop any lower than to be given glowing reports on performance in tournaments that are used for "rebuilding"purpose by world class teams. Is the MHF trying to say that Malaysia not worthy enough to to compete on a level basis?
Further, I do hope that there is a better sense of judgment and purpose in NSC before they approve expenditures on MHF's request. NSC has to re look and reorganise their thinking if they really want to lift Malaysian hockey to world standards.
Sad as it is: We may have 'done well' in the tournament, but we paid for the victory with our national pride.