Thursday, November 13, 2008

MHF's National League - "Predictable as ever"

The local dailies with their usual hockey sports writers give a fairly accurate report of the game on the field. Year after year, we read about the same teams, same players, probably plus 1 0r 2 moving and minute changes like National Juniors participating or the Navy Dolphins being omitted. MHF dutiful endeavours to arrange the league in such a way that it accommodates every party including those who should really not even be within a 1000 mile radius. This is MHF, i mean the old set-up.

What is there to get excited with the League? Usually it is completely dominated by 4 teams namely EY, TNB, Sapura and Maybank. Between them, they share the spoils, which, lets face it, is nothing very much, a miserly amount at the end of the day. Economically, it amounts to only a tenth the amount some of the teams spend on a yearly basis to try to win that token prize. Some try to philosophically justify that it as a form of publicity and advertising cost, and therefore go on to stipulate that it is not the prize money that is of real importance.Equally, others take it as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

EY is none other than Ernst Young, one of the big 4 Accounting firms in the world. Their prime mover, a partner of EY, is also the KLHA's President and is fanatically in love with the game. EY has literally 18 to 20 national players, either from the Senior or Junior team. They have sufficient pedigree to carry the League and the Overall title. They have also a highly successful Coach, who has taken Kuala Lumpur to 4 of the 5 National titles available including Age Groups.

While I am prepared to admire these facts about them, i still have to state that EY has been directly responsible for the spiralling increase in salaries of hockey players playing for clubs. EY's purchasing power permits them to attract players from other clubs to them. So if they are able to buy players of national calibre, then their name should be imprinted on the trophy before the League commences. Why even have the League in the first place? Surely it is just a waste of time?

Indeed, many would have greater admiration for EY if they were able to blend national players with young non-national players and allow it to be another breeding ground for the supply of future national players. A process that EY is able to do professionally worldwide, with students under a training contract to become future chartered accountants. Something they are excellently professionally which should be the style and benchmark in the sporting arena.

TNB, the national utility has mammoth purchasing power but they take a professional approach i.e their players must be their staff or from their University. Absolutely an excellent policy which they have adopted since time in memory when "Kilat" was involved in hockey. Strangely, TNB is missing 2 to 3 of their players as MHF had sent them to play in the German League. A policy that is highly questionable, yet TNB is very magnanimous about it. It is probably because TNB sees the bigger picture of the ultimate benefit for the country.

Without doubts TNB is the main sponsor of the League and their President cum CEO is a good supporter of hockey. Indeed he is the Vice President of MHF and he has assistance from a hard working staff who holds the record of being the most capped Malaysian hockey player. This ex-international is the Team Manager of TNB team and concurrently is the Coach of MHF's Project 2013 i.e developing the next generation of players for the Junior World Cup 2013.

Sapura, a name in the telecommunication and oil & gas industry. They have consistently participated in the League and their commitment come very high from the Chairman and Managing Director. They used to have an excellent hockey personality as their Manager but they have parted company. There is no doubt we would hear of him sooner, as he prepares to make his mark in Malaysian hockey.

Sapura, similar to EY, is made up of a number of players who do not originate from their own working environment. They carry a number of former internationals whose movement in the field reflects the total lack of fitness. It is questionable whether they deserve a place in the team at all One notable absentee is former Malaysian Vice Captain, their "towering" defender. Sources indicate that he is nursing some form of injury.

Sapura seem to have a unique set-up with the Coaches. From the onset, the team was handled by a novice coach, a former international who had the best flat short corner hits in the world. With time and the change in leadership in MHF, the former national coach for the 2000 Olympics is making his appearance felt.

Sapura has 2 imports from Korea and have another technical "import" from Perth. Sources indicate that this "import" is a current national player who flies down for the weekends to play the matches. Mind you, he is a Sapura employee working in Perth. Such an arrangement must get into "The Guinness Book of Records", as I do not remember in Malaysian hockey history if such an extensive continuous travel arrangement was ever put in place. I presume he must be the "star" player of the team.

The other team that once possessed great potential, but with time they are inevitably fading. This is none other than Maybank. They are made up of former aging internationals and the need for regular high performance is obviously taking a toil on them. They have adopted a tactical move by playing their home matches at the Seremban Astroturf. Apparently the field is not up to international playing standard and this would prohibit smooth play. What a tactic!!! Needless to say it does not provide a good impression of their coach.

Typical, year after year the standard of umpiring at the League is deteriorating like the standard of the game. The Umpires are killing the game and they somehow are determining the winners. Something has to be done and urgently.

It would seem unless MHF re-engineers the League, it too would lose its glamour like the Razak Cup. It is a matter of time the number of teams participating would also be reduced, and there are symptoms there to see the League finding a natural demise. The new MHF has to do something, and soon, or we might as well just bury the League for good.

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