Surprisingly, the Pantai Hockey Stadium was packed with at least 2000 hockey fans and the roads leading to the stadium were with long lines of parked cars. There was a fairly large crowd of supporters for both EY and Sapura. Obviously, as the earlier match for 3rd & 4th was between TNB and Maybank, the usual TNB crowd would always be there. Still it was good to see a good crowd for the finals.
EY fortified themselves with nearly 20 national players, both Seniors or Juniors and Sapura had with them former internationals including 2 from Korea. Therefore this was a "match" between the Malaysian national team and a team of former internationals. On paper this should have been a "walk through" exercise by EY and the margin of win should have been comfortable. This was not so as the Sapura team had other plans and it seems EY may not have had their day. Though EY started well, overall the game was dictated by Sapura. Indeed against the run of the game EY took their chances and scored twice with a 2-0 lead. This is where EY, particularly with the national team, lacked ideas and leadership in the field to hold on to the lead. On the other hand, Sapura, with former internationals, lacked the stamina but knew their game plan of what to do. If it was not for the EY goalkeeper, the rightful winners should have been Sapura. Indeed the "international commuter" of Sapura scored the 2 goals to level the score. Mind you the goals itself would seem to justify his commuting from Perth. The game went into extra-time and it remained at 2-2. The game was decided by penalty strokes and sadly Sapura's omission of their Korean player was reflected when one of Sapura's other player was unable to convert the stroke. EY won on 5-4 per the strokes.
To many they would conclude that it was a thrilling finals. Prima facie i have to endorse that view. However if we take an analytical position and look at the bigger picture of the nation i.e Malaysia, then the game and the results reflect the deteriorating standards of Malaysian hockey. A full national team struggled to win the national league and finally did so only by penalty strokes!!! If that was not bad enough, despite leading these national players seem to have gone "astray" as to what to do. It would seem the national players do not have a "thinking mode" in their "mindware" particularly as they surrendered a 2-0 lead to the former internationals. More so as Sapura has a reputation that their players do not regularly turn up for training and were carrying injuries.
Indeed at that stage i heard a comment from the crowd that next year EY might as well assemble a World XI for the MHL. To some this may seem a joke but for me this magnified the problem of Malaysian hockey.
The people involved with both the teams are in the MHF hierarchy. They surely must know where the national team stands. Indeed the EY manager is also named as manager of the national team. He is effectively having to manage his EY team at national level. If the clueless performance of EY is anything to go by, the manager and the interim coach of the national team have a major job at their hands.
Today much of what that happens in MHF is taking place in various quarters. The intense lobbying presupposes that nothing much has changed in MHF from the past set-up. Although the TM may be trying hard to move MHF forward, he is still one man in MHF. There is no doubt he has his advisers ranging from former media personalities to others who claim their closeness based on positions they hold, still they are not in MHF to ensure things are properly done. TM has a "tall order" and if the finals is a yardstick for Malaysian hockey, then i think major transformation must take place to put a new thinking and working culture. Failing which, we shall revert to the "dark ages" in Malaysian hockey.