Friday, February 27, 2009

Stories that have been told on the search for a foreign hockey coach - Part 1: "The Korean entanglement"

The former chief national coach and his assistants were asked to vacate their positions in November 2008 and the story told was that a foreign coach was on the way to handle the national team. That coach was suppose to be a Korean, who was the national coach for China in the Beijing Olympic 2008. Indeed discussions with him apparently took place well before the Olympics and senior Malaysian sports officials had met with him at the Olympics to reinforce Malaysia's offer. Vested reports also speculated that he may come as a consultant while the then existing coaching arrangements shall remain.

While the understanding was reached with China's former national coach and prior to the contract execution, a former assistant of this coach made his way to Malaysia seeking coaching employment opportunity here. He is another Korean who had worked with China's former national coach, when he was the national coach for Korea for the Seoul 1988 Olympic. The national coach is a Patiala trained hockey coach while his assistant is more a "fitness" coach who picked up hockey coaching while assisting the training of the Korean national team.

Malaysians in their haste to impress others, readily extend their helping hands without realising the impact and consequences they would create, which itself may damage relationships and understandings. When the assistant coach from Korea wanted assistance, he approached a Malaysian friend, a former hockey official, who in turn provided the bio-data to a former national hockey captain, who dutifully delivered it to the newly elected Deputy President. The Deputy President apparently met the Korean and then referred the whole matter to a senior NSC official who is deeply involved with MHF. With the exception of the person who started the "ball rolling" i.e the former hockey official, the rests are what i refer to as the "Melaka Mafia" in Malaysian hockey. They all originate from Malacca. The coincidental aspect is, the "Melaka Mafia" went on to become members of the Team Management Committee (TMC) of MHF, which undertook the strangely questionable manner of appointing coaches and managers for the national teams.

What started as an innocent assistance exercise snowballed into something drastic that may have an impact on the future of Malaysian hockey. This Korean who was seeking coaching opportunity, broadcast his endeavours in Malaysia to Korea through the internet media. The story that emerged was he was offered the post of the national coach and the whole matter got "twisted" such that the former national coach for China was making it difficult for the other Korean to get the job. This portion of the "twisted news" did not go down well with the former national coach for China and in total disgust with Malaysian hockey, he unilaterally withdrew his understanding with Malaysian hockey administrators.

Not known to many in Malaysia was the estranged relationship between the 2 Koreans and the fact that they were "incommunicado" for a number of years. However this fact was known in Korea and therefore when the "twisted news" reached Korea, there was a different impression created i.e the "old wounds" had stated to bleed in Malaysia. The Koreans have a strict code of conduct especially overseas and they do not like Koreans fighting one another over things. The code requires one to give way to the other so as at least a Korean is successful rather than some others sneaking in. In this episode, it would seem that the former national coach of China was made to look like the "bad boy".

The Malaysian hockey administrators became desperate when they found out that China's former national coach withdrew his interest in becoming Malaysia's national coach. Apparently the desperation resulted in a meeting in Bangkok between the Malaysians and China's former national coach. It would seem he was not convinced by the Malaysians and that sealed Malaysia's fate of obtaining his services.

If the above story is a reflection of what had taken place, both NSC and MHF had acted very unprofessionally and probably had created a scenario that may not go down well among international coaches. Our past rash manner of dealing with foreign coaches like Terry Walsh, Volker Knapp and Paul Lissek does not give a good image among the international coaching fraternity and the episode with the Koreans only go to fortify that view. This aspect may come to haunt Malaysian hockey when we look for a good foreign coach. I believe we may already be paying the price.

Part 2 shall continue the journey of the story relating to the search for other foreign hockey coaches.

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