Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MCA - Please respond.

Below is an unedited comment i received for another article, which i believe deserves a respond from MCA. Lets see if the new office bearers in MCA have the courtesy to act appropriately.

Text of comment is as follows:

"Can you pls write on ur blog and ask MCA why there is no cricket at the moment. 3 months has gone and there is no sign of any league.

When is the MCA league going to start?

When is the Interclub going to start?

At the same time could pls ask the states where are their own leagues?

There is 2 important tournaments ahead of us....DIV 6 ICC & ACC Twenty20 and we have not started playing any sort of cricket......not even sixers.

The new committee has been formed about1 month ago, and we have not heard a single word or action from this new exco.

Singapore has finished their Twenty20 tournament, now they are in the mids of their 50 overs League with white ball and colored clothing to simulate International games and scenario.
But we are still with white attire and red balls. There is a vast difference playing with white balls rather then red balls - environment, side screen, swing of the ball, ball travels faster etc

Countries like Afghan / UAE / Nepal / Oman are consistently playing active cricket.
What are our cricketers doing? Sitting at home and playing PS2 cricket on computer........are we going to win tournaments? Are we going to be an ODI nation? Are we going to be a test nation?

We can't even organize a tournament with a handful teams / cricketers available.......shame on MCA la.....

We are way behind other teams at the moment.....ppl in Malaysia do not release that just passion and skills will not make u become a test or ODI nation. There is so much for us to learn!

Do we know how to bowl reverse swing, do we know how to milk runs, do we have variety of spinners, do we have hard hitting batsmen, do we have the knowledge of the game.......
I am afraid we don't.....ask 75% of cricketers in Malaysia how does the new power play rule are played....I can bet u they would not know!! Ask them to explain to you how does a 2 Innings match is played.......you would be surprised that many will not be able to answer you.

This game needs a lot of thinking, it is not just bat, bowl and hit. It’s more then that.
What is MCA & the states doing to combat this?

I am afraid in 10 years to come China will over take us or Cricket will not exists in Malaysia…………

Worried Cricketer "

Interesting questions!

Monday, March 30, 2009

FTCA leadership up for grabs!

Wilfred Abraham, has quietly and effectively served as President of Federal Territory Cricket Association (FTCA). He and his past and present Committees have achieved a lot. An interesting aspect of Wilfred's leadership is that he does not go around bragging about all the things they have done and achieved in cricket. Therefore if you not in the cricketing circles or a regular visitor to the drinking oasis of the Royal Selangor Club, then one may not be privy to such information.

Apparently, this low profile President of FTCA wanted to call it quits and make way for others to take over the leadership. He is of the opinion that he cannot contribute more and therefore his long standing "Test" administration days with FTCA must come to an end. A very wise move before people get tired of the leadership.

There are reasons to believe that forces are at work endeavouring to invite a renowned cricket personality to take the leadership of FTCA.The principal driving point is that this person still has a lot of love for the game despite the fact that he was unable to retain his position in an election at the national body.One of his strengths is his reach to financial resources, which could come handy for the FTCA activities. Further, when he was "parachuted" into MCA many years ago, he saved the organisation from financial bankruptcy by personally extending his personal funds. When he moved up the ladder as the Deputy President, he was the backbone in organising the 3 Nations ODI and the Junior Cricket World Cup. More importantly, in a personal capacity he has educated players and assisted them in their employment. A credential that is difficult to challenge or compete and i am sure many organisations would wait to grab him.

Somehow, this rumour of him being invited has not gone down well with certain quarters in FTCA. Noises are being heard while gossips emerging from a "watering hole" at Bangsar seem to reflect a degree of dissatisfaction of the manner it is being handled. Some "old time" FTCA officials have got together to provide an opposition, as a sign of protest. Therefore the post for President, Vice President and Committee Members is being challenged in the coming General Meeting.

Providence is not obviously on the side of the incumbent President, to allow him to retire honourably and in a harmonious fashion. There are stories that his name has been nominated to defend his current position. I believe if the President intends to stay on, he would probably be re-elected uncontested. There is no necessity to take him on, as he has been serving FTCA properly.

Therefore, the race for the President may fizzle out and in way reduce the noise level. This would mean the contest for Vice President may heat up. An interesting contest if it does takes place. Why not? It is the proof that democracy exists in FTCA despite the believe in some that only those with track records should be "planted" in positions. There is some truth to that argument, but i am sure the incumbent President would want a free and fair process. Whatever the results that is the price for democracy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is the Asian Hockey Federation lagging behind?

My 3 part article on FIH was a critical analysis of what is happening in world hockey. Although it may sound critical and may question some of the actions of FIH, one thing must be clear is FIH willingness to adopt good governance and transparency in their actions. Most of the information and details were extracted from FIH archive and this I have to salute the past and present administrators of FIH. There is this "open book" policy in them and that in a way may permit them to become vulnerable for their decision making. On the other side, if they can justify the basis of their actions then the issue of accountability becomes the norm for them and this is probably why FIH remain such a stable and effective structure.

A number of people who read the FIH articles seem to feel that the issue of equitable representation of all the regions must be looked at carefully by FIH. There are others who believe that the respective continental parent bodies like the Asian Hockey Federation {ASHF) or the African Hockey Federation (AFHF) must play their effective roles. There is a view these continental Federations are too much top heavy and operate in the "old school" of thinking where information are not freely available.. Do i believe it? Unable to comment until i check it out.

Today the Internet is such a powerful tool that within seconds you can empower ourselves with sufficient information. Using a search engine i was able to view that AFHF has a tidy and dedicated informative website. Please visit their website: http://www.afrhockey.org/ .Indeed what is fantastic is that they have all the relevant information from contact address, telephone numbers and even the Office Manager's details. They have the relevant sub-headings from About us, Events & Results, Calendar, Development, Coaching, Umpires, Anti Doping, Directory, Strategic Plan, Rules of Hockey, Photo Gallery and News. Some of the sub-headings namely Coaching, Development and Umpires are not developed but the rest seem pretty comprehensive.

AFHF seem to be regularly updating their website. In fact one notable element is they provide summaries of events in which they or their representatives participate A good example is that they had a summarise report of FIH Executive meeting of February 2009. This is a prime example of accountability and above all bring knowledge to the affiliates and interested parties.

AFHF must be praised for what they are doing despite having only 17 affiliates. To be fair most of their affiliates seem to be outside the blogshere and therefore accessing the affiliates for details is a little difficult. What is good, is that FIH is very supportive of them with the African Forum. In fact AFHF tend to organise some of their meetings in relation to the FIH Congress meeting. It is probably "to kill 2 birds with 1 stone" and why not.

Having come away with fairly satisfactory impression of AFHF, i had optimism that Asia would be doing something similar or even better. Initially, the internet search engine gave me a shocker i.e ASHF was mentioned over 460,000 times and that was worrying in nature. As i scroll through the results, i realise that ASHF did not have its own dedicated website. Honestly, the Africans seem far ahead than the Asians in the administration of hockey. Sketchy details of ASHF is listed in the Wikipedia, an internet encyclopedia. Unfortunately, it does not provide any contact reference i.e address or telephone or fax or e-mail address.

What Wikipedia provides is that the ASHF is located in Kuala Lumpur and has 30 national affiliates. The President is named as Alexander Alegendra. It carries the flags of the 30 affiliates and some of the flags are linked to provide again an incomplete detail of the respective affiliate. Malaysia's detail was not complete while that of Singapore and China did not exist. However the encyclopedia did have certain details on the tournaments namely the Asia Cup, Junior Asia Cup and Asian Champions Club.

It would seem that ASHF is lagging behind in information technology and the absences of a website is a fairly good reflection of it. As to why such a shortcoming exists in ASHF is something strange especially as there are enough experts and hosting sites in Asia including from a cost effective aspect. The fact ASHF is unable to keep the Asian public and the world hockey enthusiasts informed of what is going on in this region, may reflect that they are out of touch with modern tools. It is sad that for decades Asia was in the forefront of hockey and now we are completely left behind including in the dissemination of hockey information. One wonders how do you expect young Asian children to be part of a hockey fraternity when ASHF does not even cater for modern technological communication system, which kids are so used too. A price Asia is paying for the declining popularity and standards in hockey plus its equitable rights in FIH.

Monday, March 23, 2009

FIH - Part 3: "Is there equitable representation of the regions in the various committees?'

FIH is the world parent body for field hockey and to-date they have 127 national associations as their affiliates. Lately, in November 2008 they had their Congress at Los Angeles and elected members of their Executive Board. On the helm of FIH as President is a Spaniard, the former President of the European Hockey Federation and one of his many credentials include being a player at the 1968 Olympic. The President of Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), was re-elected as the Vice President. 3 other personalities from Wales, Australia and Canada were re-elected on to the Board while a German and a Dutch was also elected to the Board..

With the co-opted members, the Executive Board is made up of 24. They are from:

  • Europe - 12.
  • Africa - 2.

  • Asia - 3.

  • Oceania - 4 essentially Australia & New Zealand.
  • N.America - 2 principally from US & Canada.

  • S.America - 1.

12 Committees that had been set up and the Chairpersons of these committees are from :

  • Europe - 7.
  • N.America - 2.

  • Oceania - 3.

The 8 elected representatives of the Executive Board were elected at the Congress in Los Angeles where there were 89 affiliates voting, which itself reflects the democratic process and wishes of its membership.

Where questions may be posed is in the matter of the appointment of the Chairpersons of the 12 Committees. It could argued that the appointments were based on meritocracy and they could be perfectly right. The question is whether continents like Asia, Africa and South America do not have capable people. FIH is the world hockey body not a place to be dominated by people from Europe, Oceania and North America only.

The questions which begs for answer are: Why do these 3 regions have a monopoly of FIH? Is it because they are from developed regions and have the resources? Maybe they speak a common language in hockey? It could be that they have common ancestors? Whichever the answer, is it the right thing to do?

Some believe that this maybe a maneuvering undertaken so that the European or the Oceanic nations can continuously sustain their dominance in world hockey. This argument is supported by the fact that the Committee members from Europe, Oceania and North America seem to outnumber the others in the 11 Committees except maybe at the Appointment Committee.Here too, the FIH representatives seem more in number. Surprising is the Bid Committee where there are 1 from Europe, 2 from Australia and 3 from FIH, none from other regions. Such is the extend of their domination that it calls into question whether the other region is being fairly represented..

Of course nothing gets passed without the Executive Board's endorsement. Looking at the numbers there, the numbers from Europe, Oceania and North America is 18, while that of Asia, Africa and South America is 6. On the numbers game itself the domination of the Executive Board is self evident, as it is at the Committee levels.

There could be an argument that one of the elected Board member is from Asia i.e Singapore, FIH Vice President. This is a undeniable fact but a single elected voice cannot surmount the combined voices of others. Maybe this is a "dotted" representation to give a perception that Asia is right up in the right position. It must be said that the Asian Hockey Federation's (AHF) President is also a member of the Board by virtue of his position in Asia.

At the same time it must be recognised that majority of the countries in Asia, Africa and South America seem not to have an interest in what is happening in FIH. Their act of omission has provided a vacuum for the developed nations to take control of positions and impose what they feel is good for hockey. Their standard of measurement and yardsticks are of a different basis i.e more what they are used too. Inevitably, it does not come down well with the developing or poorer countries, for it has an impact on them either administratively, style of play, attire of play or costs. This effectively means these countries would need time to adopt to changes and once they get to master it, the rules and regulations seem to change again. Some wonder whether these changes are down to improve the game or more to ensure the dominance of hockey by certain regions.

The game of hockey has come a long way and it is now paying a price. Once a popular game in Asia, hockey is relegated compared to other games. It was a game that was played everywhere and anywhere but today it needs specialise pitches. It was an inexpensive game but today the attire is costly. Therefore unlike football or cricket, it cannot achieve its popularity it used to have. This is the price Asia pays and the young generation have taken an indifferent attitude to the game. Young stars are no more in abundance in Asia and the future does not look rosy. Is it good for world hockey?

Domination has its price and if the populous regions are left behind, the game suffers because the numbers are not there. This has an impact on sponsorship and ultimately the survival of the game. Finally it maybe confined to 2 or 3 regions of the world. Let it not come to that state in years to come.

Friday, March 20, 2009

FIH - Part 2: "The playground for the selected few".

Hockey dominance has slid at a speedy pace from the Asians to the Europeans and the Oceanic nation.This correspond with the switch from grass hockey to turf hockey. It commenced in the 1970s as turf became an official pitch for hockey. Although the decline was not initially seen but with time the European and Oceania nations domination became crystal clear. Intermittently. the traditional powers of grass hockey namely India and Pakistan made their presences felt, while South Korea became the the new Asian force but overall the move to turf hockey did not have a significant positive impact with the Asians

The introduction of turf hockey suited the Europeans well as they were more used to it plus the pitch was suited to all weather conditions. Further the classic style of hold and play with skillful dribble in grass hockey was not a phenomenon in turf hockey, although years later it did evolve into such play. The initial aspect of turf hockey was much of "hit and run" play and therefore the issue of basics and fitness were key aspect.Teams were concentrating at penalty corners and developing various strategies for high conversion rates. Games were won or lost on penalty corners. Without doubt the conversion to turf hockey was very much a European and Oceania initiative.

Somehow, the Asian, African, South American and Pan Americans did not realise what they were getting into.In the short term it would not create a significant difference but there was a price they would have to pay on the longer term. These countries did not realise the cost element related to switching from grass to turf. The cost is not only related to the high cost of infrastructure i.e field and facilities but also maintenance cost. As for the players the cost of equipping themselves had also drastically increased. What we have is that the Europeans had started imposing their standards into the game, where the costs just continue escalating and it has now made hockey an expensive game.

Therefore countries in the category of developing or poor would find it hard to invest in expensive structures or equipments to develop players of international class. This therefore affected the "supply chain" of future players. Formerly with grass hockey, one could play anywhere and the issue of costs was not a burden as the standards set were far lower. Now in these countries the issue of accessibility and affordability has hindered the growth of hockey. Indeed in the Indian sub-continent, the switched to turf hockey has made youngsters to migrate and play cricket rather than hockey. Effectively, hockey has becomes a less popular game in this region .

In a world where sponsorship plays a vital role for games, declining interest in hockey would have long term repercussions. The Indian sub continent, China, and Africa probably represents two to three fifth of the world population. Years ago such markets did not attract the attention of sponsors. Slowly as its middle class population grew, it has become a contest among the sponsors to get into these markets. Yet, for the past decades we have changed hockey to such a state that a major proportion of the world population seem to show less enthusiasm to the game. Today if we take a look how cricket is flourishing in these areas (barring China), one would then realise that the popularity of hockey is paying the price for trying to modify its game. The game may have progress but the support in these traditional countries seem to be declining. Is it good for the game?

We talk of a level playing field but does it really apply in hockey.Today when we look at the domination of hockey, it seem to be the domain of developed countries. They have the resources to do it, while the developing and poor countries have other greater priorities like education, building a health system and so forth. Therefore, hockey which has changed with the rules, does not permit the game to be played on a "level playing field". So long as affordability and accessibility are issues then it means the game of hockey is essentially dominated by a few who develop rules to sustain dominance at their fashioned playgrounds.

Part 3 shall continue on the theme of domination of hockey by select groups.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

FIH - Part 1: "The pawns of international hockey polictics".

Indeed when the new President of FIH was voted in, there was a sigh of relief to some of the Asian countries. At least in Malaysia, prior to the FIH election, there was a feeling that the former President was not very supportive, particularly after her experience with the organisation of the 2002 World Cup. She must have been disappointed with the opening ceremony witnessed hardly by 500 people in a hockey stadium that could fill nearly 25,000 and also the lack of proper protocol accorded to her for the official dinner. This probably sealed a negative feeling towards Malaysia. From the onset I believe that the then President of MHF, DYMM Sultan of Perak was unaware of the background to these matters but he probably may have felt the change of relationship of the then President of FIH with Malaysia.

Although Malaysia got to become the co-hosts with Singapore for the Junior World Cup 2009 during the tenure of the former President of FIH, the reality of that bid is intertwained with enough interesting stories that would require a book to fully explain the matter. In summary, it reflects the success of a carefully laid out plan which was put together, so as Malaysia, Singapore and FIH could all be seen to be in a "win win" situation. In a tripartite relationship can all benefit equally?

For FIH, it is a show of support for Asia i.e giving them an opportunity to organise and permitting 2 Asian teams to automatically qualify. Of course, it could also be "pay back" for the Champions Trophy, which Malaysia stepped in to bail out the event. As for Singapore, it is a sensational achievement, for a world event shall be taking place at its ground. Something that has not happened in Singapore other than lately the F1 race. Added to this, the Singapore team can now play at the world stage, which they would not have dreamt in the past. In the case of Malaysia, obviously automatic qualification was the price and for some particularly in Johore, a RM20m new international class hockey stadium. Further the pride of organising the Champions Trophy including incurring a debt of RM1.3m, which is a probable enticement to organise the JWC 2009. Now it is for you to guess who are the winners and losers?

Sadly, the former President of FIH must have felt by doing this favour to Malaysia and Singapore, she would probably be getting the Asian support for the election The President of Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), herself a Vice President under the previous and current regime, is a known friend of the former President. Their friendship plus the bailing out of Champions Trophy would have helped JWC 2009 to come to this region. In all fairness the SHF President must be credited for pulling it off.

Apparently, there were "chit chats" that pulling off the JWC 2009 in Malaysia and Singapore was to set the basis to start the onslaught for positions in Asian Hockey Federation (AHF). Alliances were being created including in Malaysia that the existing office bearers in AHF need to be replaced. Obviously, this grand plan became a futile exercise even before it could commence because of the imminent changes in MHF. While changes took place in MHF, FIH too became a battleground for its election. The results there too may change the course of many things but for the moment it is status quo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

National Juniors - " Not fitness again".

The Sports Minister and the President of MHF were of the view that fitness is a problem with the national juniors after watching them play the 3/4th placing match at the 4 Nation tournament at Johor Baru. Fitness an issue? After all the centralised training and with the input from Institute Sports Negara (ISN). What else can be done to redeem this perennial situation?

Post mortem after post mortem, years after years, we are bugged by this fitness issue. We have the expert in the form of coaches, consultants, trainers from NSC and ISN, yet we seem to succumb to the failure of fitness. WHY?

Maybe because we change our coaches and team management so often that the past problems are forgotten. If it is not that then the people in NSC and ISN maybe wrongly grading the players i.e they may not be game fit but maybe generally fit. If so, our experts in both NSC and ISN have to review their tests and evaluation techniques to ensure that our players are game fit.

Indeed I have been told a story and how upset the junior coach was when the MHF secretariat messed it up. Apparently as early as October/November 2008, the Juniors planned to undergo military training in Lumut in February 2009. The reason being that the national junior coach comes from a school of thought, who believes in this traditional training to make the boys fit and tougher. In fact in certain quarters, this has become a joke as the coach does not fully support the idea of weight and gym training with the experts. The truth of this I have not verified.

The MHF secretariat in its usual style overlooked in making the arrangement and left the Juniors stranded. A planned activity was derailed and this left the coach fuming and disgusted. This is not the only thing the coach had to suffer. He also had to bail out his assistant coach who has not been paid for nearly 8 to 9 months by MHF. It would seem neither the secretariat nor the Team Management Committee (TMC) took active interest to resolve the assistant coach predicament. The NSC was well aware of it and despite promises by them, it all remain unfulfilled.

The worst enemies to the Juniors were MHF themselves. If they cannot organise the planned activity of the Juniors and even the salary of its assistant coach, how do you expect the best from these people. The way the Juniors have been treated is as though they are a "step child" of MHF. The full support is lacking from MHF including the supervision of the training and tactical methodology. If the relevant committees had got into the act when they were appointed and did their respective work, the issue of fitness could have been known much earlier. The problem is none of the Committees are complimenting one another to work for the better performance of Malaysian hockey.

MHF has become a dysfunctional entity and everyone is pulling it in different directions. The TM as President seems to be giving the officials the freedom to do their work and I believe they are abusing it, either by not doing it or undertaking things at their own whims and fancies. There seem to be many agendas among some of these official and unfortunately all of it is working against the progress of hockey. The TM came into MHF as an individual and he, on his own, is probably facing the accumulation of problems created by the same people over the past few years and are continuing with it even now. With time the TM would probably recognise it but would it be too late for Malaysian hockey by then. Just as fitness is to the Juniors.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Does the National Junior Coach deserve praiseworthiness?

In my article on 14th March titled: National Juniors - Is it another reflection of the "sinking" standard of Malaysian hockey?, i was highly critical of the national junior coach. Forecasting to be the final of the 4 nation tournament at Johor Baru, the Juniors were struggling to beat a minnow team like Singapore. However yesterday for the 3/4th placing the Juniors thrashed the Singaporeans 6-0.

So am I going to unwind my earlier criticism? Before I get to that answer, I firstly must congratulate the team, coach and the team management for bouncing back and getting the right results. This I owe to them and I must do it.

It is good the Juniors bounce back but we must not get too excited. It is only Singapore and on the first place we should have had that score when we initially played them. Still it is tremendous that they came back with full of venom to win the game with a high score. Some may believe that we are bullying a weak team. Whatever it is, there was creditability in the Juniors performance.

The national coach must appreciate that by holding such a position, he is in the limelight and therefore everything he does is under scrutiny by the public. If he decides to open his mouth and make comments that is not reasonable, he deserves to be criticise. This is what that took place before the tournament. He may argue that it was confidence building but even then it has to be on a reasonable basis , not based on "bullshitting". The coach must not underestimate the hockey fans. The fans get disgusted when they are promised the "heaven" and in reality they are getting "hell" by the team's performance.

I therefore stand by my earlier comment and i do hope that the junior coach is careful and thoughtful on his pre-tournament comments. Anyway I wish him the very best in his finsl leg of preparation for the Junior World Cup in June.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Work ethics or talent - A question that needs careful pondering.

Today I read in the main stream media that the National Under 16 coach would be shortlisting players from the National Under 16 tournament based on work ethics as oppose to talent. He is of the opinion that players who work hard can acquire the skills while talented players maybe lazy and may not work hard. Indeed if any, the Under 16 coach may have started a debate similar to "the chicken and egg saga " i.e which came first. He is probably going to encourage people to go fruitlessly round and round without a clear cut solution.

My advice to the Under 16 coach is to be careful with his statements as they maybe misconstrued. If he believes a player with good work ethics can acquire skills than why not a talented lazy player be taught good work ethics. The point is the thinking process must be a 2 way approach, not a one way street. Unless of course the Under 16 coach is creating an environment for players by stating that even if you are not skillful, as long as you can work and play hard, you have an opportunity to be called up to the national squad. This i believe is a worthy statement, provided the aspect of talented players is not undermined.

I think the Under 16 coach must not create a warfare between talent and work ethics. In modern hockey both have their respective importance. What must be understood is that both bio- medicine and sports science provide a scientific basis for the optimum usage of players. Therefore, it is the intuition of the coach, when and how to use the player becomes the crux of the decision making. So modern hockey is a combination of various facets and how well they integrate becomes the key to a team's performance. Essentially, this is the role the coach has to undertake.

I wish the Under 16 coach happy talent spotting , as that is the universal terminology used in identifying players. It is not "work ethics" spotting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

National Juniors - Is it another reflection of the "sinking" standard in Malaysian hockey?

Days before the 4 nation Juniors tournament could commence, the national coach for the Juniors was looking at entering the finals. A strange statement to make, thereby giving the impression of a degree of "cockiness". Is it confidence building or utter stupidity? Time would be able to answer the question but the initial reading of the compass is pointing to the direction of "bankrupt mental faculty" of the coaches and team management of the national juniors.

One does not have to be a "rocket scientist" to know that this tournament is all about "warm up" for the Junior World Cup (JWC). Any reasonable coach would try out as many players and various tactics and strategy to find the best mix. It is also to see the strength and weakness and try to refine them before JWC. Equally it also gives a better understanding of the standards of teams like Pakistan and India, as they are probably in the top 6 in the JWC. So winning or losing this tournament is no big thing except that the Malaysian coach has made it so.

When the coach creates an expectation than he creates a sense of feeling among the fans of the strength of his squad. When they do not perform or struggle to perform with team like Singapore, the expectation the coach had created gets smashed and shattered like broken glass.
This is when the fans believe they were taken for a "ride" and become disgusted with Malaysian hockey.

It is known fact that the team is handled by the so called coordinator i.e the German coach. Therefore, one wonders whether the national coach comments are to give a perception that he is in-charge and calling the shots. If that is what he wants then i think he must face the music. Obviously the coordinator must be enjoying the scenario as he is not under public pressure and he can always put his face up and walk. The national coach has to pay the price for seeking glamour.

The "make believe" scenario seem to be something very well entrenched in MHF. The message seem to be everything is OK. Is it really or is it in KO situation? One thing is for sure and that is Malaysian hockey is sinking and nothing is taking place to prove otherwise. All the "blitzkrieg" that was done in the last few months on hockey seem just another publicity exercise. I wonder whether the real work from the Master Plan to the strategy and implementation is in place. All i see is "heavyweight" names in various committees but they all seem to be extremely "lightweight" in their work load. This is Malaysian hockey.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who to be blamed for the "sinking" standards in Malaysian hockey ?

Lately I had the opportunity to watch some school teams playing and I was shocked to see the style of play. It even became a "hockey cultural shocker" when I spent some time watching Division 2 and 3 of the Malaysian Hockey League. I did not realise that the standard of play has dipped so low. Indeed, in the 60s and 70s, the Under 15 and thereafter the Under 16 played far better. Today the players bunch together, having no idea of systematic play let alone tactical play. All I see is the coaches signalling or shouting "up or down" depending where is the hockey ball.

In short, if the Division 2 and 3 is the reflection of the future of Malaysian hockey, I think the country must be ready to accept that there is no bright future in hockey for Malaysia. Millions had been spent and various programmes developed with unlimited resources and yet the boys of 40 years ago are far superior in their game. than the present bunch. That generation did not have the comforts of today except the undying passion and commitment for the game. Something that is lacking with players and officials today.

I received an interesting comment for my article: Stories that have been told on the search for foreign coach: Part 3 - "Its probably a Malaysian". The writer helped to clarify a number of matters that was not right or i had omitted. I recommend visitors to my blog to read the comment, as it gives further insight into the issues about coaches. For me, the interesting insight is the presences of the German coach for nearly 14 of the 20 years, either as coach or consultant for Malaysia.

One would have thought the hockey administrators would have put together a "blueprint" to develop the next 2 generation of players, coaches and officials in that 14 years. I am sure if that was done then the dilemma we are in today would not have arisen. Is it because our hockey administrators are working in vacuum that they did not think of the future. Maybe they are of the opinion that the "supply chain" for players, coaches and officials would just drop out of the sky as divine compliments.

When the German coach started with Malaysia, he was one of the top coaches in the world. Indeed he worked his way from the Junior German team to the Seniors. He would have been the ideal person to have assisted Malaysia to put the plans of development. Strangely, although it was talked about and maybe even seminars held, I am sure like the 102 former hockey internationals proposal, all would have been left to gather dust. Indeed in this country particularly in sports, the number of proposals submitted and the number of seminars held, where the recommendations were not implemented, would qualify us into the Guinness Book of Records for the wrong reasons.

In the 60s we had a person like the late Datuk Dr Aziz Durairatnam, at least till 1968 when the lads on the Mexico team let him and the nation down badly. Much to do with events outside the field. It is the manner he brought the young players into the national side is a key factor to our success then. Then in the 70s, 80s and 90s, initially as YM Raja Azlan Shah (from 1984 as DYMM Sultan Perak), who ensured the "players supply chain" was properly in place to feed the national team. A classic example was the "Yogeswaran boys" of 1979, who became 4th in the Paris Junior World Cup. This squad was carefully nurtured and exposed that after the Paris tournament, they were ready to form the core of the senior team. The key point is the boys at junior level itself had the maturity of international players. Their basics and skills was already developed and it was a question of fine tuning. Something that is totally lacking these days.

Why was this possible then? There were dedicated coaches in schools in various states, in the likes of Brian Foenander, Noel Oliveiro, Leong Hor Chong, Lawrence Van Huizen, William Fedelis, V Sivapthasundram, Teja Singh, S Kesavan, P Poonenrajah, K Machap, Titus Havelock, the late N Valupillai and many others. Officials like the late Dr Moreira, the late N Balasubramaniam, Datuk Chet Singh, Zain Azahari, Mohd Noor and others who used their own resources to ensure the game of hockey is sustained and promoted. Such dedication is of short supply these days and a net result of which the "supply chain" for talents has become a haphazard structure that is so hazy. The confusion has created players who simply do not understand the basics of hockey. The resources had been plentiful and in a way has contributed in nullifying the hunger to perform.

The fundamental problem with the hockey administrators is that they have not kept with time. The country is developing fast and the kids these days have a number of different avenues to achieve their own aspiration. In the past, employment and education was the key and sports acted as the stepping stone. Now it seem sports does not serve that purpose and it is all about money. Money is a dual edge sword which could cut either way i.e serve good and negative purpose. Insofar as the current national teams are concerned, they have taken they monthly remuneration for granted and whether one performs or is fit or not, is not an issue. The remuneration just flows like an "open tap" with the water running. So why worry?

Hockey administrators lack the foresight to develop strategies taking account of changing phases. This means they must always feel the pulse rate and continuously review the status and re-engineer their strategy. The key to all this is strategy planning for a defined period of years. I think this is completely lacking with the hockey administrators and therefore they must take the bulk of the blame for the "sinking" standards in Malaysian hockey.

Now, who are the hockey administrators? It is not difficult to guess. It must be the National Sports Council (NSC) and MHF. These 2 main parties are responsible for hockey and their uncordinated and lack of strategic thinking has put Malaysia in this scenario of "sinking" standard in hockey, where the consequences can be very damaging for our position in world hockey.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stories that have been told on the search for a foreign coach: Part 3 - "Its probably a Malaysian"

In the last 20 years Malaysian hockey had the services of 3 foreign coaches and 3 local coaches. The first of the foreign coach was Terry Walsh, who was successful in taking Malaysia to Barcelona 92 Olympics. He was assisted by a notable player who turned to coaching on his retirement and it was Stephen Van Huizen. Terry left Malaysia in acrimonious terms and through the good office of Paul Lissek, as coach of Germany, he recommended Volker Knapp to become the coach. An interesting arrangement was reached with Paul Lissek as the consultant. Assisting Volker Knapp was again Stephen Van Huizen. Volker was successful in taking Malaysia to Atlanta 96 Olympics and the finals of the Commonwealth Games 98. Unfortunately differences between the consultant and the coach, saw Volker Knapp leave Malaysia in unfriendly terms.

By this time Stephen had graduated as a world class coach having served as a pupil of Terry Walsh, Volker Knapp and in certain ways with Paul Lissek. Stephen successfully took Malaysia to the Sydney Olympics 2000, while Lissek still remained as consultant. When Paul Lissek faced a so called players revolt in the German team, he found the safe haven in Malaysia and became the national coach for Malaysia for the 2002 World Cup. Sadly Stephen had to take a step back to be his assistant. It must be noted that for all purposes, Stephen seemed to be part of a successful period in Malaysian hockey where Malaysia was featuring in all the Olympics and the World Cups (except for the 1994). Mind you 5 out of 6 tournaments and surely that would make him the most successful local coach in modern times.

Therefore when Lissek was forced to become consultant again, the hockey administrators were looking for a local coach as the national coach. On merits it should have been Stephen and rightfully he was offered. However he was put in a "fix", to choose between his banking career and a full time professional coach. For Stephen it became a cost- benefit exercise and included not wanting the family and his quality of life to suffer. So he put a remuneration package proposal which had the hockey administrators "eyes" pop out. Unable to appreciate Stephen's dilemma, they just branded him as a "gold digger" and left him out of the coaching circle. Yet years later the same decision makers were remunerating the other "gold diggers" without Stephen's wealth of experience and knowledge, in comparable amounts.

Wallace Tan took over from Lissek and his outing as a coach with the national team was a disaster. Failure to qualify for Athens Olympics 2004, World Cup 2006 and 6th at the Doha Asian Games were the credentials of Wallace. A professional, he made no excuses and was prepared to take the responsibility. Lissek still continued as consultant.

The hockey administrators had been blinded by friendships and some form of nationalistic outlook and therefore did not recognise the need to develop talents not only among players but also officials like coaches. This probably laid the foundation for the series of disasters to follow in Malaysian hockey.

The next coach appointed was Sarjit Singh, whose credentials as a player is highly noteworthy. However when he was appointed as a national coach, the hockey administrators failed to recognise the track record of the coach, particularly his qualification and achievements. Indeed it would be an impossible task as there were only a few locals ( could be counted by the fingers), who could really occupy the seat of national coach. Sarjit Singh's heavy indulgence with the management of MHF may have magnified the shortcomings of the national team particularly the failure to qualify for Beijing Olympics 2008. This was compounded by the erratic performance i.e finalists in one year for Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy and the following year hogging to the last position. Complicating the whole scenario is the allegations of "match fixing".

By which time there was already a nationwide call for change and inevitably the coach becomes the first in the "guillotine" list. The hockey administrators decided that a foreign coach is the best solution to check the slide in Malaysian hockey or maybe as an excuse to get rid of Sarjit.. Please refer to the stories relating to the search of foreign coach in Part 1 & 2 of this article.

The key question that troubles me is: Why Stephen the most successful local coach in terms of international achievements has been sidelined? Literally, 3 Olympics and 2 World Cup as coach or assistant coach and yet he is left in the cold. Simply because he wanted to safeguard the quality of life his family and to which he is accustomed too. Is that wrong?

While the hockey administrators do not go for the best local coaches, then they should get a highly recognise foreign coach, whose job also includes training coaches on "internship". Stephen is a product of that exercise. Despite the promises and 5 months into the taking over of MHF, it would seem that they are reverting to another local coach as the national coach. Tai Beng Hai is a great personality and is making the right moves. He has a good assistant in Nor Saiful but both of them shall be under tremendous pressure as the expectations are high. Is it wise to torment them with such pressure at such an early stage of their coaching career. Ideally these 2 lads should go through the "apprenticeship" as what Stephen went through before they inherit the chair of national coach.

Well ! Our hockey administrators are "short sighted", and lack the foresight which makes them"clueless" in their approach. A price Malaysian hockey has to pay, the continuing deteriorating standards in the game and ultimately our world ranking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Manindergit Singh - Immovable as the "Rock of Gibraltar"

Maninderjit Singh or popularly known as Mike had been the "solid rock" defender of the Malaysian hockey team for years till the end of the 2002 World Cup.. It has been told that he was seldom substituted as a defender during a game for years, other than getting injured or spending time at the "sin bin". This strong and friendly Punjabi had always given his best for Malaysian hockey and on his retirement, he played a major role in MHF's Disciplinary Committee under the chairmanship of the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye.

Like many former hockey internationals, he is proud of his time with Malaysian hockey and he believes that when he retired, it becomes a paramount duty of the existing internationals to carry the "flame" and keep Malaysian hockey aflame with success. When the rot in Malaysian hockey set in and the continual dismal performance of the various national teams, Mike became a " nucleus" with Mirnawan Nawawi, K Enbaraj and Azlin Fairuz to champion the cause for the relevant parties intervention to arrest the deteriorating standards of Malaysian hockey.

These 4 with other former hockey internationals created the 102 Group by petitioning to the relevant parties to intervene because of the falling standard of Malaysian hockey. According to sources, Mike played a key role and is considered as a main pillar in the whole exercise. It has been told that he was very focused and single minded in wanting to see change in Malaysian hockey. A team man, he apparently slogged hard with the other 3 to put together the so called "road map" i.e over 100 pages of proposal for the rejuvenation of Malaysian hockey. To keep everyone informed they even set-up a dedicated blog to communicate the pertinent issues.

Those who were present at the presentation undertaken by the 102 Group to the Sports Minister and also to MHF, indicate that Mike was in his element. His presentation was clear, concise and direct to the point. The post presentation discussion praises Mike on his sterling performance and many could not believe what they saw. Apparently, this side of Mike is not known to many.

The gossips further highlighted the fact that he refused a number of positions offered to him in MHF for the MHF elections. The reason given was his involvement in 102 Group and the fact that it should not be seen as a vehicle to seek positions in MHF. Although for all purposes the 102 Group came to a demise after its presentation to the Sports Minister, Mike still held on the principle that it would be ethically wrong to seek positions in MHF. Indeed when he was named into the Wawasan Committee, he was not at all keen to take up the position. He was offered a number of other appointed positions and he flatly refused them. He had a number of discussions with people over the Wawasan Committee and he took the view he would remain in it if the 102 Group's "road map" is adopted as a basis of change. The way things are heading in MHF, it would seem Mike would be also contemplating a departure from the Wawasan Committee.

Many of his friends believe that he is guided by certain key principles and holding of positions without a reason is not one of them. Further his main principles are so well moulded plus entrenched that it has made him like the immovable "Rock of Gibraltar" and asking him to compromise is expecting the island of Gibraltar to float away. His love for Malaysian hockey is undying but he believes the methodology to achieve results must be well defined without any compromise of principles. This probably makes him a misunderstood person in the hockey fraternity.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stories that have been told on the search for a foreign coach: Part 2 - "The caucasian links".

Part 1 - "The Korean entanglement", outlined the start of the story relating to Malaysia's search of a foreign coach. Some are "dumb founded", on one end MHF has the German coach as a consultant for the Juniors and at most times he also advices the Seniors. So why all the charade of looking for a foreign coach. Some argue that the German coach is on contract and therefore it is wise to use him, as his services is available. A very fair response and if the national teams are using him: Why not retain him as the coach?

Some believe the German coach is from the "old school" and his style, tactics and training methodology is not with modern hockey. Yet, he remains a consultant and this aspect of it is "mind boggling" i.e on one side he can be a consultant yet on the other he is not good enough. I wonder why there is this "schizophrenic" thinking.

Having established that the Korean (China's former national coach) is not coming and the German may lack the necessities of being Malaysia's national coach yet again, the search was on in Europe and Australia to fill the promised position of the national coach. Indeed the new President of MHF also joined the chorus and believed that the position shall be occupied within a month.

Originally, the hockey administrators were looking at Spain's national coach, who had just retired from the Spanish team. Indeed, a Malaysian based in Dublin got wind of his retirement and alerted the parties here. The coach is of Dutch origin was contacted and his respond was: " I am tired and i am going to join my wife in South Africa to rest for 1 year". What many did not realise was, this coach was already being considered as Holland's next national coach. I understand that the coach did not want to give rise to any speculation and therefore the best way to put off the initial enquiry from Malaysia was to give such an excuse. Mind you within a month thereafter he was named as Holland's chief coach.

Simultaneously, the Malaysian hockey administrators also approached renowned Australian coach who had just retired as Australia's national coach. A highly experienced and respected coach, he has also coached overseas i.e Britain. He is known to be very result orientated and is in the forefront in adopting modern innovations in sports medicine and sports science. He would have been a "good catch" for Malaysia but he was retiring totally from coaching, in order to get out of the stressful life.

This gentlemen was kind enough to recommend to Malaysia 2 candidates, who at that moment in time were already being considered by New Zealand women's team as coach. One of them was successful and the other continued his role as chief hockey of Western Australia Sports Institute. This person became the target of Malaysian hockey administrators.

Interestingly, the MHF Management Committee requested the Chairman of the Medical Committee to conduct the negotiation. At the same time the e- mail communication was conducted by the Secretary of MHF. I believe somewhere NSC was also involved. Apparently matters were finalised and there was rumour that the Secretary would fly out with the offer to Perth to be executed. Something took place and the concerned Australian seem to have pulled out of the whole deal. Some argue that there was confusion on the Malaysian side and matters were definitely "stalled" to ensure the deal does not materialise. Others indicate that the parties had not finalise matters and the deal just fell through. The jury is still out on it.

This literally means that the seach for a caucasian coach had more or a less come to an end. It would seem that the hockey administrators had to come up with a "face saving" mechanism to find a way of overcoming their own disappointments and the expectation of the hockey faternity.

See you in Part 3 of the journey in search of a foreign coach.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A new blog on cricket.

Kindly visit malaysiancricket-fanclub.blogspot.com which is the latest blog on sports. The title seem to indicate that it is more related to cricket and aptly has started the blog with "development of cricket".

From the comments i have seen in cricket on my blog, i am sure a lot of the people can visit this new blog and provide an interesting forum, so that cricket can emerge as a much stronger national game with good international ranking.

My best wishes to the new blog and i welcome the blogger to the blogosphere.