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.


Anonymous said...

Just to correct some facts in the original post.
1)Terry Walsh left after some death threats to his family in 1993after the Asia Cup in Japan. Msia had failed to qualify for the 2004 World Cup in Sydney losing the last spot to Belgium in Poznan in 1993.
2)Volker helped Msia to qualify for 1996 Atlanta and 1998 World Cup Utretcht holland. Thereafter MHF / NSC were not too happy with Volker and Paul Lissek was roped in to work with the team for 3 months with permission from the German HF and help us win the silver meda Commonwealth Games. A tactical move by Paul Lissek garning the malaysian coach post ie retirement plan.
3)In 2001 when German HF did not reappoint him for the failure in Sydney Paul Lissek was initially supposed to be Consultant and then Head Coach but finally they just designated him as National Coach and he was coach for the 2002 world cup in KL. The reasoning was that he is a professional coach and his market value need to be maintained so he has to be seen as active coach not consultant.A concern by our NSC official. Lost their focus to train our local coaches.

With Paul as Coach Msia did not qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics with NSC Dato Mazlan backing. At one stage MHF wanted to replace him when they did badly in the Asia Cup in KL but Dato Mazlan step in and withdrew his services before MHF relented and he was back as NAtional Coach. *** other things transpired behind the scene.

When they didnt qualify Mazlan when questioned says they had to keep Paul because no local coaches wanted to apply as Colin, Stephen and Wallace - FIH coaches etc would not want to be full time coaches. This wasn't the case.

All 3 applied and were shortlisted along with Arul, K Rajan etc for interview and in the final interview only Colin, Stephen and Wallace were called. Mind you all 3of them are season bankers. They presented what they would lose in terms of remuneration if they resign or take no pay leave etc. "Clever Bankers" Even Dato Mazlan agreed that it would not be advisable to resign as the National Coach's job is for 2+2. What the coaches wanted was secondment / loan to NSC plus allowances just like the earlier arrangement with the Banks so that they have job security. Bravo to our late Satgunam's advise not to leave their jobs.

A lot of things happen in between** but the final decision was Wallace was appointed.

4) Wallace Tan was appointed for 2 years up to 2006 Doha Asian Games and he failed to get the team to the 2006 World Cup at Mocheglabach Germany. I think Paul was still the man behind.

When they didnt qualify and there was an inquiry they appointed Stephen as High Performance Manager for 3 months. I think our late Dato Ho was one of the advisers then. Our only FIH top coach, Stephen was willing to do the job without any payment or benefit. Stephen agreed due to persuasions and negotiations by certain senior members of hoki. Remember reading in the local daily our Azmi team manager made a big issue in the press. Wonder why? .

I remember there was this think tank working to get Stephen on board. My view, why he would want to walk into uncertainty when he is already doing well in the bank? What hoki is proposing to pay him is nowhere near "end of the day figure". Sad thing is we were paying a no-coach way above that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all this coaches that we are in the shit house we are in and as for you ghandi why are you scared about publishing comments that don't favour your so called world class coaches.Muttons i say\
for the love of the game