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.