Malaysia was the beaten finalist at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah tournament at Ipoh. Malaysia started well but as the tournament progressed we were either drawing our matches or losing. Part of the reason is probably the coaches were trying out various combinations or the players were not recovering fast enough as they play more matches. The good thing is that the coaches at least have time to sort out the issues before the Asia Cup in May 2009.
Unfortunately the gossip emerging out of Ipoh as part of the post tournament comments reflect certain unsavoury things that had taken place. It is with regards to a particular senior national player, who on most occasions tend to be on the bench and as the game proceeded he was brought in as a substitute player. Not happy with that, he had moaned and groaned on being used in such basis. The story that was told, is in the presence of other players some of his comments may tantamount to belittling the coaches. Indeed it is a reflection of the lack of discipline in the player. Apparently this player is also known to have come for morning training sessions smelling with alcohol from his late night parties.The gossip also elaborates that the national team manager is aware of the situation and he was suppose to have had a chat with the player. Nothing seem to have change and there is a feeling that the player who plays for the team manager's team at the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) and the KL League, got away with it. Interesting to note that majority of the national players play for the team manager's team in both the leagues. Many wonder whether there is a conflict, while others believe it could be convergence of interest. Something the jury is still out on !!!!!!!!!
This particular gossip has an interesting dimension because the concerned player had been embroiled in the match fixing allegations. The matter still remains unresolved and it is difficult to comprehend whether it is still on the agenda in MHF. Being a senior player he does yield some influence and some people indicate he has his close friends in the team. At this stage, one cannot confirm whether the player has any negative influence on others except that the coaches must do something before ill discipline sets into the team.
The story in Ipoh continues and it is about the TM, as President of MHF. Concerned that this senior player was not featured in a game, the TM enquired from the Chairman of the Team Management Committee (TMC) i.e the Deputy President of MHF, who indicated that the player was injured. In fact so concerned was the TM of the senior player, the TM made his way from the VVIP Stand to the players bench. There the TM found out the truth and probably he must be wondering why he was misled by his Deputy. The reason the senior player was not in the team, was for discipline reasons.
The issue had taken a wider spectrum when the lobbyists started their work. The so called lobbyists have spoken to a few in the right places to ensure that the senior player is kept in the team for the other matches. The "wings" of support is so extensive that people do not worry of right or wrong. These lobbyists whisper in the right ears of so and so in the hockey fraternity, with the intent to bear pressure. The whole exercise is "scratching each others back", nothing to do of what is good for Malaysian hockey.
It would seem that various quarters in MHF have their own agenda and the TM seem to find out these things the hard way. Some say that the TM "dressed down" his Deputy while others indicate that the TM was totally disgusted. Again there are no independent confirmation of the TM's view on the matter. One thing is for sure, slowly the TM is coming to know how MHF is operating.
I started this article on whether the players are recovering fast enough to take the pace of the tournament. I raised this point because as part of the gossip, it would seem that there are still players who are merrily puffing away i.e cigarettes. I thought that the Sports Institute is monitoring the players? If so, it maybe worthwhile to determine what is the level of improvement. Part of the problem is that the players have too much of free time that some have cultivated the "lepak" habit and with it comes the smoking culture.
The coaches must be strict and lay down their rules. Sometimes we Malaysians are compassionate people that we easily compromise or the "higher ups" may want the coaches to go easy. If that is so, then that is the price we have to pay i.e an ill discipline team. This becomes the benchmark and that would be the legacy that future national teams would follow, as we are now paying the price.
The coaches must ensure that there are no "bad apples" in the basket. If there are people who do not want the "bad apples" to be removed then i think the coaches must give their "walking certificates" and leave. This is the principle that the coaches have to abide. If they do not practice it than they cannot preach the required standards. For things to improve there is need for sacrifices and sometimes the only way is to drop such characters from the team. The coaches have to be firm and not cave in to pressure. The coaches better understand a simple concept: "If the team does well, it is because they played well. If the team does badly, it is because of their coach". More often than not, the coaches get the sack.This is the fact of life.