Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MHF elections: "Status quo and no room for former internationals."

5 posts were up for grab last weekend in the MHF election at their BGM. The contest was for Deputy President (DP) and for 4 Vice Presidents (VPs) and interestingly the winners hold the posts for 4 years. There were 4 contenders for DP including the incumbent, a former DP, a incumbent senior VP and a former national hockey player. As for the VPs, there were 8 candidates including 3 incumbents, an Affiliate VP, 3 former hockey internationals and a Secretary of an Affiliate.

Once every 2 years, although now it shall be once in 4, the delegates to the BGM have that very important role when they carry with them the ballot paper that dictates collectively who would be occupying the various posts to lead the MHF Management Committee. Whilst the TM returned unopposed during the nomination, it would seem the contestable posts have enough candidates reflecting a growing interest in MHF. This obviously gives the impression that the TM must have done a good job at the helm of MHF and that there are more than sufficient candidates who want to be part of his new team.

Last Sunday the delegates silently spoke through their ballot. If there is anything we can infer from the results of 4 incumbents reelected and an Affiliate Secretary becoming the 4th elected VP, it is that the delegates were pleased with the TM and his team for the last 2 years. Although the Deputy President may have been a close call, still he was reelected. We can sit and gossip till the "cows come home" but the point is the results of the election reflect a "status quo".

Notwithstanding this, it must be recognised that the TM had taken an ethical position of remaining clear of the election by not naming his team and above all he chose not to exercise his vote. In that sense the results had more significant meaning for it was free of any of TM's influence. The TM must be praised for such a stance as in this way he shall always be the unifying force for Malaysian hockey.

The other inference that could be made from the results is that there was no room for the former internationals. 4 former internationals were in the race, 1 for DP and 3 were for VPs. Of the 4, 3 were former national captains and save for 1, the 3 others were involved with the Affiliates. For whatever reasons the delegates did not give these former national players the sufficient votes to get them past the post. It would seem that even if you serve the country as a former national player or as national captains, there is no guarantee that such credentials can hold in an election. It shows the delegates have their own mind and candidates must be fully aware of this.

Now that the election is over, the various parties if it did exist, must get back together and work for the betterment of Malaysian hockey. The TM has kept his bridges well intact and therefore he is the unifying force, which means we must give him our full support to ensure his vision to make Malaysian hockey as a highly world ranked nation materialises. This has to be the immediate mission and with the TM at the helm nothing is impossible.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TM need the right people who can serve Malaysian hockey properly and are loyal to the President.

TM is the Crown Prince of Pahang and is conducting himself regally in his position as President of MHF. Staying away from the "bitching" that is taking place in the contest for Deputy President (DP) and Vice Presidents (VPs), the TM is probably doing the right thing. Someday in the future all of us would be his "raayat" and therefore wanting to interfere in the process of an election by stating who he thinks should be in the MHF Management team would probably be shortsighted. This is where the TM displays his "greatness" as he gives every candidate the fair opportunity to participate without being biased if they are genuine in their endeavours.

Strangely, this outlook of the TM may create a "dichotomy" in MHF. The TM's greatness may permit the candidates with varying outlooks to solicitor support in whatever manner they deem fit to get voted to the positions. This may not give a "team" spirit in the new MHF Management as people with different outlooks may pull MHF in different directions. This itself in the initial period may give rise to sufficient confusion including distraction and disturbances which may take the focus from MHF. It is not because the TM is not in control of the situation, rather it would be his nature to permit everyone the opportunity to give their views and some may take this as a licence to push their agenda. The time-wasting that may be caught in the "verbal diarrhoea" may in a way be an "opportunity cost" to Malaysian hockey as to the delays in implementing programmes to shift Malaysian hockey to world class.

The proponents of "verbal diarrhoea" generally have the ability to be the centre of attraction so as they can become closer to the TM for reasons best known to them. Of course it is not difficult to guess the reasons and it is mind boggling on the measures they take. The sad aspect of this is that these people do not have an "iota" of knowledge of what to do and they use their external sources to "feed" them with pertinent points to make them look extraordinary. Rather than being creative they display their skills in "punching holes" on other people's work. It is "dulling other people's boots" rather than "shining their own" that is their modus operandi in showing off themselves. The glaring aspect of all this is how they are able to be present at functions where the TM and certain VVIPs are present and yet they do not appear at any other times when they are most needed.

These are the people whose whole actions contradict the famous statement of late President John F Kennedy ie "ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". Similarly these people are there in hockey to derive something from hockey rather than giving something to hockey. Of course there are exceptions and mind you a very few only.

This is where the delegates to the BGM on Sunday must decide carefully to differentiate such people. It would be difficult but there are enough stories, some may be truthful while others maybe a figment of one's imagination. The bottom line is whether the candidate can support the President's vision on Malaysian hockey. He should catalyst the vision rather than catalyst his own self interest in being in hockey. Enough stories have been told and the delegates have that opportunity to judge for themselves to give a "team" that can work with the TM. Although the TM will not ask for one yet the delegates for the sake of Malaysian hockey can give the TM a "workable" team. The important thing is not to be swayed by the dinners, drinks and promises rather be guided by the sense of justice so as the people elected can work with the team loyally to turn Malaysian hockey as a world force.

Enjoy the dinners, the drinks and what else that comes with it, but end of the day the delegates must have to answer to their conscience that they gave Malaysian hockey and the TM the right persons for the right positions to take Malaysian hockey into the next 4 years. If the delegates get it right then we have good years to come in hockey or not they themselves have to be blamed and no one else.

So delegates touch your heart and use your head to make that wise choice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Battle for MHF Vice Presidents - "One of contenders may seem to lack the apprenticeship service in administration of Malaysian hockey".

The current President of MHF has made MHF an attractive proposition to encourage the numbers to gather to battle out for the various posts in the offering. MHF these days is much more solid both in administration and wealth as it has come clear of its sloppiness and debts. The recent constitutional amendments to permit the appointment of Secretary plus Treasurer and with the period extended to 4 years for Office bearers seem to have provided the extra interest to compete for the remainder contestable posts. The focus seems to be on the Deputy President and Vice Presidents (VPs).

As for the VPs there are 6 positions of which 4 are contestable and the other 2 are reserved for Sabah and Sarawak. For the 4 contestable positions there are 8 candidates of which 3 are incumbents and they are:
  1. Datuk Seri Che Khalib, Chairman of the Finance Committee.

  2. Datuk Rahim Ariff, Chairman of the Competition Committee.

  3. M Gopinathan, Chairman of the Special Projects Committee.

The 4th incumbent is going for the "broke" and has offered himself as a candidate for the Deputy President's position.

The other 5 candidates who believe they too can be a VP are:

  1. Manjit Majid Abdullah, Secretary - Johor Hockey Association.

  2. DSP Mohinder Singh, Head of Hockey in Polis DiRaja Malaysia

  3. Johari Abdul Aziz, Vice President - Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association.

  4. Rahim Ahmad, Coaching Chairman - Selangor Hockey Association

  5. Ow Soon Kooi, former national player

Without any doubt, looking at the list of candidates all save for one has done "yeoman" service for Malaysian hockey administration either at National or State or both. Although there is no condition precedent of a prequalification criteria, it yet provides persuasive indicators of the contesting personalities.

Ow Soon Kooi is relatively a "newcomer" to administration of Malaysian hockey although directly or indirectly he is involved in businesses that have connections to the sporting world. Some of this may provide a "convergence of interest", which could be helpful while at times the convergence of interest could become a "conflict of interest". This thin dividing line can become problematic if it is misconstrued and can put Malaysian hockey in disrepute.

The other key question Ow Soon Kooi has to answer is whether he has the time? As a Malaysian "hockey watcher", this question begs an answer because early this year he was offered the post of one of the 2 team managers of the senior national team. Ow Soon Kooi refused that appointment on grounds of time and that answer may come to haunt him as he offers his services for VP, particularly as the post is for 4 years.

There is no doubt Ow Soon Kooi has served the nation well both as a national player and as a former officer with Polis DiRaja Malaysia. As a player, not only did he don the national colours but also became the Captain of the national team. His close relationship with people like the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye and Datuk R Yogeswaran while employing a few national hockey players plus other sports related personalities have kept him abreast with the developments in hockey. He has also indulged in having a hockey team starred by a few former internationals and coached by a known sports journalist.

Does this mean Ow Soon Kooi has done his "apprenticeship" to be among "equals" to be considered for the VP post? This is not something that can be answered by us but rather by the Affiliates who would have their representatives at the BGM. What would be good is for Ow Soon Kooi not to contest but rather be nominated by the President either as Chairman of Coaching Committee or Chairman of Development Committee. These are key positions and the future of Malaysian hockey is dependant on the performance of such Committees. I am sure if he offers himself for such positions MHF would be more than willing to have the services of such a distinguished former national captain. In a lot of ways this may help to suppress any potential "innuendos" that may arise that could bring unnecessary colour to the elections.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Commonwealth Games hockey - "Malaysia's idea of match practice for Asian Games reinforces our current standing in international ranking".

Lack of match practice before the Asian Games, notwithstanding the tours to China, Australia and Europe, had got MHF to reset its position of sending a mix team of juniors and seniors to our best team for the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The idea being the CWG would provide a suitable tournament for good match practices for our team to the Asian Games, which is a key cog in world hockey qualifiers ie a direct entry to the 2012 London Olympics for the Asian Games hockey gold medallist. The CWG does not provide any form of such incentives.

Therefore Malaysia's silver in 1998 and bronze in 2006 CWGs may give the impression that our hockey lads were then only going to glorify themselves in non-consequential events. Not really, because it did contribute to the nation's medal haul, which is very important to the statisticians in NSC, who have to proudly present the figures to justify the huge resources spent in preparing the teams for both the Commonwealth Games. Somewhere this rationale seems to have gone astray for the 2010 CWG.

Today, after our "match practices" in the CWG in New Delhi, can we be proud of the fact the team came 8th out of 10 teams? 1stly on record this is our worst performance in the CWGs and maybe this could be justified because MHF had reset the CWG to "match practice" status. The interesting aspect is that the international ranking is kept quite intact as the Commonwealth hockey nations who are in the top 12 ensured that Malaysia was of no threat to them as they all were above the 8th spot. Does this mean that our boys are lacking the skill and playing ability to to be in the top 10 in the world? A difficult question to answer as the lads were on "practice match" mode and as such they may not have given their best.

Now i wonder whether the team management have a better idea of the performance of the lads and the team that they can make the timely adjustments to achieve their set target of "gold" for Asian Games. This is important as they may want to reset their target for the Asian Games as they had done for the CWG. Is the gold medal target a figment of imagination of MHF or is it something that is achievable?

Following the CWG, where we had loss to India and Pakistan, itself may put us out of reach of achieving the "golden" position in the Asian Games. In the round robin in our Group at the Asian Games we have to contend with South Korea and China who are above us in world ranking. The other team in the Group is Oman. Beating China would take us to the semis but we must recognise that they have well over a billion population behind them on a home ground advantage. Should we get to the semis, then there lies the hope, and it is not insurmontable, to make it to the final. The other Group has India, Pakistan, Japan and Singapore. The probable semi-finalists emerging from that Group would probably be India and Pakistan, both of who we had "practice matches" with in the current CWG and lost 3-2 and 4-1 respectively.

In a nutshell, the 2 coaches must know what to do, now that they are aware of the performance level of their players and the team following the "practice matches" at the CWG. The coaches have about 3 to 4 weeks to fine tune the team and work towards the "incredible" target of gold set by MHF. A tall order but somehow it seems to have been stuck as the KPI for the team. Mind you i do not envy the position Stephen and Beng Hai are currently in. All we can do is to wish the Malaysian team the very best for Asian Games.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Incredible India" - It is dented but still can be saved.

"Incredible India", the advertisement that is supposed to attract millions of tourists to India, must have been severely dented with the catastrophic events that have been taking place in New Delhi, the venue of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) which is to begin on 3rd October. Yes! it is incredible how the Indian Organisers of the CWG left it so late that it nearly jeopardise the whole CWG. Indeed an international news reporter summed it by stating that the whole event is compared to organising an Indian wedding where everything comes together at the last minute. However the CWG is no Indian wedding; rather it is an international sporting event that is two third the size of an Olympics, yet having all the events of the Olympics.

India has spent anywhere from US$6.0 to US$10.0 billion including construction of a new airport, Metro system for Delhi and roads & bridges let alone the sporting infrastructures plus the CWG sports village. Despite the huge spending, the unhygienic environment leading to deplorable conditions at some of the accommodation units at the Games village and the shoddy work that permitted the collapse of a foot bridge connecting to the main stadium plus the crumbling of the ceiling at the weightlifting stadium, has given rise to enough complaints from participating countries that is putting the whole CWG into jittery position. All these without doubts has devastated India's image and some have called into question India's qualitative skills and standards in organising such a mammoth event. Indeed India was given 7 years to get their act together and today questions are even asked why was India considered for 2010.

India is now the 4th economic power house in the world and the events unfolding with regards to organising the CWG is not doing good to India's international image. Some in India may argue this as a media conspiracy to hurt India but what is more important is that the Indian Organisers allowed it to happen. Obviously if the Games itself moves smoothly without any further glitches and brings the best in sports, that in a way may help to mitigate the disastrous aspects which existed prior to the commencement of the CWG. Still we cannot discount the fact that what happened in India will remain a negative stigma everytime one talks about CMG or if there is another major event to come to India.

It is a pity as "Incredible India' has so much to offer. Its multi-ethnicity that provides the multi-dressing with multi-colours, its multi-culture with multi-culinary dishes combined with multi-language and multi-religion brings out the kaleidoscope that is India. The combination of tradition and modernity with English predominantly spoken provides everyone with something to enjoy and slowly people grow fond of India. It is this attachment that brings back the people to India. I am sure the athletes from the 76 countries participating in the CWG would share the emotions of the wonderful memories of India when the curtains come down at the end of the Games.

Mind you, one would have thought the only challenge India would have to face in this CWG is the aspect of security. Troubled by multi-layers of threats from Assam to Kashmir, Maoist to Nazalites, Hindu to Islamic fundamentalists, it literally keeps India's law enforcement both at national and state level extremely busy. Indeed this is one area that had usually troubled visiting sporting teams prior to their visit to India but the successful hosting of the World Cup hockey early this year has shown that India can get on top of the situation. There is no doubt the security services would be on full alert, which itself may be inconvenience to people but such inconvenience is needed as a sacrifice for public safety and peace.

It is not easy for India to organise the CWG when the country has its fair share of natural to man made challenges to face. It took on the challenge 7 years ago with its economy prospering and having a wealth of human resources, it is "dumb founding" how India got entangled in such a scenario before the Games. There would be numerous post-mortems, many finger pointing, scapegoats and above all people who would want to benefit from such disasters. End of the day is whether India would do enough in the future to assure the world that such things would not reoccur. This is something that is important for India and its people.

Good Luck India for the Commonwealth Games.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Hope" - The key operative word for the Malaysian national hockey team.

Before we put a Plan together, we must have a vision as to what we want to achieve. Most times this would be guided by historical facts and the prevailing scenarios including taking account of the time span. Once we are equipped with such details it makes the planning exercise that much easier. The Plan that is drawn up by its architects needs to be scrutinised by independent experts in the field, who can endorse or fine tune the Plan. Once that is done then it is becomes the responsibility of the architects to ensure the Plan is adhered to.

This brings me to the Malaysian national team's preparation for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. After the 2006 debacle, where the national hockey team won the bronze medal for the Commomwealth Games, yet in the tournament that mattered, they achieved the worst record of coming 6th at the Doha Asian Games. The opinions that followed seem to indicate that since Commonwealth and Asian Games are in the same year and side by side, there is a need for a rethink for the preparation of both the Games. The guiding issue here is that in hockey the Commomwealth Games has no bearing whatsoever on any nation's international ranking, whereas as gold medallist of the Asian Games it provides a direct entry to the Olympics.

Armed with this historical fact, it was always envisaged that we would sent a mixed team for this year's Commonwealth Games and the best XI for the Asian Games. At least this was the thinking as there were over 30 trainees for the centralised training. Sadly our preparation plan seems to have been simply "rubber stamped" by NSC and also by MHF. I use the word "rubber stamped" because the Plan had 3 overseas tours, all playing with 2nd rated teams or tournaments including almost all the countries which were ranked below us. The preparation showed its weakness as there were no warm-up matches lined-up before the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Effectively, meaning our boys were going for tournaments that we planned well ahead ie 8 months and somehow there were significant gaps that were left that became so glaring as the time got closer. Now probably you understand why the scribe stated the aspect of "rubber stamping".

In desperate times, desperate measures were required and this is where MHF hastily organised 2 warm-up matches with New Zealand. Even then, it must be recognised that the Kiwis are assembling together as a team for the 1st time after the Champions Trophy, which was a good 2 months ago. Most of the players are flying into KL after their own national league and the rest are coming in from Europe. Therefore the Malaysian team would be playing against the New Zealanders who are trying to gel together as a team. Yes! it is "warm-up" for the Kiwis and i wonder what would it be for the Malaysians? In realistic terms what are we hoping for? Maybe to understand the art of Kiwis training without the long centraliseed periods which is so predominant in Malaysian hockey.

Now, there seems to be a change of thought insofar as the Commomwealth Games. Suddenly, it is made known that the Commonwealth Games is more like a practice tournament as a built-up for the Asian Games. This is probably why they are sending their best team to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. What expensive practice matches the Commonwealth Games is going to be for Malaysian hockey. Maybe the writing is already on the wall that our boys may find it hard to compete with some of the best teams in the world in Delhi. Probably that is why they have started creating the excuse the Commonwealth Games is serving as practice matches. Therefore the thinking that is set for us to follow is that the results in Delhi in theory should not matter.

There is no doubts that the best of Plans would also have their shortcoming. This is usually not during the planning stage but at implementation due to unavoidable circumstances. In our case it would seem at planning itself we have made the necessary judgement errors. Either the architects lack the knowledge of proper planning or they just do what they are capable which may not be the best. What compounds the blunder is the subsequent endorsement by the relevant parties without the proper scrutiny. Now we must leave it to "hope" and probably wait for divine assistance. Even then we must appreciate that this can only happen if we do our bit of the work properly and correctly.

Anyway there is not much choice for our national hockey team other than to live in "hope" whichever way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

MHF constitutional changes will be a move in the right direction but is it enough ?

On 4th September, MHF would have their Extra Ordinary Meeting (EGM) which is being called to make amendments to the MHF constitution. Not having the full details, yet from the grapevine the information emerging seems to relate to the rights of the President to appoint the Secretary and Treasurer of MHF. Effectively it means that both these posts would not be contestable in the future if the amendments are successfully approved.

There were talks before the last Council Meeting which agreed to forward the amendments for the EGM, that some of the Affiliates were not happy with the proposed changes. With his "royal touch" the TM did the "magic" of putting the Affiliates at peace of mind as to why such appointments were deemed necessary. I also believe that the appointments of Chairman of Coaching Committee and also for Development would be amended thereby incorporating them into the Management Committee.

All these amendments make sense if we subscribe to the believe that "the bug stops" with the President ie he is ultimately responsible. So if we vote the President then it is only right he be given the mandate to appoint the key officials too. Some may argue that there is no "check and balance". I think that is a bit "dumb founded" as the MHF constitution provides for at least 5 Affiliates together to summon a EGM on resolutions they believe need to be debated and voted upon. This could also include a motion of "no confidence", if they believe that the responsible people are not doing their job properly.

This brings me to the rumour that some Affiliates in conjunction with this EGM may propose that the period for Office Bearers to hold office should be extended to 4 years from the current 2 years. There is wisdom in such a proposal as it coincides with the 4 year cycle of the World Cup, Olympic Games and Asian Games, which are the premier tournaments. This provides an uninterrupted objective basis to judge the President and his team on how they performed in the administration of hockey for the specified period. Obviously, the "downside" is we provide a continuous opportunity for the President and his team to allow the slide to continue if they are unable to arrest the decline. Fortunately,the constitution provides a pathway for an EGM to make changes in the administration if such a situation does arise. Fundamentally, there is room to redress such scenarios but we hope it does not come to such a situation.

All in all, the proposed amendments seem to set MHF in the right direction. However, as a "MHF Watcher", i believe the proposed changes are not comprehensive enough to overhaul the system, which is antiquated. The current approach seems to be a "piecemeal" and therefore the process to see changes may be time related. One area that is not addressed is the question of "full' affiliation rights. This seems confined to rules that came from "time in memory" and therefore has been confined to States and to the Armed Forces and Police. Looking at modern hockey it seems to omit the clubs and universities where most of the national players are emerging. This means that we are running hockey on an old system while hockey itself has modernised and is supposed to be manned by people who encompass technologies and corporate principles. These are the very people that are missing in the MHF administration because the MHF constitution does not "open" its doors for clubs and universities that could make the difference.

The other area that needs attention is the right of MHF to be informed of the activities of its Affiliates and the consequences if the Affiliates fail to perform. Currently there is an inequitable position where active and inactive Affiliates have the same powers, thereby not discriminating between them. This itself is totally unfair as inactive Affiliates which, i believe, are of significant number in MHF, can decide MHF's future. How ironical? There has to be a system of "benefit and burden" rule imposed to ensure that only active Affiliates are allowed to participate in the decision making process of MHF.

What is important is MHF must have a "living" constitution that provides dynamism to the affairs of MHF. This can only happen if a broad spectrum of people can come and participate in MHF and the only way this can happen is MHF has an "open door" policy to its membership for active hockey clubs and universities. Someday it has to come, and the sooner the better.

Maybe the TM may have his wisdom as to why he is approaching issues of constitutional changes in a conservative manner rather than a radical fashion. As a President he has the prerogative and he probably knows what should be done at the appropriate time. Lets go with him on this and time would probably bring the results that we are looking for.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Congrats Malaysian hockey and Stephen but do not let the "success" be "hollow".

As i sat in front of my computer, i was in 2 minds of what to write over the Malaysian hockey success at the 5 nation invitational tournament at Paris. Malaysia became Champions and the question is should we be "chaffed" about it? It is rare these days to see our hockey lads winning tournaments especially in foreign lands and therefore whatever the opposition, 2nd rated or otherwise, it is only proper that we must extend our congratulations to the team, coaches and supporting staff.

I use the word "proper" because the effects would have been devastating to Malaysian hockey if we had not become Champions. On world ranking we are above all the other teams that participated and therefore it is a great morale boaster for the team and also for Malaysian hockey that we topped the tournament. In that sense the hockey lads in Paris did their job and therefore congratulations is the order of the day.

The other question that would arise is whether one is happy with the performance of the lads? This is a fundamental question to be answered before we get carried away with winning the tournament. I ask this question based on the following rationale:
  • Malaysia is the highest world ranking team in the tournament.

  • Malaysia has been on centralised training for the past few months for the Commonwealth and Asian Games in comparison to the other teams.

  • The Malaysian team had warm-up tours to China, Australia and Europe before the Paris tournament.

Effectively what it means is that we were probably the "most prepared" team at the tournament. Therefore winning this tournament should be a normal phenomenon like "day following night and night following day".

The more important question we should ask is whether the performance was convincing. The goal margins of victory Malaysia had against Poland, Scotland and France does not bring great joy to any hockey analysts. Moreso if we take account of the margin of our defeat with Ireland. In summary, taking account of the preparation the other teams had put in in comparison to Malaysia's training phases, the performance of our lads is definitely lacking and there is plenty, and i mean plenty, of room for major improvements.

This in a way begs another question ie whether we have the time to make that mark improvement before the Commonwealth and Asian Games? This question has to be considered by the team management because at both the Games, the best teams and higher ranking teams would be there and they would be much more prepared than the teams that participated at the Paris tournament. As i had stated previously, that is going to be the "real" test and will our hockey lads be able to escalate their performances to a level that they are medal contenders?

WELL! it is important we celebrate the Paris success so long as we understand that victory would be "hollow" unless we set it as the start of the journey for far better things to come, provided we recognise the issues at hand and address them properly. Well done Malaysia and Stephen Van Huizen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

UniKL - The hope for young hockey talents seemly losing its direction

When UniKL (University Kuala Lumpur) came into the 2009 Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) scene, they brought with them a refreshing sense of hope to Malaysian hockey. It was the first Umiversity to participate at the MHL and moreso as its Chancellor is no other than the President of MHF ie the TM. It would seem that the TM is preaching exactly what he practices, which is popularising the game.

What was refreshing in UniKL's approach was its vision of embodying the principle of providing a platform for young talents to participate in the senior league. There were no big names or former internationals in the team and what was great is that they did not end up as "whipping boys" of the league. As debutant's in the league they gave most teams "the run for their money". While the TM was the prime mover of the idea, the lads on the ground namely coach Vicki, assistant coach Enbaraj, consultant Mirnawan, a Dutch Advisor working with an oil & gas outfit and the team manager Amir - a full time staff of UniKL, must be given due recognition for their efforts in moulding the team.

The same management team minus the Dutch Advisor was the principal personality behind UniKL's success in the 2010 National Junior League. UniKL became runners-up in the league and the overall champions. Some creditable performance yet again for the debutants. In a nutshell it would seem UniKL had started making "waves" in Malaysian hockey.

However within a year of their debut, some strange maneuvers are taking place in UniKL, maybe because of the quick success and the publicity they had received. Whether it was due to the "swollen head" of the team management, it would seem that they are losing the purpose as to why they were set-up. This is manifested as the cracks appear with some of the players moaning and groaning as UniKL seem to have disregarded in paying their young players their share of the prize monies even 3 months after the end of the National Junior League. This is further compounded in the change of thinking as UniKL greedily look for success by indulging with "big bucks" and acquiring big names for the team in the coming MHL. It would seem the freshness UniKL brought to Malaysian hockey is being polluted as they adopt the old ways of some of the other teams. Suddenly the "odour" coming out of UniKL seems to reflect "staleness" ie the freshness seems to have been lost.

The closeness of the team management of UniKL with the main people behind Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) seems to permit the flow of players that are being discarded by KLHC to UniKL. Most of those making the "beeline" are older former internationals including one of 35 years. It would seem KLHC's "good riddance" is becoming UniKL's "rubbish". As to why UniKL has taken such a radical and controversial approach is completely baffling.

The storyline does not end here. Rumours have it that UniKL has also started pinching players from other clubs. Lately, unconfirmed reports indicate 2 staff of a particular employer who has a team in the MHL have resigned and would be joining UniKL at the end of the notice period. The interesting aspect of the storyline here is one of them is a national discard and also from his previous employer's team too. As a result he was absent from the 2009 MHL and apparently he went to play at an European country league. He did gloat how well he performed there but did not reveal that he probably was playing at a lower league ie 3rd or 4th Division. Further flavour is added to the story as this player is known to skip training sessions regularly because he seems to be prone to an unusually high rate of injury and this time around for the notice period of resignation he is supposed to be also on medical leave. Somehow and somewhere UniKL seems to have been taken by him notwithstanding the stories that are being told.

The other player that would join UniKL from the same employer is currently on tour with the national team. This player is enticed by the "big bucks" and the fact that the new players may get yearly contracts and some may even get employment is becoming an added attraction. This seems unusual as in their debutant year the players contract only covered the period of the league. One wonders whether the new found wealth in UniKL's team and the "new thinking" with the team management would help to maintain team unity or create greater disruption. Time would probably give us the answer.

UniKL themselves may have to start questioning themselves whether in fact any of the players are undergraduates of the University. I believe this is something UniKL may find it hard to fulfill although they may argue that a minority may be offered employment opportunities. It is this misguided outlook of just wanting to win that the team management may compromise of building a young team of players including giving them the opportunity to study at the University. Such an omission would literally make UniKL similar to KLHC ie spend the "big bucks" to get the big names. The objective of creating new stars seems completely obliterated.

The chapters of the story do not end here. The hockey grapevine is talking that UniKL is equipping themselves with a foreign coach and maybe a few foreign players too. If there is truth to this then there is no doubt that UniKL is obviously adopting a "Machiavellian" style iie the end justifies the means. To win the MHL title is by packing the team with stars. So what difference is there if one is prepared to throw the money eg going and buying ready-made food.

In a way it comes back to what the Chancellor of UniKL is preaching in hockey. Are UniKL team management taking cognisance of this or are they blinded by the wealth they are collecting from their sponsors and therefore it is about winning at all costs? If that is so then all the effort the TM is putting into MHF to create talents is going to a waste if such players do not have vehicles like UniKL to give them the opportunities.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The national coach should not be singled out alone - "It is a collective responsibility of everyone"

Following my article: On tours playing mediocre hockey teams - "There must be problems in team management" dated 10th August 2010, the national coach has been receiving a certain amount of flak in the comments. The question is:" whether it is fair to single him out"? Can the national coach unilaterally make decisions without going through the approval procedures and processes? I think that is something we have to explore before the "blameworthiness" is placed on a certain party or parties.

The coach came into the scene early this year. Without doubt he is the most experienced and successful local coach with the former national teams. Prior to current appointment he had been off the international arena for at least a good 8 years. Fortunately he has kept abreast with hockey by coaching one of the MHL teams.

The issue at hand is about the 3 built-up tours for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

The pertinent matters are the following:
  • Timing of tours ie Visit to Australia when the Australian national team was away in Europe preparing for Champions Trophy, then now the visit to Europe, after the Champions Trophy when the participating countries have no reason to keep their national teams together.

  • Playing with teams that are of lower ranking like Pakistan 2nd team and Russia on tour to China. Similar approach was adopted in Australia ie clubs and Institute of Australian Sports teams. Consistent approach is being maintained for the European tour during the fasting month ie clubs and teams of lower ranking namely Ireland, Scotland, France and Poland.

  • Planning for warm-up matches seems to omit matches for the last 2 months prior to the Commonwealth and Asian Games. A diabolical state of affairs to planning and even in this 11th hour MHF is trying to get an invitational event going but without much success.

When we look at the thought process that has gone into it, one wonders what is the purpose of playing with mediocre teams. After all at the Commonwealth Games we have Australia, England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Pakistan who are ranked well above us also bidding for medals. Whereas in Asian Games, we have South Korea, India, Pakistan and China ranked above us too. Therefore in realistic terms are the tours really serving a purpose to prepare the team for winning medals?

There must be collective responsibilities as the system in place seems to have "rubber stamped" the whole idea of the tours without taking an indepth analytical position of pertinent matters. It seems every party or parties had condoned the tours without realising the implications. How can this happen when it involves the following:

  1. The team manager is supposed to be responsible for the administration of the team. He is usually the spokesperson and at tournaments he gives the impression of a concerned face in television, yet he too seems to have endorsed the plans. Even if he is outnumbered in team management, he still has the Team Management Committee which is chaired by the Deputy President.

  2. Team Management Committee (TMC) is supposed to overseer the high performance teams of MHF. Although this Committee itself is embroiled in controversy as to its formation, it originally seemed to yield great powers. Sitting in this Committee is also a key NSC official who seems to have significant influence on the Committee's decisions. Again i wonder how this Committee just "rubber stamped" the details of the tours without giving a thought to various drawbacks.

  3. MHF Management Committee is ultimately responsible for whatever happens in Malaysian hockey. This therefore poses the question as to what information was provided to the Management Committee for them to get caught in endorsing such tours. Maybe they too decided just to be another "rubber stamping" body without giving any due consideration to the matter.

  4. The National Sports Council (NSC), the financier for the tours, seems to have taken the same approach as the TMC and MHF Management Committee. NSC seems to endorse the expenditure and the plans of the tour without asking the relevant questions. It would seem there is no need to justify the expenditure including its basis. It would seem that so long as NSC has the budget, why not spent the money. This begs the question whether NSC is the proper guardian to Malaysian sports and its funds.
From the above you could realise that everyone just allowed the tours to take place without prompting to ask the right questions taking account the big picture. So we end up playing 2nd rated teams at a time that does not make sense to the top teams in the world. It just shows how the whole system could not act as "check and balance" to badly planned, ill timed tours which is only going to provide the wrong perception to our players.

So to blame the national coach is not right. The system did not intellectually engage the coach to discuss the plan of the tours and constructively modify it to suit the need requirements of all parties concerned. I presume this is why we have not progressed to the top world rankings when our own officials from the top to bottom cannot put together plans to take us there. Absolutely sad to what is happening with the national team.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On tours playing mediocre hockey teams - "There must be problems in the team management".

The wisdom of the senior national team tours - "Timing, countries & opponents", was the title of my article dated 18th July 2010, which i hoped would stir some thinking in the team management and MHF. It would seem there is "lethargic" thinking in MHF as they continue their 2nd-rated thinking of playing warm-up matches with 2nd rate teams ie those that are behind them in the world ranking. It seems to be a ploy of creating a "feel good" factor by playing with such teams so as to give the impression that all is well with our senior team.

In the China tour the national team played China, Pakistan 2nd team and Russia; all behind us in ranking. Following which they went on an Australian tour when the Australian national team was already in Europe for their warm-up matches before the Champions Trophy. Again they played with clubs and teams which probably the team management believes would not stretch the Malaysian national team or provide humiliating defeats. A purposeful way of creating the "feel good" factor for the players, MHF hierarchy and the hockey fans. This is probably a neat way of "pulling wool over the fans eyes".

Today they left for an European tour. The 1st leg is Germany, where they are playing 4 club teams and then fly to Ireland to play a few Test matches before coming back to Europe ie Paris to play a 5 nation Invitational tournament. Again the timing of the tour "stinks" ie after the Champions Trophy and this may explain why countries like Germany, Holland, Spain and England do not bother to even consider playing Malaysia. Further the hockey season in Europe coincides with winter and playing clubs in summer is only providing pre-season practice for the club teams. The question of flying across to Ireland without stopping over and playing England seem to reflect "dullness" in the mental faculties of the team management. Having omitted England may be out of a "fear" factor and the fact they come back to Europe for the 5 nation tournament calls into question the "zig zagging" route they have employed is a further proof of the "dullness" that is prevailing in the organisational aspects of the team.

To top it all the Malaysian team is again playing with countries that are below them in world ranking. Why this diabolical thinking that is prevailing in the team management? It is probable they want to have the "feel good" factor of making sure they are not pitted with high ranking teams and get thrashed. It is this "fear" factor that is taking Malaysian hockey through some strange process of preparation by playing with mediocre teams that is giving a false sense of believe and hope. Eventually the truth shall be known when the Commonwealth and Asian Games begin. By then it will be too late and the team management would start reading their prepared script of: "these are the best players we have and what else can we expect".

At that stage we would have forgotten the strange process of preparation and playing with mediocre teams in the hope we can win gold in the Asian Games and qualify for the Olympics. This "cock eyed" outlook is killing Malaysian hockey and only encouraging the good resources of the country to go to waste. The planning that has gone into the 3 tours gives the impression that: "someone cannot even organise a drink up in a brewery". It shows the shallow thinking that is prevailing with the team management.

To make matters even worst, for the preparation of the Commonwealth and Asian Games following the European tour, ie for nearly 2 months, the national team would not have had any warm up matches. MHF is desperately trying to put together some invitational tournament as an 11th hour "saving grace" exercise. It calls into question what the team management have been doing all this while? It is very unlikely that the national coaches have screwed up all the planning and the tours. The belief is that these matters have been under the jurisdiction of the national team manager and apparently he has been using his personal contacts in Europe and Ireland to facilitate matters. This in a way has sidelined the coaches and the MHF administration and has created the "feel good" syndrome.

Psychologically, these sorts of activities are usually undertaken in view of the "fear" factor. Probably, the team manager did not want to be put in a corner to answer for the performance of the team if they have humiliating defeats during their warm-up matches if they play the top teams. Maybe the preparation period is so long and the stress levels would also be long. Therefore playing mediocre teams helps to minimise the stress levels. It is this sort of selfish thinking that goes to jeopardise Malaysian hockey.

The disaster in this whole episode of preparing the team for the Commonwealth and Asian Games is that neither NSC nor MHF had taken the trouble to review what exactly the team management are doing. If there was a process of accounting for their plans then both NSC and MHF would have questioned why the national team is embarking on tours and playing with mediocre teams. Each tour runs into hundreds of thousands of ringgits and one would have thought such a basic question would have been asked. It would seem that NSC is just prepared to spend the money so long as it was budgeted. It would seem there is no need for further justification, so the national team has just got to spent the money. This "tidak apa" attitude by NSC compounded by the failure of MHF Team Management Committee (TMC) to act properly shows why the national team is not going to succeed in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Lets better appreciate the fact that when we are not playing with the best, we are deluding ourselves by playing with teams at lower rank than us so as we have the "feel good" fact, which is ultimately going to destroy the future of Malaysian hockey's quest for international success. This "shortsighted" thinking of the team management is further putting Malaysian hockey 5 to 10 years behind and it is a matter of time before we will join the ranks of 18 to 20th in world ranking.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

No end to the "Inquisition without authority" saga.

To many, when a decision is made, they are prepared to accept it even if it is not in their favour. Some would moan and groan about it but eventually accept the decision. There would inevitably be a selected few who believe that the decision was not fair because they think that the "decision maker" may not be fully furnished with the pertinent information to make the right decision. They continue the "fight" and provide the necessary undercurrent to keep the issues under "boil". It is their hope that the subject matter would be revisited and the decision may change. This itself is the making of a "saga".

In my last article titled: "Inquisition" without authority on the aspect of payments to Project 2013 hockey players, dated 30th July 2010, there was an unusual volume of "traffic" in comments on the matter. Clearly there are factions; ie on one side there seem to be the pro Project 2013 management team supporters and on the other side is the support for MHF Treasurer, President KLHC who is concurrently Vice President of KLHA and the teacher coach of Bukit Jalil Sports School. I am naming these people based on what i have made out of the various comments.

The issue here is that at the last MHF Council meeting, TM as President of MHF had informed the Council that the complaint of non payment to players of the Project 2013 for the SEA Games in Thailand by the team management does not arise based on their investigation. In fact at the meeting TM announced bonuses for the Sea Games Project 2013 team. For all purposes the matter is settled but the undercurrents seem to give another impression. The "big ticket" here is the anticipated meeting that is being planned after Raya where the TM is supposed to be meeting the Project 2013 players. There is this notion that the truth would emerge at that gathering as some of the players would "spill the beans" to the TM. 'Presto !" the truth would finally be known, at least in the minds of people who are committed for such a scene.

Driven by this belief, these people have kept the issue fully ignited. On the other side, the supporters of Project 2013 team management take the view that these are fabricated stories that are being "bandited" around to discredit the team manager and coach in the Project 2013 team. The shocking aspect is that the team manager of the Project 2013 team was not on that trip and therefore implicating him is a travesty of justice. Effectively making such an accusation is making the case look extremely fragile. As for the coach, if people are aware of the system of responsibilities created among the team management, then they would know that the coach has nothing to do with the funds.

Maybe, if there is still a "story" to be told and if it does really matter in the minds of certain people, then it is important that matters must be done the proper and formal way through MHF. Their covert style operation will only create more unwarranted gossip that is only going to "stir" the issue further to the detriment of hockey. One thing that has happened is that so much "mud" has been thrown there would be a sense of distrust created between some players and the Project 2013 team management. This distrust would have repercussions both on and off the field. This is what has been created and the continuous undercurrent would further catalyst this distrust. This would only go to disrupt team unity and ultimately performance. So why then worry about the future of hockey when the very fabric of the future is being destroyed today?

To avoid such circumstances, it is imperative that all relevant parties ie MHF Treasurer, the President of KLHC, the teacher coach from BJSS, the Project 2013 players and the team management be gathered with MHF, NSC and Ministry of Education officials to settle this issue once and for all. If the relevant parties are found misleading Malaysian hockey they must be immediately suspended pending disciplinary action by their employers. If they do not have employers then from Malaysian hockey. This also goes for players too.

We have to take such decisive actions or not when we allow such matters to linger it creates greater problems and destroys the very purpose of setting up Project 2013 team. The process also weeds out people and players who are out to create problems, thereby permitting a smoother journey for the future. Failure to act by MHF is only endorsing such negative acts and undermining the TM authority as President of MHF. MHF cannot turn a blind eye especially when its own Committee member, key officials of Malaysian hockey from an Affiliate and Sports school plus one of their high performance team management are implicated with stories notwithstanding the official position of TM as President of MHF on that matter. This has to stop and MHF must act promptly and decisively.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Inquisition" without authority on the aspect of payments to Project 2013 hockey players.

The MHF Treasurer by virtue of his position has "ostensible" authority to carry out his day to day functions in maintaining the financial records of MHF. If for reasons he believes that there are some financial irregularities, he may have the right to inquire from the parties who have purportedly submitted the claim. If he is still not satisfied with the responses then he has to go back to the Management Committee and obtain consent for an investigation by him or a selected panel of persons. Failing to do that would mean that any investigation the Treasurer decided unilaterally may only bring the whole matter to disrepute, thereby implicating the Management Committee.

Matters got complicated when the Treasurer solicited support of the President of Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC), who concurrently is the Vice President of the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA) to assists him in the investigation. There may be a degree of wisdom as some of the players involved could be from Kuala Lumpur and therefore the presence of a key representative from there could assists the investigation. Unfortunately when this person got entangled in this investigation, he failed to appreciate that in widening the net the MHF Treasurer failed to act properly in getting the proper approval. Therefore the President of KLHC has knowingly or unknowingly involved himself in a process that has no proper mandate or is not even a party to.

The matter gets further into uncharted areas as these 2 officials were trying to extract written statements from players who were involved with the Project 2013 squad. Uncharted as the players did not have their parents or club representatives or Project 2013 representatives in such meetings. Acting without mandate itself is bad enough but endeavouring to extract statements from Project 2013 players without the recognition of the due process is blatantly ignoring the rules of natural justice. Effectively these 2 officials have dragged the young kids into a campaign of trying to discredit certain person or persons without the proper procedure and making these players victims of their overzealous emotions. What they have said to the players or the promises that were made is something that is going to bug the hockey community for ages to come. More so as these officials may have sown seeds of distrust with the players on the Project 2013 team management which itself may have long term repercussions.

Are we developing a team for the future or are we creating a team that may not have faith and trust on its team officials? This becomes a fundamental matter as what these 2 officials endeavoured to achieve apparently did not have an iota of truth. I understand this is what the TM as President of MHF told the Council Meeting early this week. Therefore why in the 1st place were these 2 senior hockey officials on such a "gango" run with such information? Why does a KL official get carried away to personally indulge in such unhealthy actions? Is it all a campaign to discredit the people involved in Project 2013 as totally untrustworthy? No one is saying that it should not be done rather do it the proper way following the process that conforms to the constitution and rules of natural justice.

This is obviously a broader vendetta campaign and there is no doubt that there would be many more. If energies are dissipated on such wasteful activities, it only goes to show how much genuine interest these people have in uplifting the standard of Malaysian hockey. I really wonder why are they in Malaysian hockey? Maybe they themselves also do not exactly know the answer. It could be to create the chaos so as MHF does not function properly and therefore reflects badly on the current administrators. I am sure the TM knows all these and maybe he in his regal style is giving them enough room for them to recognise their own selfish acts and hopefully get enlightened. Hopefully they change for the better.

At this stage the Project 2013 team must be given all the support as the future of Malaysian hockey rests with them. Yes ! we have to be the watchful "eyes and ears" to ensure the team stays to its objective by providing constructive comments. Lets not go astray and waste time and resources on wrongful issues. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Come and help Malaysian hockey to be world class.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Amending the MHF Constitution - The "Wayang Kulit" that shall be played by certain Affiliates and elected officials.

The debate is on with MHF contemplating making changes to their Constitution. I personally think it should be comprehensive but news from the grapevines seems to indicate that the changes are "mild" ie a realistic approach recognising the requirements of MHF as it postures to capitalise on its immediate future. It is about an administrative "clean-up" to strengthen the proper functioning of MHF rather than being riddled with people who sway on sentiments to win support as opposed to the merits of the matter.

While i am not privy to the changes, the issue that has been talked about is the post of Secretary and Treasurer of MHF. Currently these are elected posts but apparently the TM as President has made it known that he would want the positions to be appointed. A Committee headed by the Vice President of Special Projects have made their recommendation on the matter too.

The wisdom for such appointments seems to come probably based on the 2 year experience of the TM as President and he must have his reasons. At the last BGM 2 years ago despite the number of factions there was no line-up of candidates by any particular groups. Since the TM became President unopposed and the then incumbent Deputy President lost the election, everyone else stood on their own "ticket". Effectively there was not a "team" to manage MHF, rather it was individuals with different views that tried to come together and administer MHF. This in a way permitted MHF to be pulled in different directions and more often there was "fire fighting" undertaken by the TM to bring sanity to MHF.

Fundamentally the key posts in the administration of an organisation are the President, Secretary and Treasurer. The President as the Head should obviously rely on the other 2 key people and more often than not it should be his people. This is where the issue of competency and speaking the same "language" combined with loyalty are vital ingredients to ensure the administration is properly undertaken. When the time comes for the President to state that "the bug stops with him", he knows that it is his people who have done or not done the job and the responsibility squarely rests with him and no one else.

Therefore when one Affiliate went publicly to question the wisdom of constitutional changes to pave the way for such appointments with the rationale that the future may not have "checks and balances", was he trying to start an exercise of a debate or canvassing support to derail the amendments? Whatever the motives it must be seen in the light of what is good for MHF and of the President who has decided to dedicate his time and resources to the game. If the Affiliates have doubts on him then why in the first place have him as their President? If the Affiliates want him then it is only fair that he be granted his wishes which is not to propagate himself or to enable him to sustain power but rather to ensure the sport organisation he heads functions professionally for the sports and the nation itself. Is that too much to ask from the MHF Affiliates?

My worry is that the upcoming Council Meeting where support would be sought to have an EGM to pass the constitutional changes, may turn into a "circus". Such things are not new as the Coaching Committee recently have had such history and it would not be surprising to see some of the "actors" from there reigniting the scene here. Using the excuse of a "healthy debate", people of the same kind may try to arouse feelings in the hope there would be a "fire". I am sure the TM is an "old hand" in such issues and having had his stint in other places would know how to defuse it. My belief is that at end of the day, as part of their "wayang kulit" strategy by show of hands, the amendments would be endorsed to be forwarded to an EGM for approval.

While waiting for the EGM, certain Affiliates and officials by covert operations may try to canvass to derail the proposal. Their key interest here would be to ensure that their friends can be elected to the posts, thereby they can have the needed accessibility. It is this selfishness based on self interest that is destroying Malaysian hockey. This is their reason to ensure that the positions are not filled by way of appointments. Their strategy in "wayang kulit" would also push for a "secret ballot" in voting for the amendments so as the Affiliates can be sure that nobody would know how each Affiliate has voted. This is going to be the crucial aspect of their strategy to succeed.

In a nutshell, it must be known that most of the Affiliates do nothing much for Malaysian hockey. Some even do not have a league and some even find it hard to have regular meetings. Yet! they become "king makers" in the hour where they are supposed to play an effective role for the betterment of the game in the country. They "politick" that provides the much needed "oxygen" to sustain their presence and ultimately their crooked sense of thinking only goes to destroy whatever is being built for the game.

This is where the Affiliates have to make their choices and that is if they want the TM to continue the good work he has done to date for MHF. Then they must wholeheartedly support the constitutional amendments and carry it through with the two third majority. Failing to provide that support would mean that we may lose the distinguished services of the TM and probably bring Malaysian hockey to the "Dark Ages".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The wisdom of the senior national hockey team tours - " Timing, countries and opponents".

" To become the best, you must play against the best". This is what good sports administrators and coaches tend to strategise as they prepare their teams for vital tournaments that have significant bearing to world ranking or to build-up a future generation of world class players. This means the meticulous planning must be done in advance taking account of the top countries in the game particularly their own schedules eg hockey season, invitation tournaments plus whether their national team is in training, in order to incorporate our visiting plans. This effectively means that we need inroads with the team management of the teams we plan to have warm-up matches with including their respective hockey administrators. A lot of this rests on personal contacts where the major aspects are generally done by telephone calls and confirmed by e-mail. A distinct advantage of the electronic age.

This is where a good foreign national coach comes in handy as his peers are usually in similar positions in the other teams. This facilitates the personal contacts as the fraternity tends to be helpful to one another. Unfortunately our chief national coach has been out of the international circuit since 2002 while his assistant, having the exposure, is reluctantly kept away from important tournaments like the 2010 World Cup, other than for attending a coaching course. The lack of thought in exposing our local coaches at gatherings where the top coaches gather is a price we are paying today.

This "short sightedness" including the lack of a "will" to appoint a highly rated foreign coach only goes to show that we will not have the capacity to be a highly ranked world hockey nation. I say this because such foreign coaches bring with them not only the contacts but also the latest innovations in every facets of modern hockey. Unfortunately, we blur ourselves with such truth and get caught in a false web of thinking that our local coaches have the ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Australian, German, Dutch or Spanish national coaches.

Yes ! we can get there but it requires our coaches to get the appropriate qualification eg FIH Master Coach and the right exposure. In the past the pathway for them to get there has never been considered and this is where Malaysian hockey has suffered badly. The Coaching Committees were made up of people who lacked the foresight while the local coaches themselves were self contented not to pursue higher qualifications in coaching. All these get complicated when MHF and NSC appoint coaches without clear criteria on qualification, experience and success profile. Their ad-hoc thinking manner has allowed a "rojak" approach to the whole system that the aspect of meritocracy in sports has lost its actual meaning.

It is these finer points that have made planning in hockey suffer. We seem to have a 2nd rated thinking ie playing with 2nd rated teams in our build -up for vital tournament like the Asian Games that has a significant bearing to our pursuit of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games. So what have we done?

1. Go on a China tour recently when that country is not even in the top 10 in the world ranking. Further we play in a 4 nation tournament there with Russia which is ranked around the 25th in the world and Pakistan who literally sent a 2nd team as their 1st team was on a European tour. Honestly, we could not even defeat China in the final, who incidentally are ranked lower than us.

2. Now the team is on an Australian tour to play with the Australian Institute of Sports teams and various clubs. They are not playing with the Australian national team as they are away in Europe preparing for their Champions League. What is our national team's plan to achieve with this tour? Probably the satisfaction of having some sort of "good" feeling. Either they want good results or to avoid defeats of a thrashing score. Maybe it is this false sense of feeling that is blinding them to the reality of where Malaysian hockey is standing today.

3. Proposed tour to Europe and Ireland seems again to be omitting playing the top hockey nations there. The national team is playing club teams in Europe and matches against Ireland. They are hopeful to be invited to play at a 4 nation invitation tournament in France where their opponents could probably be France, Scotland and Ireland. Again they are teams that Malaysia believe they have an even chance of beating, thereby making their tour a success. It would seem that the "feel good" feeling be created so as everyone is happy despite the standard of Malaysian hockey.

We just have to look at Pakistan, India and Japan who are already in Europe and are playing the top national teams there. The reason is that they have foreign coaches who are taking advantage of warm-up games for the top teams in Europe before the Champions League. There seems to be a careful and progressive thought process in what these countries from Asia want to do.

The question we have to ask is whether these 3 tours are really beneficial for our national team? I believe the team management and maybe the money wasting people in NSC must obviously think so. Maybe it is an exercise of confidence building and therefore the players and team management have a better state of mind to perform at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games later in the year. A twisted sense of thinking that is only helping our boys to be soft in their mental state by misleading them that they are good. Creating a "state of denial" by creating this "feel good" feeling is a hopeless way of giving the impression of the capabilities of our national team.

Seriously, i think lets start writing off our chances in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games as i believe our preparation is not taking the right approach. If we want to pamper our team then it would seem that there would only be "softies" who cannot perform with the teams who daily practice to be top ranking nations in the world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

As MHF progresses, an official website is imminent.

In this modern age, information flow is generally on a real time basis. As things happen it is reported and this in a way provides the standard for such services. Waiting for days for the main media to pick up the news or to remain at the mercy of bloggers would mean that the entities concerned do not appreciate or understand the importance of timely information. If that is not the case then they are in circumstances where the implementation of such information technological system is caught in a web of uncertainties. Whichever way it obviously would not flavour the organisation with sufficient creditability, as prima facie it would give the impression that the set-up is caught in a time warp with people from the "dinosaur" era.

Having stated that it must be recognised that since the TM has taken over as President of MHF, in the last 2 years MHF has been relatively busy. The addition of a hard working General Manager has helped the administration to get things moving and endeavoured to service the areas that need attention. There is no doubt that there has been a significant improvement in the overall administration.

The area that needs urgent attention is the aspect of communication. Constitutionally, i am sure the Management Committee is keeping the Affiliates well informed through their correspondence, meetings like Council and so forth. The area in which i feel there exists a vacuum is with the public. Unless the public have their ears fixed to the ground, more often they are not informed of the developments in MHF. The danger of having "ears on the ground" is that sometimes the news can get distorted particularly when there is no official version on the matter. This permits speculation and as a result rumours which themselves can be damaging. More often it can encourage in-fighting.

What surprises me is our country has gone in a big way with information technology. There is the Multimedia Super Corridor with Cyberjaya at the heart of it. We have Multi Media University and numerous other institutions offering various IT courses. Yet ! it would seem IT has not got the attention of Malaysian sports. Our hockey stadiums do not have wireless links and therefore in modern hockey Malaysia is deprived of an essential tool in perfecting the game strategy with our opponents. As we build 1st class facilities we seem to have forgetten the fundamentals of equipping them with the latest state of the art technology. Yes ! we have the "shell" but not the things that make the "shell" great.

In not having such facilities for Malaysian hockey, we are denying our officials, coaches and players to further enhance themselves with technology. As the sporting world progresses with the latest technology, it would seem we have stagnated. Intervention by video reference has come into hockey and cricket. We have world class grounds for these games, yet not the latest technology for video reference. The saddest aspect is nothing concrete is being done. Obviously, the argument would be cost. I wonder whether such an excuse can be prolonged if we are serious of wanting to be of world standard.

Malaysian hockey of late has been busy with the 1MAS Hoki programme, Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy, Tun Razak tournament, Junior Hockey League, Sukma, Project 2013 tour to Europe, Senior team tour to China, National and Asian Indoor hockey tournament. With all these happening the information to the public is limited in the absences of a MHF website. It would seem that MHF had entered into an MOU to implement the website some 12 to 15 months ago, yet there seems to be no sign of its appearance. MHF can claim a lot of things but if it does not have an official website which is regularly updated, then it cannot claim to be in the forefront of the latest development in hockey.

What surprises me is the absence of a key MHF official taking responsibility in its implementation. MHF must learn the art of communicating through its website, thereby cutting off the "hide and seek" that is being played by various officials to the detriment of Malaysian hockey. Indeed a progressive National Sports Association would create a hierarchy security access for each Committee in MHF to update their respective fields. For example for the Senior team on tour to China, an appropriate format be created in the website for the national coach to daily update the team's activities in China. It is a simple process that can become a habitual exercise if we get used to it.

Unfortunately, it is the simple and important things in life that seem to be forgotten. Such being the case it gives rise to a vacuum and the responsibility of accountability through a real time process of updating website is left unattended. The fact that instantaneous reporting is brought into the life of coaches and officials itself creates the discipline for responsible accounting. This itself keeps the public updated with hockey information and in a way becomes a major tool for drawing the public to the game.

MHF is doing a lot of things and i have do doubt it is in the best interest of the game. The one thing MHF cannot afford to compromise is a well designed purposeful website reflecting every facet of MHF. If this does not take off, it would only be detrimental to the progressive image of MHF and ultimately Malaysian hockey.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

1MAS Hoki - "Creating the future generation for Malaysian hockey".

These days the standard response we get from coaches and sports administrators when the teams fail to perform is: "These are the best players available". It is no longer the excuses of lack of fitness or match fatigue or lack of exposure or not peaking at the right time, rather it is not having sufficiently good players to compete in the world arena. This seems to confront games like football, hockey, cricket ie most of the team games.

This obviously puts the whole focus on the "Development" programmes of the various sports. When a coach says: "This is the best we have", it literally means that past development programmes did not produce and breed the talents that were required ie failure in the "grassroot" development. This essentially means that " the grass shoots were not chosen properly for the roots to grow well enough to support the new grass ". This compounded with the lack of elements like sunshine, water, fertiliser and good gardening care may not have produced the sort of "grass" required. Fundamentally, we do not have world class players in team games because our "grassroot development" has been a failure.

I raise this as an example because of late Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) with financial support from the Prime Minister's Office have come up with an elaborate nationwide hockey development programme. Apparently MHF have created a system from the States to the Secretariat to a Task Force inbuilt with monitoring and scrutinising procedures in accounting for the progress for developing talents based on the monies spent. This whole programme is anticipated to cover a period of at least 5 years.

MHF has referred this as the "1MAS Hoki" and all credit must go to the TM as MHF's President and also to the Government who has time and time again shown its commitment to young Malaysians and sports. MHF is aided by an able General Manager, while the Chairman of the Development Committee must be recognised for putting together the paper, which itself is practical and has achievable capacity. It is not "a pie in the sky" sort of project, rather it is a project where those who are involved in implementation are financially paid for their services. It is not a voluntary scheme that depends on goodwill of people. This is the principle difference ie everyone becomes an "employee" of 1MAS Hoki. A corporate flavour has been introduced into development of hockey.

The key aspect is whether 1MAS Hoki has got the right people to do the job. This is important as the game of modern hockey has transformed where the requirements have also changed. What is important is 1MAS Hoki cannot carry with it "dinosaurs" ie people who are already extinct to hockey. This is going to be one of the key ingredients. More so as the programme actually targets players for the 2017 Junior World Cup. This is 7 years away and the people involved must have the passion, endurance, hunger for hockey knowledge, and, above all, the psychology to deal with young kids.

We have to admire MHF for working on a long term programme and the PM's Office to provide the support. We cannot in 7 years repeat what the coaches are saying now ie "This is the best we have". Rather it must be in the position where the coaches must be saying: " There seems to be a competition for places" as the team performs. To get there it requires careful planning and implementation with a continuous review process against set targets. This effectively calls for different teams at every facet thereby ensuring the processes get their fair attention. I believe this is something that is receiving its due consideration in MHF through an independent Task Force.

There is no doubt that there will be critics to the 1MAS Hoki programme. All the more the programme has to succeed to ensure the detractors do not have their day. What is important is putting the emphasis in the right areas rather than going down a track like what was done in the past. If so the past will continue to haunt us. There is the need to look "afresh" to start with. Iam helpful in making some suggestions.

1. 1MAS Hoki must lay down criteria for scouting for players. They must omit players who are already in State Project Schools and Sports Schools. They must create new players afresh ie the target group, which means the criteria must cover issues such as physique, physical ability, sporting flair and any other relevant aspects that could help them to become hockey players. Identifying such young kids is like getting the appropriate "root" to be planted.

This is the starting point and scouting the young kids to make them hockey players is something which cannot be compromised. Talent scouts should be coached with the necessary criteria to ensure everyone works uniformly on the selecting process.

2. Once the young kids are identified it is imperative that player's database be set-up incorporating their anatomical and bio-medical details plus continues progress reports on their training and game play.

Players performance history is fundamental in modern hockey and this program can become the foundation to set this up to track players profile in the future.

3. The programme must have targets over the short, medium and long term. These targets must be measured by independent teams and reported including the follow-up action. The programme itself must have sufficiently built action plans if planned targets are not achieved.

4. 1MAS Hoki must create its own website to highlight their programme and also use it as a basis for coaches to report the progress of their centres. This transparent approach provides an open system for people to follow the progress.

5. The programme must only recruit coaches who are also computer literate and therefore can, on a "real time" basis, update progress of the program and players' database.

6. 1MAS Hoki must also ensure that they send sufficient of their coaches for FIH Development coaching courses and ensure that they get the necessary qualification. Indeed this must be scheduled into the targets of achievement.

7. 1MAS Hoki must have its own league either as a carnival or zonal for inter development centre games. This would provide a better yardstick of measurement how the program is doing nationwide.

These are ideas that have spontaneously wormed their way out. There would be many more and it is important that if we want hockey to flourish in the years to come in Malaysia, we too must provide a helping hand. At least we have to come up with some workable ideas.

Good Luck to 1MAS Hoki and Malaysian hockey.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dilemma in Malaysian Sports - Part 1 "Old versus Modern times"

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, when resources for sports were tough to come by, Malaysian sports were doing extremely well particularly in football, hockey, badminton and athletics and in some ways cycling. During this period the officials of the various National Sports Associations (NSA) and sometimes even the players had to solicit for support in order to participate in the various games. Nothing came easy as the players had to maintain a job to sustain themselves as salary and training allowances were not a norm in those days. Officials had to be creative to turn to philanthropists and supporters with revenuer generating ideas to ensure that their sports still kept flying the national colours. In short nothing came the easy way.

The struggles of the past only meant that the Government in its infinite wisdom for the interest of further developing sports felt it appropriate to put in the much needed resources. Today with National Sports Council (NSC), players salaries, training allowances to NSAs staff salaries to that of coaches and their assistants to full board & lodging culminating with overseas tours are all borne by Government. NSC has stretched their involvement not only subsidising costs of organising sporting events but also actively involved in development for the next generation of sportspersons. This is further complimented by National Sports Institute (NSI) who take into account the medical, fitness, nutritional aspects to sports science, and information technology. In a nutshell the Government has provided a comprehensive package to the Malaysian sporting fraternity and their sole job is to train and perform to achieve the desired results. In fact the Government has taken it another step further by providing various incentives for winning medals and some have life span coverage. Again, in short in today's environment everything is made so much easier for Malaysian sportspersons and their NSAs.

The popular maxim of " no pain no gain" seems to have come to haunt Malaysia's sporting success. When life was extremely tough for our sports officials and our sportspersons in the 50s, 60s & 70s, it would seem to have been the glorious era of Malaysian sports. Malaysian football qualified for 2 Olympics ie 1972 with Datuk M Chandran and 1980 with Datuk Soh Chin Aun while neither South Korea nor Japan were our nemesis then. In badminton we were regularly crowning the All England titles and monopolising the European circuit. We were always looking good at the Thomas Cup. In hockey, since 1956 we were at the Olympics and until the early 80s at the World Cup. At athletics Tan Sri Dr Jega, Rajamani, Nashatar Singh, Subramaniam, Asir Victor and Ishtiaq Mobarak kept the golds coming. Ask these people how difficult it was to work or study and train plus find the resources to go for competition. They did not have NSC or NSI or its equivalent. They had the discipline. the dedication and determination to succeed because of their passion and, above all, the love of the nation. It was a painful yet rewarding process but they knew it was all about sacrifice for the country. The pain of sports officials and sportspersons was what brought the gains for the country. The rewards they probably got was an official dinner and maybe an engraved gift which, more often than not, was a watch.

Today with NSC, NSI and the various corporate sponsorships, Malaysian sports is not giving the sort of "returns" for the investments being put in. Life is made so simple and indeed there is not much of stress or painful process for the sports officials or the sportspersons. Their job is made that much easier and yet the desirable results are not forthcoming. Other than having world champions in men's badminton and ladies' squash with some success in lawn bowl and in cycling, we have not at all fared well. In football we are well into the 140 arena in world ranking while in hockey we are failing to qualify for the Olympics and World Cup. With badminton there is too much of "hot and cold" talk that we are falling victims to teams that we had thrashed in the past. Athletics has become history. Maybe because there is no pain and such the gains are difficult to come by. If they do, the sportspersons are lavished with titles and loads of goodies from monies, land and sometimes even houses.

With so much going, one wonders why there is no avalanche of success. Does our society lack the hunger to succeed or is it that our system of breeding our sportsperson is wrong? Maybe there is too much of interference by NSC and NSI that our NSAs have totally surrendered their rights to administer their sports. Something that is difficult to comprehend because NSC and NSI are there to uplift the sports and they are an envy of many foreign teams. They generally fill the vacuum that the NSAs usually overlook or does not take the trouble to cater for,and that is in development ie the future generation. If so, why is this not paying off? Maybe as Malaysians we have got it wrong because we do not appreciate and understand the concept of "excellence" the benchmark for success. Something we should start to ponder about and then start the needful process of making the changes.