Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is the Sport Schools right in recalling the hockey players?

Below is an anonymous comment i had received for another article which had no relevance to that topic. However the content of the comment seems to take on the Sport Schools and has forthrightly questioned the schools' Administrators on whether they are following the objective of why the sport schools exist.

This seems to be part of a continuous clash between the Administrators of Sport Schools and Malaysian hockey administration. From the onset it has to be recognised that Malaysian hockey administration in this context means National Sports Council (NSC) ie the "Pelapis Programme", Team Management of Project 2013 hockey team and certain Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) teams.

The first clash took place when a certain MHL team wanted Sport Schools players to play for their team in the MHL tournament. Strangely, the answer that came was a "NO", inclusive of those who had finished their SPM. The reason was that the Sport School was having a tour to Sabah and these players were involved. This was a reasoning that could not hold any rationale, as the boys who finished their SPM were technically not in the Sport School. The school should be taking the players still with the school for such a tour. Still it was the reason and something certain coaches found difficult to swallow.

The misunderstanding did not stop there. Now the Project 2013 team has players from both the Sport Schools and they had began training last Sunday. Suddenly the players were recalled and not given permission to continue training. The players had indicated that the school Administrators were keen that the boys plan for their SPM studies and that was the reason for the recall.

Below is the text of the comment and in "bold green" is the issue pertaining to the misunderstanding per the anonymous writer. Question is whether that is the "whole truth" of the story or is there more to it. Continue reading.


Since the end of MHL, Malaysian hockey lovers was praising the MHF committee for their wonderous magnificent job done.

And everyone is also looking forward to our Malaysian Senior Team under the leadership of Stephen van Huizen and Beng Hai and Junior team (Project 2013) under the leadership of Dharma in action in the Quadrangular games at the Tun Razak Stadium March 4-7 2010.

All is going on fine with the senior team but what about the Junior Team. 34 names were listed in the first phase selection together with BJSS and BPSS boys of which some are still in form five this year. BJSS unlike other schools has again refrained their boys from attending the Malaysian Junior hockey team training. Previously, BJSS have also refrained these boys from participation in the MHL league in which BPSS and Setapak boys participated. These boys were informed to tell the Junior World Cup Coach that they are withdrawing themselves from the Junior team to concentrate on their studies and exam this year. The School have not realised that day by day they are killing the instinct of these boys who have come from various parts of the country at a very young age leaving their parents, brothers, sisters and all in the family to physically and mentally prepare and play for the country. Its not paying off.

Education Minister cum Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said today that they are ready to revamp and support school's sports programme. He said that sports lies in the effective implementation of the programme at school grassroot levels to churn out world beaters and it is compulsory for every school for bigger collaboration in revamping the school sports system. Tan Sri also said that in Malaysia, teachers spent extra time giving tuition but in other countries, they are on the field.

In htpp://, Mrs Ching Leng Sim, the principal said that the school is committed to producing outstanding sportsmen and women making BJSS vision statement "BJSS Generates World Class Athletics" a reality. She also said the academic scheduling is flexible so that it is conducive to the training and competition needs of the students. Contra to her statement, the school has arranged tight timetable with additional classes in the morning, evening and night apart from their normal classes all day to prevent students from attending the national training.

The basic fundamental objective of having a national sports school is to prepare and deliver young promising sportsmen and women for the country. The earlier they represent the country, the better they will perform in years to come as they will have enough international exposure and strength to outbeat the opponents

BJSS and BPSS has been undisputed producing finest junior athletics in the past but the path has been seen fading as they are heading the students in the wrong direction. Mrs Chin says in her website that BJSS is providing excellent education to prepare aspiring for a life after sports. This clearly shows she has lost the national sports schools identity and her credibility to lead the sports school to the highest level. She has lost the core values of a National Sports School and is not in line with the nation's interest, country's goal and ambition. Sports governing bodies like MSN, JPJS and KBS to look into this matter very very seriously and immediately. " (End of comment)

However, according to sources from the Sport Schools, their version of the story is different. They themselves are shocked as to all the fuss. The story that emerges from there seem to indicate that someone is attempting to "bulldoze" his way to get things done without following the procedures which safeguard the best interest of the players ie both as sportspersons and students.

Apparently the following points must be considered before apportioning blame:
  1. The Project 2013 team training commenced on Sunday ie 21st February.

  2. The letter with training schedule from NSC was dated Friday 19th February and only sent out on Monday 22nd February.

  3. This did not give the Sport Schools the time to organise themselves as the training had commenced without their knowledge ie to reschedule lessons for players with the necessary teachers and hopefully to fit into the Project 2013 training programme would not be an easy task.

  4. After all the Sport School has to look into the students' best interests ie sports and studies, which is not an easy responsibility.

This therefore begs the question whether NSC and the Project 2013 Team Management did it the right way. Perhaps what they are facing is the consequences of not getting things done in an organised and proper fashion. To start training without going through the process and procedure in a timely manner with parties that are the core element in the chain ie Sport Schools, is definitely a breach of basic rules of management.

If this information is factual then i think the Sport School cannot be blamed for recalling the players. The Sport Schools have an onerous task and they have to carry it out carefully. In this instance, what they did was right in the best interest of the students. In the short term what the Sport School did may have disrupted training but what they have done is to ensure that policies of the Sport Schools are followed and safeguarded, something the Schools Administrators must be praised for.

All these could have been avoided if NSC and Project 2013 Team Management had sat and talked to Sport Schools in advance so that they could get their act together and plan accordingly. The attitude of "bulldozing" and thereafter starting a "finger pointing" exercise would only create more "wounds" and problems for the future. Finally the people who are supposed to see hockey flourish may in fact be unintentionally destroying it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Part 1 - Surprising ! MHF is still undertaking its tasks despite the "shortcomings" of majority of its elected officials.

It is people that matters in an organisation. One may have the best of intentions and the resources but if you do not have the right people working cohesively as a team, nothing can be done properly. Even what is done would take greater pain and effort if only a few have to bear the burden of what would otherwise be done by many. This is why from the onset a team must be put together and elected, so the team knows it is the joint and several responsibility of each and everyone to make things work.

This now brings me to MHF. About 17 months ago there was a furor of who should lead MHF. There was utter disappointment with the previous regime and there were cries for change. Somehow, depending which version one subscribes to, the TM signified his intention to become President of MHF. Obviously, everyone knew he would not be challenged and it was the BGM who would endorse him as the President. As the TM, and being regal in nature, he was already fully cognizant of the prevailing politics in the election process and he kept his distance. The net result was a "hodge-podge" of people elected, each carrying his own "baggage" which has "weighed" down MHF.

Effectively 10 people were to be elected from President to Treasurer, of which 2 of the Vice Presidents (VPs) were to be from the states of Sabah and Sarawak. The TM as promised has kept to his word and moved MHF accordingly. Some believe he may be slow while most think that under the circumstances MHF was at, and is, the TM has done extremely well. Beyond this the 2 VPs, one heading the Finance Committee and the other the Competitions Committee, seem to have undertaken their tasks satisfactorily. On the balance of the 7 personalities, the underlying view points may summarise the predicament prevailing in MHF:

  • Deputy President - A person who can work hard and run around physically to get things done. More often his unwarranted comments or actions draw publicity plus controversy which tend to give the impression of the lack of material in him to hold the post. Yet he is courageous and had the guts to take on the incumbent Deputy President and win the election.Unfortunately he is easily swayed on matters without weighing the merits or demerits of the issues.

  • VP as Head of Medical Committee - Longest serving VP, however lately has been embroiled on an issue pertaining to seating arrangements at the MHL final. Prior to which he was rumoured to have made unsavory remarks on a coach who had served the nation as a player with the most number of "caps". Indeed his Medical Committee's existence and role has also come into question. The bigger picture of him not doing anything for MHF has become a talking point.

  • VP for Special Projects - Nothing "special" has taken place with him as a newcomer to MHF. Apparently he handled his task as an assistant manager of the national team at the World Cup qualifier fairly well. Unfortunately his advise to various Committee Chairmen on the "prerogative rights" of the Chair has permitted some people to take it on a "literal interpretation" and do what they want. This confusion has created a far share of MHF's confusion.

  • 2 VPs - They are in the post by virtue of the constitution which requires Sabah and Sarawak respectively to hold the positions. Sadly, to date there has not been any contribution from them.

  • Secretary - A person who has learnt the fine art of survival in MHF. Friends to all and as such he has no discretion on information flow. He has been in the post for the last 2 terms and by "hook or by crook" he tries to get things done, though not necessarily properly. Even if it is not done he is not perturbed by it. It is in confusion he thrives as nobody becomes aware of his shortcomings. He enjoys the "trimmings" that come with the post ie allowance and a car. He seems much relieved with the coming of the new General Manager.

  • Treasurer - A person who is more caught with the politics of "power play" as he is the "eyes and ears" of vested interest groups. This was apparent at the latest Coaching Committee meeting. His understanding of finance and accounts is questionable including some of his actions. Maybe the presence of an Assistant Treasurer by appointment was a wise move by the TM.

Notwithstanding what is outlined above the main functions of MHF are still going on. This is where the TM has moved smartly by appointing the right person as the General Manager and setting him the direction to achieve the desired objectives. Indeed the GM's modus operandi has brought a professional transformation to the manning of the Secretariat. At least things are moving in an organised predictable manner. The overwhelming success of the MHL, from a re-engineered event of carnivals at various major towns coupled with live telecasts to a grand finale for the final, is a testimony that MHF is functioning.

This is a credit to the paid staff of MHF for holding the "fort". Critics would argue that they are paid to do their duties. Yes ! except that it is done with passion and in an accountable manner. Much cannot be said about the elected officials because they can argue that they are volunteers. They may have an argument but they must also understand that they had agreed to be elected and, as such, they have been "entrusted" to the posts. Therefore they have a "duty of care" to perform to the standard of a reasonable person holding that position. This they cannot run away from and they must know that they are in breach of the "trust" bestowed to them when they were elected.

Can you imagine if only the elected officials worked as a team and properly understood the TM's Vision of what he wants to achieve for Malaysian hockey. In the last 17 months we would have taken Malaysian hockey to greater heights. This is where the TM has to review his policy of non interference and ensure he has the right team ie the right person for the right position sharing his Vision, to bring Malaysia into the forefront of World hockey.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The "antics" of a long serving MHF Vice President.

On 12th February at the Tun Razak Stadium, the final of a well organised Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) event was undertaken meticulously to get the crowd to come back to support hockey. Many milestones were created in the MHL this year and the ultimate manifestation was the attendance at the terraces ie. nearly 5000 people. Something that was not seen for main years in Malaysian hockey.

While the people concerned were out making the sponsors and related parties welcome to the finals, trouble was brewing at a certain corner of the grandstand by an MHF official. He seemed disgusted that the sponsors were given the front row of the VIP seats with the TM, while he was to be seated at a row back. This arrangement was not to his satisfaction and probably "huffing and puffing" he left the stadium. While the MHL season's grand finale was going on, he was sighted at the Royal Selangor Club. This person is no other than the long serving MHF Vice President (VP), who is supposedly to head MHF's Medical Committee.

Why the fuss? Just because he is the VP, he must get the limelight? Mind you there were people there who had contributed significantly as sponsors to ensure that the MHL succeeds and surely they have "better and greater" rights for the event. If any, this VP should be asked what he has done for Malaysian hockey in his long serving period with MHF. Oh yes! maybe being vocal only!

If we track this VP's records, that in itself may speak for him. In the previous MHF's administration, he managed to be with the winning team but as time went on he "fell off' with the "powers" who were controlling MHF then. He was relieved from the key portfolio of Development Committee and given the mundane responsibility of Competitions Committee. In a way that worked to his benefit for it gave him the opportunity to think about taking on the Deputy President's post at the last MHF elections. Fortunately his relationship with a particular personality in Asian Hockey Federation (AFC) paved the way for a "peace talk" whereby he was instructed to remain as VP. The reason was not to split the votes for Deputy President and allow the incumbent to win. Obediently he followed suit but he still has not forgiven the person who went on to win the election for the Deputy President's post.

This view stems from the fact that in the latest round of "fiascoes" relating to the Coaching Committees "politicking" on the appointment of coaches, he took side with people in the Coaching Committee including those he had "fallen off" with in the previous administration. Sadly, it is not the decision he made that is being questioned rather it is the unsavoury remarks which constituted the reason against of one Malaysia's greatest hockey sons who had loyally served the nation for 15 years. The person concerned was the most capped national player and his record still illuminates brightly awaiting to be surpassed for the last 10 years. This is a person who with his employer TNB is undertaking nationwide the "Thunderbolt" Development programme for kids. In the heights of audacity, the Coaching Committee supported by this VP with his cynical view decided to drop this former hockey international from the national coaching list for the most absurd of reasons. It probably shows that the VP is a staunch "Machiavellian" ie. "the end justifies the means".

Such an outlook may be because this year is election year for MHF and there are rumours that the VP may still want to fulfill his original intention of becoming the Deputy President. I think that is perfectly right for people to aspire but the "means" is what becomes questionable. Apparently , throwing support to the Coaching Committee, the VP may have mended "fences" with his old foes and strengthened with some Affiliates to get the votes. The point being the VP has found the "common enemies" of the present Deputy President and hopefully with their support he may still achieve his dream. In the process knowingly or unknowingly one of Malaysia's hockey sons had his reputation hurt. Is that fair ?

The story does not end here as the VP has made his way to become one of the two team managers of the senior national team. Mind you, he was not nominated rather he volunteered for the position when a recommended candidate refused the nomination. Shocking to many was when he explained that it was always his wish to be a team manager and as such nobody protested. As an afterthought, there is a view how is he going to undertake this new task? To date, he has done nothing as Chairman of MHF's Medical Committee. There is even a suspicion whether he has a Committee. So why volunteer for the position?

The gossip that emerges seems to make reference to 2 tournaments where he wants to be seen to be leading the national team as manager. The 1st one is Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy, where he hopes to make an impact with His Highness Sultan of Perak and the other at his "ancestral" home ie India for the Commonwealth Games. Strangely both these events do not have an impact on Malaysia's ranking in world hockey but it would do wonders for his reputation. That of course is quite important.

The morale to the stories outlined above seems to provide an image that one can remain a long serving official of MHF by being vocal and at the right time making the right alliances. It is not about what one brings to MHF, rather it would seem what one gets out of MHF. In a way this probably explains why Malaysian hockey has suffered in recent years. What is incomprehensible is even those who had painstakingly worked for the good of Malaysian hockey with the best of intentions get their reputations "mutilated" by people whose interest is all about themselves. Is this not sad ? Yet, time and time again such people seem to maneuver and remain in power for the glamour. At the end it is Malaysian hockey that suffers.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The "games" officials play in the "after process" when players are selected for national hockey training.

If people are left to do their job, provided on the first place they were the right persons to do it, then interference into their actions should not be the norm. This is because the people given to do the job have been "entrusted" with the role and they must be given that right to carry out their duties. At the end of the day the "benefit-burden" of the task rests with them unless the people who have the tendency to interfere are prepared to share the responsibilities. Unfortunately such a basic rule is not enshrined in the thinking of a few key officials in MHF who i call the "interfering officials". On the benefit they are prepared to be "glory seekers" while on the burden they are ever ready to make someone else the scapegoat. This somehow has been the "backdrop" in MHF in the past and some are still hanging on to it as desperate measures.

The National Coach was "entrusted" to shortlist 25 to 30 players for national training based on performance at the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL). At this point i must state that the National Coach diligently did his job whether it was raining or shining. People who were at the matches would see this lonely figure with an umbrella sitting by himself and making notes. Indeed some have even told the story that if any of his friends come by he would politely walk away to another spot to continue his duty. This is the level of commitment and ethics he has applied in undertaking his "entrusted" duty. Some have nicknamed him the "Lone Ranger" except here he does not have "Tonto" ie his obedient assistant, because of unusually strange decisions that had been made by the Coaching Committee and MHF. What we must recognise is that the National Coach is conducting himself professionally, one of the fundamentals involved in the search for "excellence". Something only a very few in MHF comprehend and apply in their tasks.

The lack of professionalism and the principles of excellence in MHF over the years, has permitted the development of the notion of interference, as though they are "entrusted" with it because they understand the "bigger picture". This therefore gives certain officials the belief that they have the divine right to interfere. Sadly, this belief was put into practice by a "dedicated interfering team" ( DIT) to solicit and ensure players who were not named in the National Coach's list should have their names there. Mind you the DIT was not mandated with the role but they have taken it upon themselves ie the "messiahs" of hockey, i presume. What is even more shocking is that the people in the DIT were not there for most of the matches at the MHL and yet they seem to have better expertise than the National Coach. I wonder why none of them in the DIT ever made it as a National Coach. Maybe that is where the answer lies!!!!!

The network of the DIT is extensive, covering the facets that is most required for propaganda work ie "connected" personalities and publicity. The idea here is to create a "make-belief" scenario ie a perception so as the DIT could achieve their desired results. Take for example, even before the National Coach could name the shortlisted players, friends of the DIT had been passing messages via sms to the pertinent people to get certain players to be named. What is peculiar is that the players they were canvassing have histories of various allegations and disciplinary issues, which could disrupt the very fabric of Malaysian hockey. Rather than sorting these issues they seem more interested in getting the players into the shortlist. Maybe the need for monthly salaries to upkeep expensive tastes or vices may provide the "fodder" for thought.

The question is: "Who are the people in the DIT ?
  • The Deputy President of MHF. He chairs the unconstitutional Team Management Committee (TMC) and realises that he is now unable to use the TMC to his "whims and fancies". So, unofficially he uses the DIT network to get things done and the position he holds helps in the matter. People believe that he is part of the "Malacca Mafia" in hockey

  • A Senior National Sports Council (NSC) officer, who has been involved in Malaysian hockey and is present at all MHF meetings including those relating to national teams. Apparently he is part of the 'Malacca Mafia" in hockey. Furthermore he is the source of information to personalities who are friends to people in the DIT. He has a close alliance with the national team manager because of a sense of obligation relating to employment of a family member. This team manager is the principal financier of a MHL team.

  • The National Team Manager, who wants players in his "stable" to be included notwithstanding the fact that there are allegations and discipline issues. Some believe the presence of such players in the national team would provide him a greater grip and influence of the national team.

The key question that arises is whether the people involved with the DIT are really interested in Malaysian hockey and its future or more related to some short-term gain beneficial to individual needs. I personally do not think they work on that basis and therefore it is difficult to comprehend why they do not permit people to do their job. This dichotomy is puzzling and the interference still prevails. It has to stop or else Malaysian hockey shall pay the price. We have already seen that in the past, and what is important is that there people who are ensuring it does not repeat. So allow the "entrusted" person to do his job and periodically review the progress. This is the way forward.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Selangor Veterans Open Hockey Carnival 2010

I had received an e-mail from the VP of Selangor Hockey Association (SHA) and i think it is only appropriate to draw attention of such a Carnival to the readers of the blog. Kindly spread the message not only to get the teams to participate but also to get "hockey lovers" to be there.

Text of message as follows:

"Greetings from Selangor Hockey Association.

We are pleased to extend the invitations to the Selangor Veterans Open Hockey Carnival 2010 scheduled to be held on April 3, Saturday at Stadium Hoki Pandamaran.

The tournament is open to the first 20 teams to pay the entry fee anconfirm their entry. There will be a loser's pool as well.

The entry form, Tournament flyer and informational booklet is attached.These are also available in the SHA official web page effective February20th.

The informational booklet attached covers all aspects of TournamentInformation, Accommodation, Tournament Rules, Code of Conduct, Fixtures,Maps and Emergency Contact number

For outstation teams, we have made arrangement with hotel for exclusivelow rates for this tournament at your convenience.

I look forward to your feedback and support. Please feel free to spreadthe word to interested teams

Thank you

Kuganeson Poologasingam
Vice President
Selangor Hockey Association

Monday, February 15, 2010

Corporate personalities in TNB & Sapura who bring the "best" to hockey.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) became the winner of the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) final last Friday 12th February by beating Sapura 4-2 on penalty flicks after the game remained drawn at 1-1 following extra-time. Effectively TNB won the TNB Cup and the TNB management hierarchy led by their CEO & President would have been in ecstatic mood. More interesting is that the CEO had rushed all the way from KLIA at the right moment to provide the support for his boys.

Interesting looking at the game itself. it was about retired experience stars from Sapura taking on the young national stars of TNB. It would seem that experience would prevail in the match but Sapura did not have the ultimate "killer" instinct to finish the match. On the other side TNB was a "clinical" team whose young stars could not find the way to crack the solid defence of the experience Sapura. At the end the determination to carry the Cup provided the right frame of mind to TNB players to find the net at the penalty flicks. It is probably the young boys were not tired out after extra-time and they were mentally strong to do the job. This is where probably experience lost out to the mental strength of the young boys.

The game itself would have been exciting if it was not for the Umpires. Their poor standard of controlling the game had an impact on the ultimate results. One thing is for sure and that is this whole MHL season the Umpires have performed "sub-standardly". So when the Chairman of Umpires Board stated this is the best they have and comparable to international standards, I think he was illogically defending the consistent pathetic performance of his members. Even on the "outside" chance he may be right, he may not realise that he may mean international hockey umpiring is also at a disastrous standard. I am sure that is not his thinking.

While TNB Management were celebrating with their boys, credit must go to the Chairman and to the CEO of Sapura for spending that extra moments with their boys after the prize presentation. The father and son team showed the best of corporate leadership by talking and consoling the boys at an empty stadium when the crowd had disappeared. Their human touch even in hour of defeat is a reflection of the caring nature of Sapura's corporate philosophy and all credit go to the father and son team. Such people must be invited to be in MHF as it would do MHF a world of good.

One other person who needs mentioning is Nor Saiful Zaini. A person who has tactfully remained in the background of late because of the policies of MHF with regards to national coaches. Notwithstanding that he is also Head of the Sports Unit of TNB and where hockey comes under his portfolio. It is probably his thinking in line with TNB's corporate philosophy that there is blend between the youth and the experienced in the TNB team. It is also provides the pathway for the next generation of young kids in view of TNB's Development programme referred to as "Thunderbolt". A programme that is nationwide where TNB gets schools involved in hockey by not only conducting coaching sessions but also equipping the schools with hockey kits.

Nor Saiful himself has been a colourful figure in Malaysian hockey having served the nation as a national player including Captain for nearly 15 years. One of the rare breed who was a speedy right wing and also a penalty corner hit specialist, represented the country at 3 Olympics and 4 Asian Games. The years in the national team makes him the most capped Malaysian hockey international and the record is still awaiting to be "broken". He was one of the selected Malaysian named in the "Asian All Star" team. Such is his credential as a hockey star.

Saiful is a religiously devout person, who does not impose his values on others, other than advising people accordingly if there is a need. This he believes is a religious plus human duty that he does it with good "niat". Sometimes, the guilt in people tend to misunderstand or misconstrue his intentions and this is why unsavoury remarks are made of him. If only the truth is known by people who spread such "tales" of the opportunities he had given certain personalities to redeem themselves before the final decisions were made. Unfortunately, these personalities do not help themselves and this part of the stories are conveniently hidden or forgotten thereby making Saiful a victim of circumstances.

Strangely it is people in MHF, like a long standing Vice President and certain members of the Coaching Committee who listen to "tales" and conduct themselves in an inhumane manner. Ironically, these are the people who do the least amount of proper work for MHF. They prefer the "politicking" and creating trouble, which is the their idea of work.

Whatever it may, Saiful is beyond all these and only those who feel insecure and threatened would want to destroy a good person's creditability. Saiful is a focused person and TNB winning the MHL final is an honour to Saiful's dedication to hockey. More so to a person who gives his best with good intention without any prejudicial thoughts and does things for the best of the game. What we need is more of "Saifuls" in the game.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Well done MHF, this is the start. Sustaining the crowd is a question how MHF manages the performance of its national teams.

Friday 12th.February, was the grand finale of the 3 months of the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL). The publicity and the marketing of the event portraying a carnival spirit with young kids displaying their skills, the Royal Malaysian Navy(RMN) with its band putting together a mini tattoo show and the of course the lucky draw with prizes from motorcycles to airtickets became the peripheral attraction.. Combine this with the final between TNB and Sapura, while for 3rd and 4th was between Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) and Maybank, which brought a sizeable crowd of close to 5000 at the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium. This is notwithstanding the fact that the games were telecast live.

It has been some time since such a large crowd had been present in Malaysian hockey and all credit must go to the person or persons in MHF who were behind organising it. The precise timing of the event ( barring the delay in the floodlights coming to full illumination after half time) plus the fanfare that came including the prize presentation is something new in MHF. There is obviously a new colourful thinking moving from certain mundane ways. More important is that there are some who are prepared to "stick their necks" out to make things happen.

There was a lot of criticism before the final particularly on the resources utilised to take the MHL to different towns and also on the attendance at matches particularly in Kuala Lumpur. The Friday night out to the hockey stadium by the crowd is a manifestation of people putting their minds and honestly addressing the issues, thereby creating scenarios that appeal to the crowd to come to the game. What was interesting was TNB had their sizeable supporters and they were vocal enough. Maybank too had their small crowd and there was a pocketful of Sapura's admirers.

In essence many who were there beyond the core supporters, were people who were attracted for some reason to be at the stadium. This is the result of effective marketing where publicity is a fundamental ingredient. When we are not a force in international hockey at any level, attendance is the yardstick of measurement of the popularity of the game. Friday night showed there is still the crowd for hockey and the key matter is how MHF is going to capitalise on it.

The sure way is to perform well in the international front. This is where basic issues of having the right people in the right positions does not only apply to officials but also to players. Hockey cannot afford another round of allegations of match fixing, betting or "Ah Long" businesses in the national squads or being a "bad" influence to younger players or partying late nights and coming to training with alcohol on their breaths. If this continues and MHF turns a blind eye to all these or remains lenient in taking disciplinary action then Malaysian hockey would go back to the "Dark Ages". The matter gets even more muddled as various officials start their canvassing for players particularly those who have been regarded as "bad apples". Indeed there were rumours spreading in the field how a team manager had sent sms messages soliciting for a particular player to be included in the future national team. The timing of course seems very coincidental as the new coaches were announced for the senior team.

Until and unless MHF officially settles the issues relating to the various allegations, it is unfair to Malaysian hockey and its supporters to be burdened in their mind with continuous suspicion. It is not only for the players involved in such allegations but also the other players, the fans and the future generation. This is something MHF has to understand and they should not take it that Malaysians have "short memories" and time would self resolve the issues.

If MHF wants the terraces in the hockey stadium to be filled it has a responsibility to the fans to ensure that they have the right players who are prepared to make the sacrifices to bring glory to Malaysian hockey in the world arena. MHF must understand that the players cannot sacrifice Malaysian hockey for their own selfish gains. This has to be seen from training, to free time to the game itself. Any "bad apples" in the team must be decisively and quickly ostracized from the onset such that professionalism prevails. This is a culture that needs to be inculcated to the team.

So the "ball" is back on MHF's feet and the crowd for hockey will be a reflection of how the national teams perform in the future and how MHF manages them. So MHf please do not let the Malaysian hockey fans down.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Do our local hockey coaches have the necessary knowledge? If not, is there a "pathway" for them to acquire such knowledge?

Lately there has been much talk of coaches and part of it relates to local coaches against the appointment of a foreign coach. People have taken sides while others may be more concerned with the standard of hockey. While the debate continues, it is all about names that are being floated around, not about what qualities the coaches should have or have. This is where we miss the obvious aspects and straight jump to personalities. More often than not we start the whole exercise with the wrong end of the stick ie we do not list the needed requirements of a coach and then find the candidate to fit the position.

It is this failure that demobilises us from searching for excellence. Once excellence is compromised, we have lost sight of the concept of being world class. This eventually means that we are a mediocre set-up that are happy with the "crumbs". It is the lack of a vision and also determination in MHF to implement the concepts of excellence that has kept Malaysian hockey in a dogma. Coaches come and go but there is no clear pathway or infrastructure to develop coaches with the right qualities embodying the appropriate knowledge so that they inculcate the principles of excellence in their DNA. If this is achieved than everything they do carries with it the trademark of "excellence".

Today if we take the coaches involved with the various national teams and also with the teams in the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL), it is glaring that all sorts of people are involved. The question is whether they have the requirements to coach the top teams. Maybe if i list some requirements, people may appreciate my views.

A good coach needs to have the following:

  1. Intimate knowledge of the game including the rules.

  2. Coaching qualification and the requirements follows the level of coaching.

  3. An experienced coach must have a success profile.

  4. Working knowledge in:
  • Physical Education

  • Sports Science

  • Sports Information Technology

  • Psychology

  • Motivational Sciences

5. Knowledge of:

  • Bio-mechanics

  • Bio-medicine

  • Nutrition and Diet

6. Some understanding of "kinanthropometry" ie interface between anatomy and movement.

7. Analytical outlook to appraise the opponents style of play and tactics.

8. Communicating skills.

9. Sense of justice ie fair play.

10. A strategical mind.

It is a tall order but so is "excellence". This is where the coaches' hunger for knowledge comes into play and how they equip themselves is fundamental. If one pursues a Sports Science degree in reputed Universities, most of the subject matter would be covered.

Unless the coaches are made up of such mentality, it would be difficult to expect the players to strive for excellence. After all the definition of a "coach" is to train someone. If the trainer is not adequately knowledgeable, how can he disseminate the finer points of the game to his charges.

Time and time again MHF has overlooked this point. What is more disturbing is when they had the foreign coaches, MHF did not put in place a system to get the rightly qualified local coaches to be part of a broader training programme. The failure to properly train the "trainer" reflects the current status of the decline in standard of Malaysian hockey. Fundamentally we have not kept in pace with the changing phases of hockey over the years.

Now, it is rumoured that we would be getting a highly recognised foreign coach. I hope that with such a coach not only our players would benefit but also our local coaches. A detailed programme must be developed with the foreign coach taking every key facet in hockey which coaches must know as a sacrosanct rule. This programme must become the "core" syllabus for training our new breed of coaches. The programme must be continuously re-engineered to take account of the prevailing changes in the game so as we do not lag behind. This is a challenge MHF has to take up if they want to make the paradigm shift to excellence ie become a world class hockey nation. Maybe it should start first with the Coaching Committee.

Monday, February 8, 2010

KLHC's defeat by Sapura - "Is Malaysian hockey in crisis?"

The 2-leg semi-finals of the MHL has brought out some interesting dimensions. The 4 teams who were involved probably has the best hockey players in Malaysia from current internationals both senior and junior plus age group blended with experienced former internationals. TNB played Maybank whilst Sapura took on Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC).

On paper TNB had a well balanced side of 2 former internationals with 4 current internationals and the rest were age group players. As for Maybank they relied heavily on their former internationals supported by at least 2 current internationals. The score for both the legs was a 2-1 win for TNB and 2-2 draw for the 2nd match, but sadly the umpires carried the day with the poor quality of umpiring. These are our Class 1 umpires and yet their display was of such a pathetic nature, they seem to give the distinct impression that they were absolutely novice in the field.

If not for the umpires , both the games were good and TNB had that extra edge. To be fair Maybank put up a great fight and credit should go to their Gobinathan, who was playing with a hamstring tear for both the matches. One person who needs mentioning in TNB is their young talent Faizal Shaari whose skill with the ball was outstanding. He remained a continuous threat to Maybank. This is a player who i believe would go places.

A special mention must be made of the CEO of Maybank and his team for finding the time to be at the 1st leg. What was interesting is that he spent time with the players before the game and thereafter sat with their small band of Maybank supporters at the terrace. Great to see him coming to support his team and doing things the simple way without any fuss.

Sapura's game against KLHC was dubbed as the game between Sapura and "Malaysia". The reason being KLHC literally has the Malaysian national players ie combination of seniors and juniors. Whereas Sapura were carrying about 7 former internationals led by Kuhan and had with them the wealth of experience. On top of it, acting as consultant for Sapura was Stephen Van Huizen, a former national coach who has the "Midas" touch with every team he has worked with. So this was a game of former internationals against the current internationals.

On paper, it should have been a simple job for KLHC. Unfortunately this was the team that was given all the resources, at the envy of the other teams. They not only played for Malaysia but they were paid unbelievable salaries and training allowance by their club for much longer periods than other teams or the league itself. Some were even given a lump sum and all of these encouraged them to be influenced by undesirable activities which has sparked off discipline issues. This was the problem with the national team and people wonder whether this was something that grew its roots at the club level. It would seem that once the appetite is full and life is filled with vices there is lack of " hunger" to perform. Was this KLHC's dilemma?

I pose this question as KLHC lost 4-2 to Sapura in the 1st leg and drew 1-1 in the 2nd leg, losing in aggregate 5-3. Yes! the national team lost to the retired internationals and what a ramification it would be for Malaysian hockey. What complicated matters is the "dual" system of control adopted by KLHC in controlling and influencing the team. Officially there was a coach and team manager at the bench yet, at the terraces, the "powers to be" in KLHC were "dishing" out instructions to the team. The "invisible" coach and manager was up at the terraces trying to circumvent policies of MHF and rules of ethics including conflict of interest. What is surprising is that everyone knew about it and so why have such an elaborate system to play the "hide and seek". These are the sort of "play acting" that young players notice and copy in their acts of "ill discipline" ie "what is good for the goose is good for the gander".

All this "hide and seek" choreographed by KLHC team management has come to haunt them as the players miss training or take a "tidak apa" attitude to the game. Team management have put themselves in an awkward position and this is where players tend to take advantage of the situation. Indeed stories have emerged from KLHC sources that players do not care much of the advice of their official coach. They even go to the extent of abusing his personal items when the official coach puts his foot down. In short, the players in KLHC are not an easy lot as they are already "prima donnas" and the younger ones are following suit.

In a way this explains some of the antics that took place in the field at the 1st leg. They were completely "stunned" when Sapura equalised and took the lead to 4-1. KLHC was totally demoralised and strangely a number of players were "out of position". The "hunger" to perform or fight back was not there in KLHC. Chua Boon Huat must be credited for trying to lift the spirit of the KLHC's lads but with little success other than minimising the defeat to 4-2.

Sapura on the other hand tactically moved Jiwa Mohan to defence and Shankar to half-line. This gave Kuhan more breathing space over the 2 half thereby ensuring Sapura's defence remain intact. In the forward line Rodnizam, Pon and supported by Mike were fast enough to get the penalty corners for Kuhan to strike. Meantime Vijiyan kept KLHC's penalty corner battery from making any deadly strikes with his speedy run-out. Sapura's players played with a purpose ie the pride to win and the presence of their Chairman obviously was a big booster.

For the 2nd leg, one need not be a "rocket scientist" to know that KLHC would be coming in "waves" to Sapura's territory to turn the results around. Sapura meantime decided to pack their 25 yd with their entire team thereby giving less room for KLHC to maneuver through the centre. It would seem Stephen Van Huizen and Sapura's coach Prakash may have planned this strategy thereby forcing KLHC to use the "flanks". This would be a wise tactic for Sapura as it relieved the pressure in the centre and gave more breathing space for the main defenders,. KLHC fell into the trap from start to finish and if there was any success it was the 9 penalty corners they earned. They could only convert one while they fumbled on the rest with too many unnecessary set-pieces. They did not play to their strength of direct conversion. Equally Nashihin, Sapura's goalkeeper was in marvellous form.

KLHC remained clueless and aimless and acting like "zombies" not knowing what to do. The more waves of attack they threw on Sapura, Sapura became more dangerous on the breakaway and that is how they equalised through a penalty corner they earned. Sapura maintained the 2 goal aggregate lead and KLHC could not find the way to crack Sapura's defensive wall. Effectively the so called "mighty" KLHC was brought to the ground to taste a defeat that they themselves may not have anticipated. "Goliath" of Malaysian hockey ie KLHC was brought to its kness while Sapura became Malaysia's "David".

KLHC's defeat raises a number of questions. In a nutshell it all falls back to the issue of whether "dollars and cents" is the answer to get players to become good hockey players or a combination of other factors. One of which is team management has to be honest in their acts rather then wanting to be just popular. This way they choose to avoid controversies thereby expecting to remain in the good books of players. The hope is that the players remain in the team thereby ensuring the team has strength. All that is good but if you have "bad apples" in the basket and nothing is done about it, the other apples may also get bad. Could this be the moral of the story of KLHC? It is for us to think about because with KLHC's defeat, it means Malaysia's national team had lost and this also at a domestic league. So what is our hope in the international arena with these sort of players?

It is not yet a crisis in Malaysian hockey but the writing is on the wall. So, MHF take note and do the needful or not we would be inviting the "crisis".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Retired international players who have made an impact in the MHL.

It is a pity that some players, although young, seem to have prematurely retired from international hockey, while others gracefully left with the catching-up of age. Maybe they cannot get use to the "regimented" style of centralized training for days, months and years or they do not have the "hunger" to don national colours for whatever reasons or are just fed-up with too much of international hockey. Yet! we cannot overlook this and not comment on their performances in the current MHL.

The 1st of whom i feel needs to be mentioned and i consider as the "heartbeat" of TNB is Tajol Rosli. A player who left national hockey at a young age of 23 or 24 is performing superbly for his employer. His "mati mati" style of play with his penetrating moves gives TNB that extra edge in the game. He is fast enough to capitalise on the "gaps" in opponents' defence and tactically open the game for his colleagues. What is also interesting is that he is a "source" of inspiration for the team.

Another player in TNB who needs mentioning is Kalliswaran. As he ages he seems highly matured in his approach to the game. He is majestic in his movements and controls the team's play carefully. A much "cooler" person these days, he does things intelligently probably recognising the slight excess weight in him. Still he is a "force" to reckon .

At Maybank, it is without doubt Suhaimee. Again a player who "hung" up his hockeystick at an early age, he still has the skills of his younger days. Obviously he lacks the fitness but yet he is able to use his intelligence and economise his efforts for deadly moves or to permit the clock to run down in favour of his team. Suhaimee's style these days is like a "rhino" on the charge and more often than not he is able to "stampede" the opposing players.

Another arsenal available to Maybank is the ever versatile and lively Gobinathan. The "Ipoh mari" player provides a stability to Maybank in defence and brings an added dimension to their penalty corner battery. Gobi is much slower these days but he uses his body accordingly to slow down his opponents too. A player who has the ability to motivate his teammates, he too on occasions tends to charge down the opposing team's territory to "mark" out his ground. This indeed makes his presence felt in the game.

In Sapura, there is the ever-present towering figure of Kuhan. More sluggish these days but a great "fighter", he does not give up easily. With age his penalty corners have lost the "sting" but his presence in Sapura's battery gets opponents worried. He is excellent in the 1st half of any match but his fitness severely handicaps his movements in the last 15 minutes of most matches where he gets "short fused" fast. He is still enjoyable to watch.

Rodnizam is another former international who left the international scene at a young age. Today, he seems to show skills that were not there in the years when he was an international. It is probably the maturity with time plus now he has the freedom to think and play. Obviously not at his peak, fitness is an issue but he somehow finds the way to cope by adjusting his style. There is no doubt he is an important cog in Sapura's machine.

These players would be playing significant roles with their teams this weekend at the semifinals of the MHL. Some or all of them may make the difference between winning and losing for their teams. What is important is to see these former internationals still having the spirit to play and give their best for their clubs. Well done lads and Best of Luck.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

UniKL - "Are they a glimmer of hope for Malaysian hockey?"

The results of the MHL quarter-finals last weekend saw the obvious teams make it to the semis. They are KLHC, TNB, Sapura and Maybank. One need not visit and pay a fortune teller or a tarot card reader to predict which teams would have qualified. Among them they share the bulk of the national players ie seniors and juniors plus former internationals. On a "weighted" basis there is no doubt it favours KLHC.

The weekend for hockey seems to have given much of its attention to newcomers UniKL, who were pitted to take on the once mighty Maybank. Although the media seems to have played up the hopes of the young UniKL with an average age of 22 years and seemly giving the impression that the "tiger" in Maybank may be "toothless thereby losing its bite. They may not have been wrong for on the 1st leg the young novice team to MHL stretched Maybank with a 4-4 draw.

Many watching the match felt that UniKL should have "killed" the game much earlier and won. Unfortunately UniKL is made up in the main by Project 2013 players and some National Juniors. Due to their lack of experience and the "killer instinct", they were unable to finish off Maybank.

On the other side, as the years go by Maybank is losing its grip as a "force" in Malaysian hockey. In recent years they have been seen as "spoilers" for teams trying to battle for position. Having a few former internationals in the right positions combined with a few young internationals they have the combination of experience and stability to act as a major "hurdle" to the ultimate winners. It is exactly this that derailed the young UniKL in the 2nd leg of the quarter-finals where Maybank won 2-0.

Essentially what Maybank did was to control the "raw gusty" style of play of UniKL by ensuring that their freedom of running with the ball and taking on players was frequently interrupted. This essentially slowed the momentum of the game and the young boys were at a loss as to what to do. Meantime as Maybank broke UniKL's attack they had the experience on the "breakaway" to be goal searching and were successful. Even at the last 5 minutes of the game, UniKL had 6 penalty corners at a continuous stretch and they did not have a clue what to do. Maybank were merrily happy with the penalty corners as the situation provided the time to tick away.

UniKL team is like an "uncut" diamond that needs substantial "cutting" and "polishing" before it can glitter. There is no doubt that their Consultant - Mirnawan Nawawi and their Coaches - Vicki, Enbaraj and a Caucasian have worked hard on them. What is important is whether the "diamonds" of UniKL had fissure, which means any amount of 'cutting" and "polishing" would not help in the process of making the diamonds marketable.

I raise this because the UniKL team seems to have some major drawbacks:
  1. While they are young and have the speed to take on their opponents, they do not have the skill to string passes as part of the tactical movements and operate as a cohesive team.

  2. There is neither leader nor "playmaker", while their half-line formation's role is very "hazy".

  3. Their penalty corner battery is weak because it is "aimless" which makes it "directionless", thereby losing the focus of goal scoring opportunities.

  4. The team does not understand the concept of the "killer instinct" when they are at or in front of the "D".

  5. The team's endurance fitness is suspect.

Essentially what UniKL team was doing was collecting the ball and running with it to the opponents goal-line. This obviously is a welcome change compared to the other teams but once at the "D" the players become "goal shy" and did not have the "killer instinct" to put the ball into the goal. This is where their "attack" formation crumbles and easily paves the way for counter attacks by opponents. This is where UniKL paid the price expensively.

I want to put this across because many people believe that the performance of UniKL provides the "ray of hope" for the future of Malaysian hockey. In desperate times even a small ray of hope is magnified to give the "hope" we are looking for. What we are doing is endeavouring to fix our thinking to the situation rather than allowing the situation to justify itself.

People who have played hockey or had something to do with hockey would not hesitate to state that the young boys of UniKL have a long way to go if they want to emulate the "Yogeswaran Babes" of the 1979 Malaysian Junior World Cup team that came 4th at Paris. If you take those lads 2 0r 3 years before 1979 and compare their standard of play to these boys from the 2013 Project Team, you would know exactly where they stand by the following words- "miles apart".

Having said what i had to say, i must also state that the UniKL boys can still be turned into future stars but the effort is harder and the pressure mounted to perform must be intelligently and psychologically undertaken. The grooming requires a sense of all round discipline particularly on training. Equally they must be given sufficient freedom to express their inherent strength of running with the ball and taking on players provided they incorporate the skill of creating tactical movements as part of an attack formation by learning how to acquire the "killer instinct". Similarly, the half-line and the backs must be taught to understand their effective role and how they fit into different game scenarios. At the same time there is no short-cut to success in penalty corners. The short corner battery at the minimum is required to do 100 attempts in the morning and 100 attempts in the evening to prefect their scoring skills.

Of course there are other aspects but this is a good starting point. The idea is to create that "ray of hope" and turn them into "shining stars" with time such that it provides the "glimmer" of hope that is much needed for Malaysian hockey at the world stage.