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:
- 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.
- There is neither leader nor "playmaker", while their half-line formation's role is very "hazy".
- Their penalty corner battery is weak because it is "aimless" which makes it "directionless", thereby losing the focus of goal scoring opportunities.
- The team does not understand the concept of the "killer instinct" when they are at or in front of the "D".
- 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.