In life there are usually twists and turns. One day you are on top of the world and then one becomes just an ordinary person. Similarly the Razak Cup tournament in hockey seems to be suffering such a fate. Up to the late 70s the Razak Cup was the premier tournament in the country as most of the States had good leagues and very good school hockey programmes. At the same the late Tun Razak was President of MHF, while he was Deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister. After his demise and a few years later the tournament started to lose its glamour and therefore its glitter.
Part of the reason was the shift in emphasis to a national hockey league where corporate teams from the Banks, TNB and so forth became the order of the day in Malaysian hockey. Equally, in the States, transformation was taking place where State leagues and Development programmes were becoming "history" barring Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association, who seem to be very dynamic in their workings and are continuously sustaining their activities in hockey. Some states like Negri Sembilan Hockey Association (NSHA), Penang Hockey Association (PHA) and Perak Hockey Association are trying to keep their "heads above the water" and doing something in their States. Selangor Hockey Association (SHA) is endeavouring to revive its fortunes. The others seem to be doing more talking while some just remain in name.
The prevailing scenario is because people who are entrusted with the positions are there mainly for "self beneficial" reasons rather than for hockey itself. Such chameleon nature in people seems to adopt the motto of "minimum effort with maximum publicity", thereby achieving their own personal objectives.
Similarly, hockey in schools is slowly eroding over the years as the so called dedicated teachers and headmasters have aged and retired. This effectively means that the schools that were traditional " power houses" in hockey have also become history. Most of the new teachers get into hockey to collect the coaching certificates to earn the extra allowances. It is not about passion in hockey ie the love for creating talent at grassroots. Obviously there are a few who we can count by our fingers and they are the exceptions. When passion to create talent is missing, it effectively means that grassroot development suffers ie the grass cannot grow because the roots are not properly nourished.
The other major contributing factor is affordability and accessibility. The game was transformed the day hockey moved to artificial turf. Equipments and grounds have became costly items and families have to decide on priorities before they can commit to such expenditures. This took the toll on the numbers interested in hockey.
Notwithstanding all these the Government has been putting a lot of resources for sports and hockey is no exception. Today there are about 40 artificial turfs throughout the country although a lot suffer from poor maintenance thereby requiring regular replacement. Whatever it is the facilities exist, but not like the hundreds and thousands there are in the top hockey nations ie providing accessibility. Well ! rich countries do not have the sort of priorities that developing countries have to encounter with their resources. Still in hockey the Government has financed Development programmes, the Sports Schools and above all the costs related to the various national teams. Indeed the Government is in a "big" way encouraging hockey. This is good but the accountability of success on the monies spend is neither properly monitored nor questioned to the extent for hard decisions to be made. There is always a compromise for "political rightness" for popularity rather than the merits of the matter. This compromise only goes to reflect why we cannot become a top nation in sports.
Newton's 3rd Law of Physics states that "For every action there is an opposite reaction". With the Government's intervention what has happened is that the State Affiliates and MHF have become highly dependent on the Government. This has taken the pressure from the hockey officials thereby killing or "numbing" their voluntary and creative spirit. The net result is that the hockey officials have in general become "free ride passengers". Now that most of the things are done from the "centre", it leaves a major void in the hockey activities at the States.
This brings me back to the Razak Cup which is to commence tomorrow in Kuantan. Johor was to have been the host however circumstances necessitated the tournament to be shifted to Kuantan. Unlike last year the national players would be involved. More effort is being put by MHF including ensuring a minimum of 4 Under 21 players are in each team. Indeed most Affiliates are sending a team which itself reflects that some effort is being put in by the States. Unfortunately similar to last year some of the teams are using older players with ages of 35 years and over. Some of these players are coaches or have retired from competitive hockey. This reflects the pathetic state of affairs prevailing in their States where hockey is deteriorating. Sad because they have killed the opportunities for the young players and at the same time dragging the older players who have no reason to be there. It is this sort of thinking that adds to why Malaysian hockey is suffering and Razak Cup losing its glitter.
It is these sort of actions and thinking that kills the game especially when it comes from the States. These are the same people who constitute MHF and when they lack forward thinking, how can MHF and Malaysian hockey move forward? They seem to be caught in a "time warp" and have stagnated and therefore not progressed into the modern hockey era. Yet they determine the fate of Malaysian hockey. Why?
Simply because MHF does not have the courage to make the hard decisions which may not be popular yet good for Malaysian hockey. What is that hard decision? The organisations that contribute to hockey by employing the players, having teams in the MHL and some even doing development work are not part and parcel of the decision making in MHF. This is because they cannot become Affiliates and there is a lack of "will" in MHF to amend the constitution. Hockey has progressed yet in Malaysia we use the old structures to administer the game. Unfortunately the old structures are the ones who are doing nothing for the game or making decisions that are not in line with progress. This dichotomy and the absences of corporate and scientific people in the MHF structure shows Malaysia cannot become a world class nation in hockey. That is the truth and the sooner we realise this and do the needful changes. If not what we have made Razak Cup come to in the years that have gone by ie lose its glitter, would be the same fate of Malaysian hockey. Do we want that?