Monday, April 26, 2010

Lack of creative ideas which further enhance the call to re-engineer and revamp NSC. Part 2 - "Issues relating to players".

My article on "Gossips that further enhance the call to re-engineer and revamp NSC. Part 1 - Issues relating to coaches", is about the lack of a formal employment pathway for local hockey coaches, thereby creating inconsistent policies that have significant bearing in the principles of excellence for the creation of world class players and for a highly ranked hockey nation. I have placed the burden on NSC, who is the ultimate paymaster and therefore for all purposes the "employer". Some may vehemently argue over this point but the fact that a significant nexus exists between the coaches and NSC, is itself the "proof of the pudding".

While i started on coaches, it must not be forgotten that the key to any hockey match is the players ie the core material. Traditionally, in the yesteryear, the "fertilising ground" for young talents in hockey came from the schools. As the country progressed economically with desirable distractions for the young kids and at the same time the good old dedicated hockey teachers or coaches retired, compounded with the fact that hockey itself transformed to be played at artificial fields thereby making the main equipment and accessories of the game expensive, it provided the much needed "catalyst" to commence the " self destructive" process of hindering grassroot development.

I will be the 1st to admit that many decision makers including the NSC realised this and were working on programmes to mitigate such consequences. The Government poured in the necessary funds but the issue like many other things is the aspect of implementation and sustaining it. The Sports Schools are supposed to be the "collection centre" to literally breed world class players. From the results that have emerged and the way things are progressing, it does not seem to provide that sort of platform. Then there was the Tunas Cemerlang, and Sukan Teras programmes, which appeared as a "flash in the frying pan" and got itself "fried". As fast as it appeared, it disappeared. Now we have the "Pelapis" programme and i wonder how long it would sustain itself. Programmes come and go like changing of "fashionable" clothes. At least there we can admire the beauty but here there is nothing much visible and then the programme disappears from the "radar screen".

The irony in all this is that monies are just being spent but the results do not seem to reflect the investments. The only question one can ask is WHY? Initially, people come up with good ideas and when the monies come things take a change. The programmes become administratively heavy which eats into significant part of the funds while the mobilisation at grassroot lacks the professional approach of planning, implementation, monitoring with feed back and continuous re-engineering. The programmes becomes so dogmatic and bureaucratic in approach that it turns the coaches into clerical officers. Fundamentally the coaches do not become "agents of change" to develop talents.

It would be interesting to see how the Ministry of Education's Development programme with Paul Lissek's involvement in talent scouting and MHF's "1 Mas" development programme would do in the maze of hockey development activities that are taking place. The notable aspect in these 2 programmes is that the same "old faces" are there and whether this is a good or bad omen can only be answered with time.

While the "roots" for development is trying to grow its "grass", at the high performance level, the situation remains stagnated ie bankrupt of ideas. The paymaster for national players is the NSC and their structure does not have any semblance of incentives for achievements. The salaries are not "capped" related rather based on a flat rate. It does not take account of levels of fitness and the aspect of performance. Even for injury rehabilitation they are continously paid even if they are not in training for 2 years or have not visited the ISN doctors. Yet! the player during that period can do the job of a mechanic. It is the failure of not having a creative incentive-based remuneration package on a "benefit-burden" rule that has made the players lazy to push that extra harder to achieve their best.

In effect the players are on a "gaji buta" scheme that does not provide any encouragement so as the players can achieve the set target goals. The reason why such creative thinking does not prevail in NSC is because nobody wants to wear the "thinking hat" to come up with an appropriate scheme. Ultimately it has to fall on NSC because they are the paymaster and such schemes would provide a monthly status position of all the players. It is an objective manner in determining the players performance based om tests and performance on set targets. The remuneration package itself becomes a key indicator of the player's overall condition. This makes the remuneration package for players a "check and balance" tool.

If the incentive driven remuneration package for players based on "benefit-burden " rule also incorporates discipline matters into the equation then issues such as players returning to camp in the wee hours of the morning after hefty consumption of alcohol or faking injuries or missing training and so forth would become events of the past. The scheme would hurt players where it matters ie money, their salary.

Time and time again we moan and groan when the hockey national teams do not perform. Yet no steps are taken to rectify matters. Post-mortems are done, reports are generated and circulated only to collect dust. Then, we start the same cycle over again. Strangely NSC as the Government authority on sports seems to have failed in creating a continuous monitoring system. This could easily be based on the matter that the national players consider as their "bread and butter" ie their monthly salary. If that is fundamental then it is imperative that schemes be developed around it so as to ensure that the players properly earn their salaries. These schemes can become the mechanism to monitor players all-round athletic condition and performance.

What better way is there? NSC does not need "rocket scientists" to develop such schemes for the players' remuneration package. All you need is to identify the measurable facets from A to Z on players' related issues and attach monetary values. It is the gathering of the right minds and developing a practical, easily understandable scheme that is objectively measurable which can be simple in implementation.

It is this sort of creative thinking that is required because sports is dynamic while NSC is caught in a "time warp" where it is not keeping pace. The net result is that Malaysian sports lags behind in the world arena. Therefore the call to re-engineer and revamp NSC is not a figment of one's imagination but rather a "cry" of necessity for the future of Malaysian sports.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gossips that further enhance the call to re-engineer and revamp NSC - Part 1: Issues relating to Coaches

The dictionary defines "gossip" as casual talk about the affairs usually of people which could include rumours and critical comments. I started this article with a definition as i believe it is important that we have the right perception when we read this article. Essentially they are "hearsay" but interesting enough to draw the attention of the Malaysian sporting arena and to the sports authorities on the prevailing sentiments with regards to the body that is supposed to be the "guardian" of the performance of Malaysian sports ie National Sports Council (NSC).

On 14th April, I wrote an article on this blog titled: " Time has come to re-engineer and revamp NSC", where i used Malaysian hockey as a base case to highlight the fact that an official in NSC took charge of hockey for 15 years and for a greater part of that period Malaysia failed to qualify for 2 World Cups and 2 Olympics. The period corresponded with the decline of Malaysian hockey including when the same official was part of the team management of the disastrous Malaysian Junior World Cup team in 2001. The article also elaborated of another instance where a coach who was part of the same failure in 2001 and compounded with failing the FIH coaching qualification, remained in NSC payroll without having any further upgrading training and to be appointed as coach of the women's national team. The article does not question these 2 people , rather it questions the system in NSC that seems to permit such situations to prevail when NSC's Vision and Mission as envisaged by its "founding fathers" is built on principles of excellence to create world class athletes and also coaches. Yet ! the implementing scenario seem to reflect something otherwise.

I thought the article was sufficiently thought-provoking and i believe it got a few "tongues
wagging". The stories that are "worming" out of the "woodwork" and still confined to Malaysian hockey seem to reflect that something is not right somewhere. Before any "finger pointing" takes place it is important to look at the issues.

One issue that seems to be caught in a arbitrarily mode is the question of appointment and payment of coaches. More often NSC tends to hide behind the NSA and state that it is their choice. One can live with that yet NSC is the paymaster and the details are worked by them. Unofficially they seem to have a persuasive voice and can determine the fate of coaches. The strange thing in all this is there is no proper structure in setting the minimum qualification, experience profile and terms of appointment. The failure to incorporate annual increment, recognition for continuous upgrading & qualification or training, bonuses for success and gratuity when they complete their contract creates a high degree of uncertainty in the life of a coach. Fundamentally it must provide a sort of "employment" path when a coach is appointed so he knows that the job provides him a quality of life without having to "moonlight" on other jobs or appointments.

The strange thing in all this is how NSC and the NSA "bent behind backs" to accommodate and fulfill the wishes and desires of foreign coaches. Yet on the same breath we literally treat our coaches like "beggars". Yes! i am the first one to admit that the foreign coaches have the necessary qualifications, success profiles and names to go with. Still there was a starting point which their respective foreign NSA had provided the helping hand and from there they "blossomed". Unfortunately here the poor local coach is caught with 2 bosses ie NSC and the NSA and inevitably with meddling officials who start fingering who should be selected and who should play. Somehow this interfering nature is not displayed by our officials when we have a foreign coach. Probably they are afraid that their hands maybe bitten off by the foreign coach whereas a local coach is at their mercy.

Some of the gossips in relation to coaches are as follows:

  • When a local national coach failed to get the national team to qualify for the Olympics, NSC wrote to the Ministry of Sports to provide a massive increment for that coach. Yet when another coach took the national team to the final of the World Cup qualifiers and lost, he had his salary deducted.

  • When we had a foreign coach, he could visit various international tournaments on account of Malaysia for the benefit of the national team. Yet when we had 3 local coaches at the recent World Cup in New Delhi for the FIH course, they had to come back and did not have the opportunity to see the last 3 days of matches including semi-finals and finals. Maybe the local coaches do not deserve to observe and study such matches.

  • Some coaches get paid for the same job higher than others because they are different programmes ie Elite or Pelapis. This confusion can literally make significant difference in salaries and dull enthusiasm of coaches.

  • Coaches now do not seek the extra qualification because there is nothing in NSC structure that encourages the coaches to upgrade themselves. Currently NSC works on coaches in a "hodge-podge" manner.

  • Period on contract for local coaches seem very arbitrary. When Terry Walsh was appointed he failed to get Malaysia into the World Cup in 1990 but he had the time for the 1992 Olympics. Tai Beng Hai despite the ill-discipline players environment and consistent officials interference he got Malaysia to the World Cup Qualifiers final and then he was summarily demoted to assistant coach. He only had 11 months compared to Terry Walsh's 3 years.

  • Beng Hai's assistant was arbitrarily dumped, all because he was vehemently trying to instill discipline in a choatic players ill-disciplined environment.

Coaches are "people of change" and unless we create a proper pathway for them then we cannot expect much in return from our local coaches. Unfortunately the failure of NSC and NSA to create a proper structure for the local coaches has created an environment that is "back stabbing", "bad mouthing", deliberate actions by certain coaches to derail other coaches and heights of politicking which is sipping into the main structure of the NSA. Rather than changing hockey for the better, what NSC has done is to put hockey backwards thereby permitting the decline. All this has to stop and effectively NSC has to be bold to re-engineer themselves to overcome such issues.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The time has come to re-engineer and revamp NSC!

It is a corporate principle never to retain the same person on the same job for too long a period. Even at military service the commander of the troops who has led the attack is not retained after the victory to undertake post victory developments. The rationale in both these instances is to ensure a new set of people handle matters with fresh ideas without being bogged down with past dilemmas. Of course there are other reasons, but in a nutshell the essence revolves around the point of fresh face, fresh ideas and fresh thinking. Essentially it removes the mundane outlook of a person who has been there too long or had to struggle with pride and prejudice to secure the position.

This brings me to the thinking in National Sports Council (NSC). This is an organisation which has a vital role in Malaysian sports and the Government has entrusted them to do the necessary job. In general and up to most recent times they have been doing a fairly satisfactory job. However the world of sports has moved on while NSC has not kept pace. The difficulty that NSC has is that it is a "close service" except for the PTD officers who were seconded. At the present moment that is not the case. This has resulted in the "in-breeding" of ideas as NSC seems to be "stale" in thoughts as the same people year after year are handling the same job notwithstanding whether there is continuous failure or success.There is this attitude of having seen and heard it all and therefore there is no further need to indulge any deeper to resolve the issues even if the matter comes up again and again. The challenge seems to have faded away and there is this notion of just wanting to spend the money so long as the "paperwork" for it is furnished.

The issues get compounded if the matter has the support or patronage of a VIP or VVIP. All aspects of the merits of the case are completely lost in the decision making process as the "standing" of the personality dictates the approval or non-approval process including quantum of support. It is this compromise that has compromised the standard of sports in the country and for the wealth the Government has spent in sports the returns do not seem to reciprocate. A lot of this blame must be shared by the NSC, as much as the National Sports Associations (NSAs).

The NSC depends on the NSAs and this is where the NSAs drag the NSC down the "garden path" with all their promises and gloating figures. NSC on the other side do not do their homework and either get carried away or just become an obstacle depending on who is represented in the NSAs. The failure to analyse the strength and weakness of proposals and question the wisdom of targets including placing achievable commitments on NSAs seem to be something missing in NSC. Time and time again NSAs give their so called commitments and NSC takes it lightly and permits them to repetitively miss their targets without doing anything about it. The next time they come around the same cycle continues. There is this lack of accounting for failure and the necessary steps taken by the NSAs to remedy the scenario. Equally too when it comes to sustaining success.

A lot of this has to do with whether NSC has the right qualified people who have the passion to do the job beyond just earning the salary and the benefits that accrue with it. This is sports and there has to be that passion ie the pride that the "Jalur Cemilang" must be hoisted as one of the winning flags at every world sporting arenas where the country is a participant. I have no doubts that the staff in the NSC has that intention but it does not follow in actions. If they do, then most of the NSAs would have a "dreadful" time with NSC , for then NSC is properly undertaking its task. Today the "kawan kawan" concept and anything and everything is possible has brought more disappointment to Malaysian sports.

I want to use Malaysian hockey as examples to illustrate some of the factors that may have contributed to the declining status of that sport in the country. 1stly, the principal personality who has been the main person in hockey at NSC has been having that responsibility for the last 15 years. Year in and year out he sits in MHF and at the joint meetings and briefs his bosses. Although technically now he holds a different position but because he used to be a former Junior national player, the wisdom for continuity allows him to take the responsibility for hockey. The very reason why he is there itself is the weakness in the system. He was in the management of the national teams that failed in the Junior World Cups. More importantly, in the greater part of his tenure of taking responsibility for hockey in NSC, it seems to have corresponded with the failure of Malaysian hockey to qualify for 2 World Cups and 2 Olympics.

I must state categorically that he is not directly responsible or intentionally undertook things to ensure of Malaysia's failures but rather his continuous presence reflects the failure in the system in NSC to bring about changes of introducing a fresh face with fresh ideas and thoughts. NSC continuing to use him in that position is doing injustice to the game and to the staff itself. If anything, they should have sent the staff on further training or postgraduate to refresh himself and then re-introduce him to the hockey scenario in NSC. This dogma of maintaining the same staff for years over to take charge of the same sports is completely a "dumb founding" policy in NSC. Is it because they do not want to rotate the staff responsibilities or are there other reasons that is not glaring to outsiders?

Sports is a dynamic process and people taking charge must also move with time. Usually new or younger blood is brought for fresh thinking or the older staff are send for training or secondment to broaden their horizons. Unfortunately, the person for hockey in NSC has suffered on both accounts since he has been put in-charge hockey for years. It is also this period that Malaysian hockey commenced its journey to doldrums. This is an absolute failure in the structure of NSC for not recognising the need to rotate their staff in charge of various sports rather than permitting them to stagnate in the same sports for years.

2ndly, NSC has this pathetic outlook of trying to accommodate people irrespective of whether they have the track record. Sometimes people may not have the track record but the subsequent training and re-training they receive to enhance their position may be vital to sustain their position. This is an area that NSC has overlooked and it would seem Malaysian hockey is paying the price.

A coach responsible for the Malaysian Junior World Cup team about 10 years ago was part of the failure when that team finished last at the 2001 Junior World Cup in Tasmania. Despite this he was maintained in NSC payroll including when he failed to pass his FIH coaching session. Still he remained and now he is the coach for the Malaysian women's team for the World Cup qualifiers in Chile. The point being is he the right man for Malaysian high performance hockey? Nothing was done further with this coach to enhance his position and that compromise may have comprised the standard of Malaysian hockey.

There is no doubt that the coach may have the passion for coaching in hockey but does he fit the profile as a national coach for the women's team. Maybe because of his passion, he is better with development rather than high performance team? The failure of NSC to analyse and comprehend these things may have compromised Malaysian sports. It is the lack of proper expertise in NSC that is creating such unnecessary scenarios that has put Malaysian sports in an non-achievable climate.

If NSC does not adopt the principles of excellence, how can it preach and implement excellence in sports. It is the lack in qualities of excellence in NSC that is creating the syndrome of why most of Malaysian sports is not achieving world class standards despite the substantial sum of monies that has been spent. Time has come that NSC needs a proper re-engineering and major revamp to position itself to take on sports to world class or not Malaysia shall just remain a mediocre nation in sports.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stephen Van Huizen - Good hockey "pedigree" and coaching track record but is the "climate" right to return?

Compared to hockey of the 90s, that of today has changed significantly in style of play and tactics, where training and preparing the team has taken a different dimension. The game has incorporated various elements that are undertaken outside the field, which have become vital cogs in the players' and team performance. These are the results of tests on various of the sciences conducted on the players combined with the use of the latest state of the art information technologies that would provide the coach intimate knowledge of where, when and how to use his discretion to optimise the performance of the team including the players. Essentially the structure supporting any world class hockey teams has become more scientific. Incorporating and managing them is a fundamental aspect of success.

In the last 10 years the advancement has been so significant and if any national hockey coach has not kept abreast with such developments, he would be severely handicapped in trying to obtain the best out of his players and team. This is probably why the richer nations are in the top 6 in world ranking, as they have the resources to ensure their coaches and supporting staff are well acquainted with the latest developments in hockey.

This brings me to Stephen Van Huizen, who has been recently appointed as the chief national hockey coach. Stephen is a good hockey "pedigree" for he is the son of Lawrence Van Huizen, popularly known as "Hoeji", a former hockey international donning national colours for the 1958 Asian Games and 1964 Olympics. Lawrence was also the assistant national coach of the 1966 Asian Games team and from 1981 to 1987 he coached the ladies national team. In 1989, Hoeji coached the Singapore ladies team.

Lawrence greatest legacy in hockey is developing young talents in Seremban particularly for St Paul Instituition (SPI), which was the kingpin school in hockey in Negri Sembilan in the 60s. 70s and 80s. Hoeji's tiring effort of spending time every morning and evening at N.S Padang before and after work, coaching young kids is a testimony of why Negri Sembilan was a major "supply chain" of talents to the national team. Stephen himself was one such person and there were many others by the score. Indeed Hoeji also had 2 teams in the NS hockey league namely Rangers "A" & "B", which were the base for the young players to continue playing hockey after they leave school. If a census was done, there is no doubt that Lawrence Van Huizen would have produced more national players than any other coaches in the country. What an achievement !!!

The Van Huizen hockey pedigree did not stop there, Stephen's uncle Peter Van Huizen too was a former hockey international. A national goalkeeper he was in the 1st national team ever to play in an Olympic ie 1956 Melbourne Olympic and thereafter he joined his brother Lawrence for the 1958 Asian Games. Peter was a "terrorising" keeper and any player within the reach of his stick or legs were potential victims of his robust and "gutsy" style of play. Many forwards playing in his era would tell you stories of Peter's goalkeeping exploits. Indeed the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye always regarded Peter as his goalkeeping mentor and he always encouraged Koh Chye to take him on and displace him as the State goalkeeper. This is Peter's "greatness".

Stephen had to continue the traditions of the Van Huizen hockey pedigree. He was Captain of the 1979 Junior World Cup team to Paris which came 4th in the tournament. He played for Malaysia in the 1982 & 1986 Asian Games, 1984 Olympics and 1982 World Cup. He reached the pinnacle of his playing career by being Captain of the team to the 86 Asian Games.

Being a "chip of the old block", Stephen embarked into coaching and his "stars" gifted him to be assistant to all the foreign coaches that were appointed to guide the fortunes of Malaysian hockey. He was assistant to Terry Walsh for 1992 Barcelona Olympics, to Volker Knapp for 1996 Atlanta Olympics & 1998 World Cup and finally to Lissek for 1998 Commonwealth Games and 2002 World Cup. He was the national coach for the 1998 Asian Games and 2000 Sydney Olympics. At both these instances Lissek was the Consultant for the team.

Effectively for this 10 year period ie 1992 to 2002, what is referred to as the "glorious era" of Malaysian hockey, Stephen had played a significant role either as a coach or as an assistant. This track record is yet to be surmounted by any other coach and the way Malaysian hockey is heading it would seem that such a track record would be preserved for years to come.

People have asked why Stephen is so successful with the national teams? Some say "greatness" comes when you are at the right place at the right time and of course doing the right things. Others say it is the constellation of his "stars" that has placed him there at that time to do the right things. Yes ! we could debate this day and night but the point being it has all happened for Stephen and that is what is important.

Today, his father Lawrence and his uncle Peter must be relishing in joy seeing that the Van Huizen hockey pedigree is yet again brightly illuminated as Stephen starts his Round II in Malaysian hockey as coach. The question this time is whether Stephen's constellation of "stars" now would put him in the right place to do the right things for Malaysian hockey.

I have to ask this question because :

  • Stephen has been out of international hockey for nearly 8 years and there have been significant changes.

  • For the 1st time Stephen would not be an assistant to a foreign coach or have the added advantage of having a foreign coach as a consultant.

  • Stephen is going to coach a team whose world ranking was around the 16th and just moved up to 14th. This is an added pressure which he did not face previously.

  • The "supply chain" of talents to the national team had been severely disrupted over the years and the quality of players today are significantly different.

  • The hockey "climate" now is distinctly different from the issues of discipline of players and the encroachment cum interference from officials including team management.

The list can continue but i feel i just want to give Stephen an "appetiser" so as he knows what he can expect in the "main meal". Stephen has to realise the equation has drastically changed as many of the "old guards" whom he had worked with and carry themselves professionally have left the scene. In today's climate there is an atmosphere that seems to be more related to individual self preservation combined with the greed for self propelling glamour. Aspect of what is good for the team and country seem to take 2nd spot because certain players and officials have other agenda to enrich themselves monetarily or otherwise. This decadence, very much like "cancer cells" has been eating into the foundation that held hockey together and it seems the collapse of Malaysian hockey may be inevitable, which i hope is wrong.

So Stephen, Are you coming back at the right time, equipped rightly, to do the right things to put Malaysian hockey right?

Monday, April 5, 2010

As the foreign coach saga finally comes to an end, certain "officials" knowingly or unknowingly have become "enemies" of Malaysian hockey.

The story commenced about 20 months ago, when there were like-minded people who felt that Malaysian hockey's international standing had suffered significantly when Malaysia yet again failed to qualify for the Olympics. This time it was for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There was an undercurrent build-up to find a replacement for the national coach although his contract had yet to expire. While all this was going on the National Sports Council (NSC) had earlier recommended to the Ministry of Youth & Sports (KBS) a massive salary rise for the national coach. Absolutely a "split personality" act by the NSC ie. endeavouring to reward a coach for failing to qualify. A confusing state of affairs!!!!

With this background the hockey fraternity was "enlightened" with anonymous letters from "Cinta Hoki" attempting to swell opinions on the disastrous state of affairs in Malaysian hockey. That saw the birth of the "102 Group" made up of former hockey internationals who whipped up ground sentiments with their signature campaign and press releases. This culminated in a 100 page report comprising of recommendations to transform Malaysian hockey, which seems to be collecting dust. Latest status report indicates it is in 1 inch of dust!!!!

Around this time as the hockey fraternity was crying for change, ideas were floated to bring a foreign coach into the Malaysian hockey scene. Malaysian hockey history seems to dictate from the time of Terry Walsh, Volcker Knapp and Paul Lissek that these foreign coaches seem to have that "magic" to transform Malaysian international hockey fortunes. Unfortunately Lissek stuck too long and took positions of Consultant in later years which messed his own reputation.

1st in the list and prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, preliminary discussions were held with the Korean coach of the Chinese national team. This was South Korea's legendary coach who took them to the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. This Korean was professional enough despite his interest to pursue any further discussions until after the Olympics when his contract expires.

Simultaneously in the Malaysian hockey scenario, the imminent change in the leadership in MHF crystallised and HH Tengku Mahkota of Pahang (TM) became the new President. MHF's new Deputy President who was a "giant killer" in defeating the incumbent Deputy President, knowingly or unknowingly engaged into discussion with another Korean coach, who was the legendary coach's assistant. The alternate media ie blogsphere in South Korea latched on to the news and reported that the Korean assistant coach was to be offered the Malaysian job. The legendary Korean coach did not want to be drawn into any controversy ie 2 Koreans fighting for an assignment and therefore withdrew from any further discussions. Equally the shortsightedness of the MHF Deputy President in placing the legendary coach in the same platform as his assistant must have hurt his pride and forced him to withdraw.

Out of desperation the NSC officials had a secret meeting with the Korean legendary coach in Bangkok trying to coax him to reconsider his decision. "Solid as the Rock of Gibraltar", the Korean refused to move to the sentiments of the NSC officials. Malaysian hockey lost the opportunity to secure the services of a renowned coach due to incompetency and lack of understanding of other cultures by a certain key official. A "Boo Boo" of the highest order.

The hunt for a foreign coach continued and this was also the commitment of the TM. Meantime a set of local interim coaches were put in as a temporary measure awaiting the appointment of the foreign coach.

The hunt took them "down under" to Australia and they identified Australia's assistant national coach for the Beijing Olympics as the candidate. A mix up between the Vice President in charge of the Medical Committee and the Secretary of MHF constituted sufficient confusion that the person concerned took up an appointment in New Zealand with the women's team. It would seem MHF's officials were their own "enemies" to screw up matters. Indeed the communication between the Secretary and the Australian was "shocking" enough in language and the manner in which he wanted to conclude matters. Obviously "fishing" for an overseas trip in his style of English!!!!!

No the saga did not end there. Asia had closed its doors while Australia seemed to show no interest and therefore MHF turned to Europe to a Dutch. A reputed coach having handled the Dutch team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and having had a stint with the Pakistan national team, this Dutch coach was coaching a club in Holland. He seemed to be an ideal candidate for the Malaysian job.

Meanwhile the 2 independent-minded interim coaches, who were working in an ill-disciplined players environment where the team manager and the Team Management Committee (TMC) jointly were playing "politics" to undermine them, had taken Malaysia to the 4th spot in Asia Cup & Champions Challenge and to the finals of the World Cup Qualifiers. A great achievement in an "hostile" hockey climate.

The Dutch coach was in Malaysia late last year to talk terms for his appointment. He was seeking a remuneration package that left a number of officials attending the meeting "stunned". This meeting that was supposed to be attended by a few but the Secretary made it a point to get as many as possible to attend. What needed to be a negotiation ended up as a panel question and answer session. The Dutch coach was put in an awkward position as he was still with the Dutch club and, rather than honouring privacy on the matter, the Malaysian officials made the matter public. Again the failure to appreciate sensitivities by our hockey officials proves the point that they are Malaysian hockey's "enemies".

Obviously on top of a high-valued package he also wanted a fitness coach from Holland to be with him for a year. It seems that the Dutch coach package was not an issue because of the kind generosity of the TM to find a way to top it up. The issue of a Dutch assistant was a "no go" from the start. Unfortunately, MHF continued procrastinating on the issue and had dragged the matter on for nearly 5 to 6 months. Negotiations were also held in New Delhi at the World Cup and the MHF officials became aware that for most of 2010 he will definitely be out of the equation. The Dutch coach offered some solution for the interim period but it did not go down well.

In many a way it is MHF's lack of understanding of the Dutch coach's predicament and the pre-requisite for privacy on the matter that had again screwed up Malaysia's search for a foreign coach. Whether such things are intentionally done or an act of stupidity, is difficult to put a finger on. As it is repetitive, one cannot but come to one conclusion. Take for example when the Director General of NSC made the announcement that the Dutch coach has been engaged by MHF. I presume that would have been the "final straw" for the Dutch coach, as he too would have wondered what was happening in the administration of Malaysian hockey.

There is no doubts that certain hockey officials in their actions have become the "enemies" to Malaysian hockey either knowingly or unknowingly. After 20 months MHF cannot even fulfill its own commitment. No it has nothing to do with the TM but rather it is certain "bungling" officials who for strange reasons persist on messing things up. A price Malaysian hockey is paying for.