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.