Monday, May 17, 2010

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has to be more prestigious - "Top hockey nations with their best teams must grace the event".

The 19th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SAS Cup) came to an end on 16th May, where "Mother" nature took the top honours by ensuring that the final was washed out. As such, an unprecedented history was created in the SAS Cup for the 1st time as India and South Korea became Joint Champions. Both teams only had 7 minutes to display their skills when the rain took full control of proceedings from thereon.

This year's tournament had kept the hockey fans glued to the various matches as the finalists for 16th May were only confirmed on the last day of the round robin matches. Until then 5 nations ie Malaysia, India, Australia, South Korea and Pakistan were possible bidders for the 2 final spots. Fortunately India had Egypt and quite easily found a spot. Malaysia had finished their games a day earlier and the other 3 countries needed to win with sufficient margin to edge Malaysia in goal difference. The honour fell to South Korea who in a hard fought colourful march paraded with green, yellow and red cards with Pakistan secured a spot in the final.

The SAS Cup drew a large crowd at the ground and significant audience for the channel TV telecast. It is good to see nationwide viewers for the game as it would do wonders for hockey in Malaysia.

Equally we also have to look at the SAS Cup itself to ensure that the tournament gets better in coming years and it becomes even more prestigious. This is important for the sustainability of the tournament and that it remains a premier international event. The SAS Cup is sanctioned by the world hockey body ie FIH and there are stipulated conditions that need to be fulfilled. In theory the SAS Cup should attract some of the top hockey nations in the world like what had taken place in the earlier editions. As the years have gone by, some of the top nations tend to send a hybrid team blending experience with younger players for the experience of exposure. The bigger picture for these teams is to have a larger pool of talents that they could work on and upgrade them with time. This is not only the style of the Australians and South Koreans but lately the Indians and Pakistanis are slowly adopting such an outlook.

Top hockey nations do this because the SAS Cup has no bearing whatsoever on the respective teams international rankings. Winning or losing is purely a pride issue and nothing else. Although it is FIH sanctioned, again that is all about it. Indeed if any it is a "bonanza" for FIH as they use this tournament as a training ground for their Umpires and Technical Officers knowing very well errors by their officials would not have a "fatal" impact on world hockey. I wonder how many of our Umpires and Technical Officials were involved in this tournament?

If the host country is forward-looking, particularly their Coaching Committee, then they could have got FIH to conduct the FIH Coaching courses. Unfortunately MHF's Coaching Committee is a "coalition" of strange "bed mates", whose preoccupation is a mission of finding faults rather than creating talented coaches. With such an outlook and the prevailing lethargy they do not have the wisdom nor the direction to ensure such courses are organised for the benefit of deserving locals to upgrade their knowledge and skills. Yet another "lost opportunity" and this seems to be very common with the Coaching Committee.

Moving away from the peripheral issue of the SAS Cup to the tournament proper itself, we must find ways to get the top teams with their best players to be here. If not we are creating a "make believe" scenario that the world's no 1 and no 6 are here, as expounded by the narrators of the TV programme. This gives the impression that Malaysia is doing well or that world hockey standard is not high. This "misnomer" in perception can "back fire" especially when Malaysia struggles with "minnow" hockey playing countries or we falsely create a high expectation of our team with the Malaysian hockey fans.

The key question is: "How do we get the top hockey nations to bring their best players to the future SAS Cup?" We cannot allow top hockey nations to treat the SAS Cup purely as a training ground for their talents or for the FIH to have a "free ride" to train their officials. Rather a "symbiotic" relationship has to be created between the SAS Cup, the participating teams and FIH. All 3 must mutually benefit from the tournament.

Maybe and just maybe the answer could be if SAS Cup comes with the right prize money. It should be of such a value that it becomes a sensational attraction for teams literally begging to be invited for the SAS Cup. In this manner the organisers of the SAS Cup can dictate the requirements of participation. Prize money of US$150,000 for the winner and US$75,000 for the runner-up would surely provide the sufficient "magnetic pull" for the top and best teams to participate.

I do not know whether there are any rules in FIH with regards to prize monies. I do not believe so but if there are i am sure the Organisers of the SAS Cup can find ways to get the necessary exemption. It is an idea which i think can start the thinking process to ensure that the SAS Cup is a prestigious and premier event in the world hockey calendar. This can only happen if we have the top hockey nations with their best teams. Think about it if we want the SAS Cup to sustain itself in years to come.


Anonymous said...

SAS event was a great success this year but the sole purpose in wanting to make SAS a very prestigous tournamant falied.

The heavy downpour had miserably spoilt the last day of the event. Anyway,congrats to the organisers as they were able to still attracted 1000's of hardcore supporters bouncing back to cheer malaysia.

For Malaysia to attract the best players and the best teams to participate in SAS, we must have the best players and be a powerful team. The top teams don't see any challenge or benefit from participating in SAS. We are at mercy to get these teams to play in SAS. It is just not the prize money but the quality of the tournamant and the pride of the championship which SAS has got to offer.

Hockey has move too fast for countries which could not keepup the fast pace of technology. The video empiring which was not part of SAS offering could withdraw many top countries from participating.

So, in order to get the best players and top countries, we got to be one of the best and give the best facilities, or else SAS will always be a training ground for the top teams.

Malaysia too should have more than one team and bigger pool of players. These players can be send to play in oversea tournaments for exposure and perhaps make our country top 4 in the world one day.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, when you have huge amount of money involved in any sport, you will have betting and this in turn will lead to corruption such as players throwing matches, etc. Hockey has been fortunate to avoid all these corrupting influences on the game. A better bet is to have FIH allocate points to accrue on the international standing of the teams. However, there are a host of such invitational tournaments including the Hamburg Masters, the South Africa Invitational Games, the Al-Alkram Egypt tournament and the planned Australia/India Game to include two other nations who will all want to have FIH points allocated to them. The salient point here is to hold the SAS Cup in the period where there is a scarcity of tournaments so that top nations are willing to send their best to keep their players' skills sharp. The SAS Cup will always have as its inherent attraction a testing ground for every team and Malaysia just have to be aware that by beating these teams they are not necessary beating the best on offer. There is no problem with this as some competition is better than no competition. As long as the SAS Cup does not degenerate into the Al-Alkram Tournament whereby it is scrapping the bottom of the barrel to attract teams to participate.

Anonymous said...

the best teams will come. it is the timing of the sas.

the ehl is on-going at this moment. players from all over the world are playing there. you name it, players from germany,nz, aust,kor, canada, sa, spain etc....

that is the reason why some top countries could not take part or send their best team for the sas.

just curious what was the objective of sas. this was probably more important that which country came.

any idea guys? it was interesting to hear the different expert opinion made by many expert hockey "0".

chill bro

Anonymous said...

I am very surprised to hear that the Australian players who played against Malaysia in third -fourth placing were not the recent world cup players.I think the comentator too was ignorant of this fact judging by the way he commented or else he was trying to make it interesting to the viewers that it was the world cup players we were playing with.Further disappointed to learn all other teams were also trainee players and we could not win.

Anonymous said...

Grant Schubert, George Bazeley, Matthew Swann, Ian Burgher, Kiel Brown are the players who featured in the Delhi World Cup. The rest belongs to the Australian Development Squad. The SAS was originally held to provide Malaysian players exposure to international competition as unless you are highly ranked you are not going to be invited to major tournaments not to mention qualifying for Champions Trophy. The gap between the overseas team and Malaysian team is still very large to the extent that Malaysia is yet to win their own Cup or tournament.

Anonymous said...

Think positive

Chicken and egg kinda story- good teams and good prize money

If Malaysia organize, it must be a win- win situation

We will progress if we do not revert to our old style of thinking

Malysia must Move forward- the young talents have been outstanding in performance

We must rope in more youngsters- they set the tempo in the game and can match the other countries for their certain physiologic strengths- identify them and see the pace and reaction time take place

Phase out the sluggish/" supposedly" healed/ those with excuses just to meet their demands.
malaysia does not need people with personal whims and fancies

The platform of players must be near balance in all aspects- it must be a common goal

The best teams will come eventually if we have our "best team " ready.

The present young ones are our best bet- they will bring in the desired change with time.Even if this is their early international stint as seniors,we must congratulate them for lifting Malaysia in this tournament and maintaining the pace DESPITE NOT HAVING other local/abroad seniors.
The platform is just reforming and must not collapse......

We must not reverse the tempo the young ones have set- bring in more fast paced young talents and watch them take Malaysia to greater heights- it will be the best team eventually in a more prestigious event

Anonymous said...

Dear sir, i read a comment made by one of participant of a tecnical course recently held during SAS tournament. Is it true thet the course was not conductet profesianally, therewere a lot of shortcoming from the organisers? Worst thing,is it also true that the lectures, were given 2 cans of BEER in a plastic bag? If this is true ,i would like to know, 1. What is the purpose of having such a course? 2. Why disgrace our countrys image by giving such a souvenior? All those involve should be SACKED.

Anonymous said...

Four to debut at the Azlan Shah Cup 05 May 2010

Five members of the World Cup team

1. Grant Schubert,
2. Matthew Swann,
3. George Bazeley,
4. Kieran Govers,
5. Kiel Brown.

4 four players made their international debuts at SAS

1. Malcolm Kemp (VIC),
2. Tim Deavin (TAS),
3. Tim Bates (QLD),
4. Trent Mitton (WA).

9 other players played at various other tournaments.

Hope this piece of info can educate the blind and illiterate.