Friday, July 30, 2010

"Inquisition" without authority on the aspect of payments to Project 2013 hockey players.

The MHF Treasurer by virtue of his position has "ostensible" authority to carry out his day to day functions in maintaining the financial records of MHF. If for reasons he believes that there are some financial irregularities, he may have the right to inquire from the parties who have purportedly submitted the claim. If he is still not satisfied with the responses then he has to go back to the Management Committee and obtain consent for an investigation by him or a selected panel of persons. Failing to do that would mean that any investigation the Treasurer decided unilaterally may only bring the whole matter to disrepute, thereby implicating the Management Committee.

Matters got complicated when the Treasurer solicited support of the President of Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC), who concurrently is the Vice President of the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA) to assists him in the investigation. There may be a degree of wisdom as some of the players involved could be from Kuala Lumpur and therefore the presence of a key representative from there could assists the investigation. Unfortunately when this person got entangled in this investigation, he failed to appreciate that in widening the net the MHF Treasurer failed to act properly in getting the proper approval. Therefore the President of KLHC has knowingly or unknowingly involved himself in a process that has no proper mandate or is not even a party to.

The matter gets further into uncharted areas as these 2 officials were trying to extract written statements from players who were involved with the Project 2013 squad. Uncharted as the players did not have their parents or club representatives or Project 2013 representatives in such meetings. Acting without mandate itself is bad enough but endeavouring to extract statements from Project 2013 players without the recognition of the due process is blatantly ignoring the rules of natural justice. Effectively these 2 officials have dragged the young kids into a campaign of trying to discredit certain person or persons without the proper procedure and making these players victims of their overzealous emotions. What they have said to the players or the promises that were made is something that is going to bug the hockey community for ages to come. More so as these officials may have sown seeds of distrust with the players on the Project 2013 team management which itself may have long term repercussions.

Are we developing a team for the future or are we creating a team that may not have faith and trust on its team officials? This becomes a fundamental matter as what these 2 officials endeavoured to achieve apparently did not have an iota of truth. I understand this is what the TM as President of MHF told the Council Meeting early this week. Therefore why in the 1st place were these 2 senior hockey officials on such a "gango" run with such information? Why does a KL official get carried away to personally indulge in such unhealthy actions? Is it all a campaign to discredit the people involved in Project 2013 as totally untrustworthy? No one is saying that it should not be done rather do it the proper way following the process that conforms to the constitution and rules of natural justice.

This is obviously a broader vendetta campaign and there is no doubt that there would be many more. If energies are dissipated on such wasteful activities, it only goes to show how much genuine interest these people have in uplifting the standard of Malaysian hockey. I really wonder why are they in Malaysian hockey? Maybe they themselves also do not exactly know the answer. It could be to create the chaos so as MHF does not function properly and therefore reflects badly on the current administrators. I am sure the TM knows all these and maybe he in his regal style is giving them enough room for them to recognise their own selfish acts and hopefully get enlightened. Hopefully they change for the better.

At this stage the Project 2013 team must be given all the support as the future of Malaysian hockey rests with them. Yes ! we have to be the watchful "eyes and ears" to ensure the team stays to its objective by providing constructive comments. Lets not go astray and waste time and resources on wrongful issues. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Come and help Malaysian hockey to be world class.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Amending the MHF Constitution - The "Wayang Kulit" that shall be played by certain Affiliates and elected officials.

The debate is on with MHF contemplating making changes to their Constitution. I personally think it should be comprehensive but news from the grapevines seems to indicate that the changes are "mild" ie a realistic approach recognising the requirements of MHF as it postures to capitalise on its immediate future. It is about an administrative "clean-up" to strengthen the proper functioning of MHF rather than being riddled with people who sway on sentiments to win support as opposed to the merits of the matter.

While i am not privy to the changes, the issue that has been talked about is the post of Secretary and Treasurer of MHF. Currently these are elected posts but apparently the TM as President has made it known that he would want the positions to be appointed. A Committee headed by the Vice President of Special Projects have made their recommendation on the matter too.

The wisdom for such appointments seems to come probably based on the 2 year experience of the TM as President and he must have his reasons. At the last BGM 2 years ago despite the number of factions there was no line-up of candidates by any particular groups. Since the TM became President unopposed and the then incumbent Deputy President lost the election, everyone else stood on their own "ticket". Effectively there was not a "team" to manage MHF, rather it was individuals with different views that tried to come together and administer MHF. This in a way permitted MHF to be pulled in different directions and more often there was "fire fighting" undertaken by the TM to bring sanity to MHF.

Fundamentally the key posts in the administration of an organisation are the President, Secretary and Treasurer. The President as the Head should obviously rely on the other 2 key people and more often than not it should be his people. This is where the issue of competency and speaking the same "language" combined with loyalty are vital ingredients to ensure the administration is properly undertaken. When the time comes for the President to state that "the bug stops with him", he knows that it is his people who have done or not done the job and the responsibility squarely rests with him and no one else.

Therefore when one Affiliate went publicly to question the wisdom of constitutional changes to pave the way for such appointments with the rationale that the future may not have "checks and balances", was he trying to start an exercise of a debate or canvassing support to derail the amendments? Whatever the motives it must be seen in the light of what is good for MHF and of the President who has decided to dedicate his time and resources to the game. If the Affiliates have doubts on him then why in the first place have him as their President? If the Affiliates want him then it is only fair that he be granted his wishes which is not to propagate himself or to enable him to sustain power but rather to ensure the sport organisation he heads functions professionally for the sports and the nation itself. Is that too much to ask from the MHF Affiliates?

My worry is that the upcoming Council Meeting where support would be sought to have an EGM to pass the constitutional changes, may turn into a "circus". Such things are not new as the Coaching Committee recently have had such history and it would not be surprising to see some of the "actors" from there reigniting the scene here. Using the excuse of a "healthy debate", people of the same kind may try to arouse feelings in the hope there would be a "fire". I am sure the TM is an "old hand" in such issues and having had his stint in other places would know how to defuse it. My belief is that at end of the day, as part of their "wayang kulit" strategy by show of hands, the amendments would be endorsed to be forwarded to an EGM for approval.

While waiting for the EGM, certain Affiliates and officials by covert operations may try to canvass to derail the proposal. Their key interest here would be to ensure that their friends can be elected to the posts, thereby they can have the needed accessibility. It is this selfishness based on self interest that is destroying Malaysian hockey. This is their reason to ensure that the positions are not filled by way of appointments. Their strategy in "wayang kulit" would also push for a "secret ballot" in voting for the amendments so as the Affiliates can be sure that nobody would know how each Affiliate has voted. This is going to be the crucial aspect of their strategy to succeed.

In a nutshell, it must be known that most of the Affiliates do nothing much for Malaysian hockey. Some even do not have a league and some even find it hard to have regular meetings. Yet! they become "king makers" in the hour where they are supposed to play an effective role for the betterment of the game in the country. They "politick" that provides the much needed "oxygen" to sustain their presence and ultimately their crooked sense of thinking only goes to destroy whatever is being built for the game.

This is where the Affiliates have to make their choices and that is if they want the TM to continue the good work he has done to date for MHF. Then they must wholeheartedly support the constitutional amendments and carry it through with the two third majority. Failing to provide that support would mean that we may lose the distinguished services of the TM and probably bring Malaysian hockey to the "Dark Ages".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The wisdom of the senior national hockey team tours - " Timing, countries and opponents".

" To become the best, you must play against the best". This is what good sports administrators and coaches tend to strategise as they prepare their teams for vital tournaments that have significant bearing to world ranking or to build-up a future generation of world class players. This means the meticulous planning must be done in advance taking account of the top countries in the game particularly their own schedules eg hockey season, invitation tournaments plus whether their national team is in training, in order to incorporate our visiting plans. This effectively means that we need inroads with the team management of the teams we plan to have warm-up matches with including their respective hockey administrators. A lot of this rests on personal contacts where the major aspects are generally done by telephone calls and confirmed by e-mail. A distinct advantage of the electronic age.

This is where a good foreign national coach comes in handy as his peers are usually in similar positions in the other teams. This facilitates the personal contacts as the fraternity tends to be helpful to one another. Unfortunately our chief national coach has been out of the international circuit since 2002 while his assistant, having the exposure, is reluctantly kept away from important tournaments like the 2010 World Cup, other than for attending a coaching course. The lack of thought in exposing our local coaches at gatherings where the top coaches gather is a price we are paying today.

This "short sightedness" including the lack of a "will" to appoint a highly rated foreign coach only goes to show that we will not have the capacity to be a highly ranked world hockey nation. I say this because such foreign coaches bring with them not only the contacts but also the latest innovations in every facets of modern hockey. Unfortunately, we blur ourselves with such truth and get caught in a false web of thinking that our local coaches have the ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Australian, German, Dutch or Spanish national coaches.

Yes ! we can get there but it requires our coaches to get the appropriate qualification eg FIH Master Coach and the right exposure. In the past the pathway for them to get there has never been considered and this is where Malaysian hockey has suffered badly. The Coaching Committees were made up of people who lacked the foresight while the local coaches themselves were self contented not to pursue higher qualifications in coaching. All these get complicated when MHF and NSC appoint coaches without clear criteria on qualification, experience and success profile. Their ad-hoc thinking manner has allowed a "rojak" approach to the whole system that the aspect of meritocracy in sports has lost its actual meaning.

It is these finer points that have made planning in hockey suffer. We seem to have a 2nd rated thinking ie playing with 2nd rated teams in our build -up for vital tournament like the Asian Games that has a significant bearing to our pursuit of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games. So what have we done?

1. Go on a China tour recently when that country is not even in the top 10 in the world ranking. Further we play in a 4 nation tournament there with Russia which is ranked around the 25th in the world and Pakistan who literally sent a 2nd team as their 1st team was on a European tour. Honestly, we could not even defeat China in the final, who incidentally are ranked lower than us.

2. Now the team is on an Australian tour to play with the Australian Institute of Sports teams and various clubs. They are not playing with the Australian national team as they are away in Europe preparing for their Champions League. What is our national team's plan to achieve with this tour? Probably the satisfaction of having some sort of "good" feeling. Either they want good results or to avoid defeats of a thrashing score. Maybe it is this false sense of feeling that is blinding them to the reality of where Malaysian hockey is standing today.

3. Proposed tour to Europe and Ireland seems again to be omitting playing the top hockey nations there. The national team is playing club teams in Europe and matches against Ireland. They are hopeful to be invited to play at a 4 nation invitation tournament in France where their opponents could probably be France, Scotland and Ireland. Again they are teams that Malaysia believe they have an even chance of beating, thereby making their tour a success. It would seem that the "feel good" feeling be created so as everyone is happy despite the standard of Malaysian hockey.

We just have to look at Pakistan, India and Japan who are already in Europe and are playing the top national teams there. The reason is that they have foreign coaches who are taking advantage of warm-up games for the top teams in Europe before the Champions League. There seems to be a careful and progressive thought process in what these countries from Asia want to do.

The question we have to ask is whether these 3 tours are really beneficial for our national team? I believe the team management and maybe the money wasting people in NSC must obviously think so. Maybe it is an exercise of confidence building and therefore the players and team management have a better state of mind to perform at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games later in the year. A twisted sense of thinking that is only helping our boys to be soft in their mental state by misleading them that they are good. Creating a "state of denial" by creating this "feel good" feeling is a hopeless way of giving the impression of the capabilities of our national team.

Seriously, i think lets start writing off our chances in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games as i believe our preparation is not taking the right approach. If we want to pamper our team then it would seem that there would only be "softies" who cannot perform with the teams who daily practice to be top ranking nations in the world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

As MHF progresses, an official website is imminent.

In this modern age, information flow is generally on a real time basis. As things happen it is reported and this in a way provides the standard for such services. Waiting for days for the main media to pick up the news or to remain at the mercy of bloggers would mean that the entities concerned do not appreciate or understand the importance of timely information. If that is not the case then they are in circumstances where the implementation of such information technological system is caught in a web of uncertainties. Whichever way it obviously would not flavour the organisation with sufficient creditability, as prima facie it would give the impression that the set-up is caught in a time warp with people from the "dinosaur" era.

Having stated that it must be recognised that since the TM has taken over as President of MHF, in the last 2 years MHF has been relatively busy. The addition of a hard working General Manager has helped the administration to get things moving and endeavoured to service the areas that need attention. There is no doubt that there has been a significant improvement in the overall administration.

The area that needs urgent attention is the aspect of communication. Constitutionally, i am sure the Management Committee is keeping the Affiliates well informed through their correspondence, meetings like Council and so forth. The area in which i feel there exists a vacuum is with the public. Unless the public have their ears fixed to the ground, more often they are not informed of the developments in MHF. The danger of having "ears on the ground" is that sometimes the news can get distorted particularly when there is no official version on the matter. This permits speculation and as a result rumours which themselves can be damaging. More often it can encourage in-fighting.

What surprises me is our country has gone in a big way with information technology. There is the Multimedia Super Corridor with Cyberjaya at the heart of it. We have Multi Media University and numerous other institutions offering various IT courses. Yet ! it would seem IT has not got the attention of Malaysian sports. Our hockey stadiums do not have wireless links and therefore in modern hockey Malaysia is deprived of an essential tool in perfecting the game strategy with our opponents. As we build 1st class facilities we seem to have forgetten the fundamentals of equipping them with the latest state of the art technology. Yes ! we have the "shell" but not the things that make the "shell" great.

In not having such facilities for Malaysian hockey, we are denying our officials, coaches and players to further enhance themselves with technology. As the sporting world progresses with the latest technology, it would seem we have stagnated. Intervention by video reference has come into hockey and cricket. We have world class grounds for these games, yet not the latest technology for video reference. The saddest aspect is nothing concrete is being done. Obviously, the argument would be cost. I wonder whether such an excuse can be prolonged if we are serious of wanting to be of world standard.

Malaysian hockey of late has been busy with the 1MAS Hoki programme, Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy, Tun Razak tournament, Junior Hockey League, Sukma, Project 2013 tour to Europe, Senior team tour to China, National and Asian Indoor hockey tournament. With all these happening the information to the public is limited in the absences of a MHF website. It would seem that MHF had entered into an MOU to implement the website some 12 to 15 months ago, yet there seems to be no sign of its appearance. MHF can claim a lot of things but if it does not have an official website which is regularly updated, then it cannot claim to be in the forefront of the latest development in hockey.

What surprises me is the absence of a key MHF official taking responsibility in its implementation. MHF must learn the art of communicating through its website, thereby cutting off the "hide and seek" that is being played by various officials to the detriment of Malaysian hockey. Indeed a progressive National Sports Association would create a hierarchy security access for each Committee in MHF to update their respective fields. For example for the Senior team on tour to China, an appropriate format be created in the website for the national coach to daily update the team's activities in China. It is a simple process that can become a habitual exercise if we get used to it.

Unfortunately, it is the simple and important things in life that seem to be forgotten. Such being the case it gives rise to a vacuum and the responsibility of accountability through a real time process of updating website is left unattended. The fact that instantaneous reporting is brought into the life of coaches and officials itself creates the discipline for responsible accounting. This itself keeps the public updated with hockey information and in a way becomes a major tool for drawing the public to the game.

MHF is doing a lot of things and i have do doubt it is in the best interest of the game. The one thing MHF cannot afford to compromise is a well designed purposeful website reflecting every facet of MHF. If this does not take off, it would only be detrimental to the progressive image of MHF and ultimately Malaysian hockey.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

1MAS Hoki - "Creating the future generation for Malaysian hockey".

These days the standard response we get from coaches and sports administrators when the teams fail to perform is: "These are the best players available". It is no longer the excuses of lack of fitness or match fatigue or lack of exposure or not peaking at the right time, rather it is not having sufficiently good players to compete in the world arena. This seems to confront games like football, hockey, cricket ie most of the team games.

This obviously puts the whole focus on the "Development" programmes of the various sports. When a coach says: "This is the best we have", it literally means that past development programmes did not produce and breed the talents that were required ie failure in the "grassroot" development. This essentially means that " the grass shoots were not chosen properly for the roots to grow well enough to support the new grass ". This compounded with the lack of elements like sunshine, water, fertiliser and good gardening care may not have produced the sort of "grass" required. Fundamentally, we do not have world class players in team games because our "grassroot development" has been a failure.

I raise this as an example because of late Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) with financial support from the Prime Minister's Office have come up with an elaborate nationwide hockey development programme. Apparently MHF have created a system from the States to the Secretariat to a Task Force inbuilt with monitoring and scrutinising procedures in accounting for the progress for developing talents based on the monies spent. This whole programme is anticipated to cover a period of at least 5 years.

MHF has referred this as the "1MAS Hoki" and all credit must go to the TM as MHF's President and also to the Government who has time and time again shown its commitment to young Malaysians and sports. MHF is aided by an able General Manager, while the Chairman of the Development Committee must be recognised for putting together the paper, which itself is practical and has achievable capacity. It is not "a pie in the sky" sort of project, rather it is a project where those who are involved in implementation are financially paid for their services. It is not a voluntary scheme that depends on goodwill of people. This is the principle difference ie everyone becomes an "employee" of 1MAS Hoki. A corporate flavour has been introduced into development of hockey.

The key aspect is whether 1MAS Hoki has got the right people to do the job. This is important as the game of modern hockey has transformed where the requirements have also changed. What is important is 1MAS Hoki cannot carry with it "dinosaurs" ie people who are already extinct to hockey. This is going to be one of the key ingredients. More so as the programme actually targets players for the 2017 Junior World Cup. This is 7 years away and the people involved must have the passion, endurance, hunger for hockey knowledge, and, above all, the psychology to deal with young kids.

We have to admire MHF for working on a long term programme and the PM's Office to provide the support. We cannot in 7 years repeat what the coaches are saying now ie "This is the best we have". Rather it must be in the position where the coaches must be saying: " There seems to be a competition for places" as the team performs. To get there it requires careful planning and implementation with a continuous review process against set targets. This effectively calls for different teams at every facet thereby ensuring the processes get their fair attention. I believe this is something that is receiving its due consideration in MHF through an independent Task Force.

There is no doubt that there will be critics to the 1MAS Hoki programme. All the more the programme has to succeed to ensure the detractors do not have their day. What is important is putting the emphasis in the right areas rather than going down a track like what was done in the past. If so the past will continue to haunt us. There is the need to look "afresh" to start with. Iam helpful in making some suggestions.

1. 1MAS Hoki must lay down criteria for scouting for players. They must omit players who are already in State Project Schools and Sports Schools. They must create new players afresh ie the target group, which means the criteria must cover issues such as physique, physical ability, sporting flair and any other relevant aspects that could help them to become hockey players. Identifying such young kids is like getting the appropriate "root" to be planted.

This is the starting point and scouting the young kids to make them hockey players is something which cannot be compromised. Talent scouts should be coached with the necessary criteria to ensure everyone works uniformly on the selecting process.

2. Once the young kids are identified it is imperative that player's database be set-up incorporating their anatomical and bio-medical details plus continues progress reports on their training and game play.

Players performance history is fundamental in modern hockey and this program can become the foundation to set this up to track players profile in the future.

3. The programme must have targets over the short, medium and long term. These targets must be measured by independent teams and reported including the follow-up action. The programme itself must have sufficiently built action plans if planned targets are not achieved.

4. 1MAS Hoki must create its own website to highlight their programme and also use it as a basis for coaches to report the progress of their centres. This transparent approach provides an open system for people to follow the progress.

5. The programme must only recruit coaches who are also computer literate and therefore can, on a "real time" basis, update progress of the program and players' database.

6. 1MAS Hoki must also ensure that they send sufficient of their coaches for FIH Development coaching courses and ensure that they get the necessary qualification. Indeed this must be scheduled into the targets of achievement.

7. 1MAS Hoki must have its own league either as a carnival or zonal for inter development centre games. This would provide a better yardstick of measurement how the program is doing nationwide.

These are ideas that have spontaneously wormed their way out. There would be many more and it is important that if we want hockey to flourish in the years to come in Malaysia, we too must provide a helping hand. At least we have to come up with some workable ideas.

Good Luck to 1MAS Hoki and Malaysian hockey.