When UniKL (University Kuala Lumpur) came into the 2009 Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) scene, they brought with them a refreshing sense of hope to Malaysian hockey. It was the first Umiversity to participate at the MHL and moreso as its Chancellor is no other than the President of MHF ie the TM. It would seem that the TM is preaching exactly what he practices, which is popularising the game.
What was refreshing in UniKL's approach was its vision of embodying the principle of providing a platform for young talents to participate in the senior league. There were no big names or former internationals in the team and what was great is that they did not end up as "whipping boys" of the league. As debutant's in the league they gave most teams "the run for their money". While the TM was the prime mover of the idea, the lads on the ground namely coach Vicki, assistant coach Enbaraj, consultant Mirnawan, a Dutch Advisor working with an oil & gas outfit and the team manager Amir - a full time staff of UniKL, must be given due recognition for their efforts in moulding the team.
The same management team minus the Dutch Advisor was the principal personality behind UniKL's success in the 2010 National Junior League. UniKL became runners-up in the league and the overall champions. Some creditable performance yet again for the debutants. In a nutshell it would seem UniKL had started making "waves" in Malaysian hockey.
However within a year of their debut, some strange maneuvers are taking place in UniKL, maybe because of the quick success and the publicity they had received. Whether it was due to the "swollen head" of the team management, it would seem that they are losing the purpose as to why they were set-up. This is manifested as the cracks appear with some of the players moaning and groaning as UniKL seem to have disregarded in paying their young players their share of the prize monies even 3 months after the end of the National Junior League. This is further compounded in the change of thinking as UniKL greedily look for success by indulging with "big bucks" and acquiring big names for the team in the coming MHL. It would seem the freshness UniKL brought to Malaysian hockey is being polluted as they adopt the old ways of some of the other teams. Suddenly the "odour" coming out of UniKL seems to reflect "staleness" ie the freshness seems to have been lost.
The closeness of the team management of UniKL with the main people behind Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) seems to permit the flow of players that are being discarded by KLHC to UniKL. Most of those making the "beeline" are older former internationals including one of 35 years. It would seem KLHC's "good riddance" is becoming UniKL's "rubbish". As to why UniKL has taken such a radical and controversial approach is completely baffling.
The storyline does not end here. Rumours have it that UniKL has also started pinching players from other clubs. Lately, unconfirmed reports indicate 2 staff of a particular employer who has a team in the MHL have resigned and would be joining UniKL at the end of the notice period. The interesting aspect of the storyline here is one of them is a national discard and also from his previous employer's team too. As a result he was absent from the 2009 MHL and apparently he went to play at an European country league. He did gloat how well he performed there but did not reveal that he probably was playing at a lower league ie 3rd or 4th Division. Further flavour is added to the story as this player is known to skip training sessions regularly because he seems to be prone to an unusually high rate of injury and this time around for the notice period of resignation he is supposed to be also on medical leave. Somehow and somewhere UniKL seems to have been taken by him notwithstanding the stories that are being told.
The other player that would join UniKL from the same employer is currently on tour with the national team. This player is enticed by the "big bucks" and the fact that the new players may get yearly contracts and some may even get employment is becoming an added attraction. This seems unusual as in their debutant year the players contract only covered the period of the league. One wonders whether the new found wealth in UniKL's team and the "new thinking" with the team management would help to maintain team unity or create greater disruption. Time would probably give us the answer.
UniKL themselves may have to start questioning themselves whether in fact any of the players are undergraduates of the University. I believe this is something UniKL may find it hard to fulfill although they may argue that a minority may be offered employment opportunities. It is this misguided outlook of just wanting to win that the team management may compromise of building a young team of players including giving them the opportunity to study at the University. Such an omission would literally make UniKL similar to KLHC ie spend the "big bucks" to get the big names. The objective of creating new stars seems completely obliterated.
The chapters of the story do not end here. The hockey grapevine is talking that UniKL is equipping themselves with a foreign coach and maybe a few foreign players too. If there is truth to this then there is no doubt that UniKL is obviously adopting a "Machiavellian" style iie the end justifies the means. To win the MHL title is by packing the team with stars. So what difference is there if one is prepared to throw the money eg going and buying ready-made food.
In a way it comes back to what the Chancellor of UniKL is preaching in hockey. Are UniKL team management taking cognisance of this or are they blinded by the wealth they are collecting from their sponsors and therefore it is about winning at all costs? If that is so then all the effort the TM is putting into MHF to create talents is going to a waste if such players do not have vehicles like UniKL to give them the opportunities.