Hockey: Why neglect the Juniors?

Malaysia’s lack of focus towards the preparation of its juniors men’s and women’s hockey team could well see them miss out of the 2021 Junior World Cup.

While the men’s team has the players, their lack of exposure could well derail their qualification chances in the 2020 Junior Asia Cup that will be held in Bangladesh.

The tournament, which serves as the Asian Qualifier will be held from June 4-14 in Dhaka.

For those who May have forgotten, Malaysia failed to qualify for the 2017 Junior World Cup as they lost to Korea in the quarterfinal stage of the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan.

It was only due to the withdrawal of Pakistan, as a result of visa woes, that Malaysia was roped in as replacements.

The team, coached by former international Nor Saiful Zaini Will once again have a shorten preparation for the forthcoming Sultan Johor Cup which is scheduled from October 12-19.

The six countries participating in the 9th edition of the SOJC are Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India , Japan and Malaysia.

With the Razak Cup moves from its initial dates of early September to now be held from September 20 to 28, it will give Saiful only less then two weeks to prepare the team.

One option that could have been considered was playing the Juniors in the Razak Cup as a team.

But obviously no one thought about this factor.

Perhaps it’s time to consider fielding the Juniors as a team in the 2020 Malaysian Hockey League.

Before the detractors start spewing venom, kingly remember that this was done in 1988 to prepare the Juniors for the Ipoh 1989 Junior World Cup.

After a disastrous outing in 1985 where we finished 11th in the Junior World Cup, after our two fourth places finishes in 1979 and 1982, the team finished sixth in Ipoh under the guidance of Yang Siow Meng.

As for the women, unlike the men, they hardly have any team to start with as Luke the men all focus has been towards the senior side.

It is however fortunate that seniors coach K. Dharmaraj had blooded some promising youngsters into his team and they could form the core.

As such Dharma should be given the responsibility towards preparing the Junior Asia Cup women’s team to play in the tournament in Japan next April.

Neglecting development has always been a sore point in Malaysian Hockey with contrasting statements being made.

On one hand it was claimed that the so called National Hockey Development Program was already in place since September 2018.

But recently it was revealed in the media that the NHDP will be launched in October while its actual implementation will only commence in January 2020.

And one Malay daily went on record to say that RN700,000 was needed annually to run the NHDP.

We have with us the entire proposal of the NHDP and seek the powers that be to reveal the truth, failing which we shall publish the plan and let the readers judge for themselves if the currently running program is actually the NHDP or is it just the left overs of the doomed 1MAS Program that failed to yield its desired results.

But for the time being, let’s focus on preparing competitive teams to mount our challenge for the Junior Asia Cups next year before it’s too late.