Kok Chi on Hockey at Olympics

 

Malaysia’s Participation in Men’s Hockey of the Olympic Games 

 

Background

Since its debut at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games, the Malaysia Men’s Hockey team has qualified and participated in the Olympic Games a total of 10 times out of 17 Olympic Games. In 1980, Malaysia qualified for the Olympic Games in Moscow, but did not participate in support of the boycott initiated by the United States of America. 

 

The 10 occasions Malaysia qualified for the Olympic Games were between 1956 and 2000, a period of 12 Olympic Games. The only two Olympic Games which Malaysia did not qualify from 1956 to 2000 were Rome 1960 and Seoul 1988. As for ranking at the Olympic Games, the Malaysian Team finished in 8th placing on 2 occasions, 9th placing on 3 occasions, 11thplacing on 3 occasions and 15th placing once. 

 

From the table below, it is clear that for the first 12 Olympic Games from 1956 to 2000, Malaysia achieved quite good results as follows:

 Qualified 10 times out of 12 Olympic Games. 83% achievements. 
 Ranked below 10 in five Olympic Games. 
 Ranked above 10 in four Olympic Games.
 Did not participate in the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games. 

 

From 1956 o 1976, out of the 5 times the Malaysian Hockey Team qualified for the Olympic Games, the team was ranked below 10 on 4 occasions. Only once, in 1968, did the Team finished in 15th out of 16 teams, There were many reasons for the good results. Some will say that Hockey then was played on grass, which gave an advantage to the more skilful Malaysian and Asian players. Others have pointed out that during that period, there was no centralised system and the states were producing good teams, which naturally resulted in a strong national team. 

 

For whatever reasons, it cannot be denied that the Malaysian Hockey standard started to fall slowly but surely from 1996 onwards. This could be due to the faster improvements in standards of other Hockey playing countries compared to Malaysia and the conversion from the playing surface from natural grass to artificial turf that give distinct advantage to the stronger and faster European players. 

 

At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Malaysia finished in 11th position out of 12 teams on both occasions. It would be fair to point out that at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, it was only one point that separated the Malaysian Team from vying for the 5th to 8thposition rather than ending up in 11th position. After 2000, the Malaysian Hockey Team could not qualify for the next 5 Olympic Games. 

 

It is therefore not surprising that since 2000, qualifying for the Olympic Games had always been a touch and go thing. To fight for the last one or two places, against teams of almost equal or slightly better is really risky. After so many failed attempts MHC still don’t seem to realise that qualifying depends on how good our team is and not how could our team squeeze into qualifying. If the objective is how to squeeze in then the hit or miss situation will always be there with misses more than hits. This is clearly shown by the fact that from 1956 to 1992, when the Malaysian Team was ranked below 10, qualifying for the Olympic Games was more assured (8 times out of 10 Olympic Games). 

 

The way forward

When Malaysia lost its golden chance in Jakarta, qualifying became a mountain too high to climb. My view is that MHC should accept the fact and start preparing a really good team for Paris 2024 Olympic Games. MHC should set a higher world ranking target of 8 placing or below by year 2022.   With the achievement of such a target, the chances of qualifying for 2024 should be much better.  MHC should consider qualifying for the Olympic Games as a means to the end and not the end itself. This means that once having qualified, the Malaysian Team should strive for as high a ranking in Paris as possible, with a target of below 8 placing. 

 

The next challenge in how to develop a stronger Malaysia Hockey Team. To me the obvious answer is to strengthen the State Hickey Associations, In the past the players weredecentralised and were based in the states. A number of states produced high quality players and competitions into the national team werre very keen and no one was guaranteed a place. Up till today I still can’t see the advantages of putting all one’s egg in one basket, which seems to be the case with the existing centralised system. 

 

Due to various reason, the State Hockey Associations have neglected their roles and responsibilities in developing strong states and club teams. In addition, they have also reduced organising and participating Hockey competitions and training sessions for their state teams for national competitions. 

 

In conclusion, I wish to suggest that MHC should revitalise the State HAs to be more active in Hockey development programmes and not just be involved during the AGMs of MHC.