Why rankings are important

Contrary to what is being reported, the FIH Rankings play a vital role in determining Malaysia’s path towards Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But before we move to that part of the equation, one has to understand the entire system of qualification, and to do that one need not win titles at international level, but to read , understand and comprehend what is at stake.

Firstly there will be 14 teams vying for 7 places in the Olympic Qualifiers to be played on 25-27 October and 1-3 November.

The selection of these 14 teams will be as follows;

4 teams from the Pro League who are not continental champions

6 teams from the 3 World Hockey Series Finals ( top 2 from each of the eight team tournament)

Four teams based on World Rankings that are not in the 10 teams decided through the above qualifications.

Hence there is no significance to Malaysia playing hosts to the World Hockey Series Finals in April/May as Malaysia would make it based on their world ranking of 13 currently to the 14 team final Olympic Qualifiers.

On the issue of world rankings dropping not having any significance to our chances, those who advises the piers that be probably never highlighted the importance of world rankings.

For Tokyo, five continental champions will get an automatic spot.

So far Japan ( Asia) has booked their spot, leaving four more places.

For projection and current form purposes, the following are expected to book the berths as continental champions – Holland ( Europe), Argentina ( America’s), South Africa ( Africa) and Australia ( Oceania).

Hence the following 14 countries are expected to make the final olympic qualifier next year Oct/Nov

1. Belgium

2. India

3. Germany

4. Great Britain

5. New Zealand

6. Spain

7. Canada

8. Ireland

9, Pakistan

10. Malaysia

11. China

12. France

13. Korea

14. Austria

These 14 teams will end up to play 7 match up’s and they will be drawn as follows;

Teams numbers 1,2,3 ( Belgium, India, Germany ) will be in a pool and drawn to play those places 12 , 13 , 14 which is France, Korea, Australia.

The next group is teams placed 4, 5, 6,7 which are Great Britain, New Zealand Spain, Canada will be drawn against Ireland. Pakistan, Malaysia, China.

These play offs will be over two matches and the teams ranked 1 to 7 will host both matches on the weekends of October 25-27 and November 1-3.

The 7 winners will then join the continental champions in Tokyo 2020.

So now why rankings are important?

Had Malaysia done well at the recent World Cup, it could have pushed them higher in the 14 team to play the qualifiers and avoid the big guns.

One needs to bear in mind that the points gained at the Jakarta Asian Games are yet to be included into the points as released yesterday.

This will only be done upon the completion of the rest of the continental championships.

While Malaysia can only gain additional ranking points from the World Hockey Series Final in April, teams like Belgium, Holland, Germany, Great Britain ( England), Spain, Australia, Argentina and Pakistan stand to add to their points through the Pro League.

Which raises another question – was the decision by Malaysia not to address ply for consideration to play in the Pro League upon India’s withdrawal a correct one?

Not only did Malaysia lose out on crucial ranking points, but also a chance to play quality matches over the next six months against top teams of world Hockey.

With or without hosting the World Hockey Series Finals, Malaysia would have qualified to be in the final olympic Qualifiers.

So finally it is pertinent to note that whether we qualify or not for Tokyo Olympics will only be determined when the dust settles in Oct/Nov next year and not in April that has been repeatedly being highlighted in statements by media in the country.

Therefore it is important to understand the qualification system as a whole and not in bits and pieces.

A higher ranking would have undoubtedly given us a much easier passage to Tokyo.

And I never played international Hockey, be it real or imaginary to figure out the process of qualification!