Hockey: My faith in Olympic Qualification

The countdown has began.

On Saturday, we take our first step towards eradicating a record that we do not really need.

Our absence from the Olympics. The burden of eradication this horrendous record lies on the shoulders of 18 players, our best from the 32 million Malaysians.

Forget the politics of the national body, the melodramatic postings of an illiterate few, this is all about facts.

Yes, the odds are stacked heavily against you Malaysia. Past records show we have yet to defeat Great Britain in the Olympics.

But this is not the Olympics. This is one giant step to get us to Tokyo.

We can talk till the cows come home on preparations, we can argue on different philosophies with regards to how hockey our to be managed. But one thing is certain. No one with a sane mind would want our team to lose.

Perceptions always rule over reality in this country. Just because you have a title or hold a position does not make you the know all and be all.

It is a game of four quarters, not two hours as some describe it.

The most crucial part is how we start, meaning our first quarter and how we end, our last quarter.

HRH Al Mahrum Sultan Azlan Shah used to remind the players in the past, the first five minutes and the last five minutes.

We have become undone in the last five minutes many a time, the most painful being the Asian Games final in Jakarta last year.

That alone is one of the near misses of the world hockey, only to be matched by the exit of Ireland against Canada last Sunday.

Our players need to remain calm and composed, not to be rattled by the physical tactics of the Brits who obviously will take advantage if the match is officiated by European Umpires.

Making the chances count is another important aspect as this is after all the part call at the bar before it shuts down for four years.

Yes penalty corners is Abd has always been our forte, but we have to understand this – that the conversion rate internationally is down to 18 per cent in the average.

This is because more emphasis is being paid by coaches in penalty corner defences and it’s getting tougher to convert.

Then comes the crowd factor.

Yes Britain and playing in their home turf and some should stop moaning about it being unfair.

We should have voiced our concerns at the FIH Congress in November 2018 but obviously those who went never gave thought to it.

Now we just have to accept the fact that Britain hosts both matches and some 14,000 out of the 15,000 fans at Lee Valley will be rooting for Britain.

But the Brits, as passionate as they are, they value good quality play and our players can win them over with determined and dodgy performance.

Running themselves into the ground will be one important criteria but caution. This is two matches over 24 hours so recovery in the cold bloody English weather is something to ponder.

We have beaten the Great Britain in Cardiff, 1-0 curtesy of a penalty corvette goal by the legendary K. Embaraj way back in 1991.

Dare we dream of repeating that feat?

Of course that is possible and I believe deep down inside that these players, together with Oltmans, Stephen and Nasihin know it too.

Blood, sweat and tears, that’s what makes the difference between heroes and has verbs.

So wear that flag on your chest with pride boys.

Our country was colonised by the Brits, nothing better then beating them in their own backyard and denying them an Olympic berg for the first TNB’s since 1984.

We believe in you, so go out there and do your best.

No matter what, you players matter the most to us, not done bigots who just go an an emotional outburst on social media to self attention.

On a wing and a prayer, go do it Malaysia.