Apr 30, 2014


KUANTAN (30 APRIL 2014): World rankings do matter but there will be an exception to this notion when Malaysian head coach K. Dharmaraj prepares his boys for a ‘psychological battle’ against New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium on Thursday.

Dharmaraj will throw caution to the wind against the Black Sticks, ranked World No 6, in a mission that could see the Malaysians either make a ‘giant step forward’ or exit from the tournament with pride still intact.

The Malaysia-New Zealand match will kick-off at 2.45pm and this will be the first time the host nation will take the field under the blazing sun in this edition of the Champions Challenge 1.

“As much as we respect New Zealand as the top ranked team in this tournament, I believe we should also look at gearing ourselves positively for a good game. They (New Zealand) are a great team, build around experienced players, and are undoubtedly the favourites here,” said Dharmaraj at a pre-match press conference today.

“But I would also like to believe that as underdogs, if we can get our act working cohesively in all departments, we have that chance of beating them. We have played them in the past and history has shown that we have also beaten New Zealand before,” added the coach who was pleased with the performance of the players in the 4-3 victory over Canada on Tuesday.

New Zealand and Korea, the two top-10 world ranking teams in the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1, and Malaysia, ranked World  No. 13, will compete in next month’s World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

But the coveted Champions Challenge 1 Trophy remains top priority for now as the winner will gain qualification to the 2016 Champions Trophy in Argentina.

“We created many chances, had our fair share of opportunities at goal against Canada but we have been very unlucky in our last three matches.  We were hoping to avoid New Zealand but unfortunately we could not get the three-goal difference lead,” he added.

He lamented that the heat may affect both teams in the quarterfinals but added that two of Malaysia’s six-test matches against China recently were played in four quarters, and that the players have no qualms over it.

Just like the unpredictable weather in Kuantan lately, Dharmaraj is a firm believer that Lady Luck will find its way back into the Malaysian side, beginning with the titanic encounter against the Black Sticks.

New Zealand head coach Colin Batch, a former Australian international who was instrumental in Belgium’s rise in world hockey, said they have much respect for the Malaysians, judging from their performance in this tournament.

“Malaysia is a World Cup team. They played very well against Canada and have been very much motivated to do well at home. This match is definitely going to be very difficult for us. They play a fast game and I would rate it as 50-50 chance for both teams,” said Batch, adding that the sweltering afternoon heat may take its toll on his players but having played twice in such conditions before they would adapt to the situation.

New Zealand will once again be counting on their penalty corner conversion rates, one of their key elements in earlier wins, against Malaysia. They have scored a total of 16 goals – of which 11 were field goals and five penalty corners. Defender Andy Hayward (2), Kane Russell (2) and Simon Child (1) are Black Sticks main drag-flick specialists.

South Korea team consultant Paul Lissek is also bracing for a ‘stormy’ encounter against neighbouring nation Japan in their quarterfinals clash.

“Japan is a good side. They are fast in the counter attacks here and we will definitely not take them lightly. In the World League match in Johor Bahru last year, we took a 3-0 comfortable lead but they came back strongly to level score at 3-3,” added the German, who had previously coached the Malaysian team from 2000-2004.

Fixtures - Quarterfinals – (1 May, 2014, Thursday): Malaysia v New Zealand (2.45pm); Canada v Poland (5.00pm); Ireland v France (7.15pm); Korea v Japan (9.30pm).


KUANTAN (27 APRIL 2014): Malaysia suffered a 3-1 defeat against Korea in the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium. 

National coach K. Dharmaraj once again placed his faith on the experience of forwards Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Ismail Abu, Faizal Shaari and Ahmad Kazamirul for the goals, leaving the German-based Kevin Lim and team captain Azlan Misron to marshal the back line.

The hosts got off to a rousing start in front of 3,000 fans and earned the first penalty corner on 11 minutes of play but Ahmad Kazamirul blew it away by firing over the top, much to chagrin of the Malaysian bench and fans as well who were expecting the hosts to bounce back after a lacklustre performance against France which saw them going down 2-3 on Saturday.

The Koreans, who last played Malaysia to a 2-2 draw in the Azlan Shah Cup in March and join the hostS nation and New Zealand in next month’s World Cup, got their act together as fast as they lost it earlier by claiming the opening goal in a 19th minute penalty corner effort.

Hyun Nam Woo, a 22-year-old with 127 international caps under his belt, placed a low shot past goalkeeper S. Kumar from a goalmouth melee much to the joy of the small band of Korean fans at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium.

Malaysia mounted numerous raids after this early setback, piled the pressure on the Koreans through quick waves from both sides and earned three more penalty corners in the process which came to a nought. The first half ended in Korea’s favour 1-0.

The Koreans, however, were far from finished and went on to trigger more seismic shocks after the interval, earning five more penalty corners in the process against Malaysia’s four.

Just two minutes after the interval, ace forward Hyo Sik You picked a well calculated pass from Hye Sung Hyun inside the semicircle and with just Kumar to beat, shot home to go 2-0 up. They rattled the Malaysians further with another goal off a penalty corner in the 50th minute, this time Jong Hyun Jang made no mistake as the Koreans held a comfortable 3-0 lead.

Malaysia’s consolation goal came from Ismail after much pressure in the 69th minute from a field goal but it was simply too late to salvage a bruised pride. Perhaps Lady Luck had deserted them just when it was needed most.

It was another day of trouble and Dharmaraj’s boys must now keep the Canadians at bay on Tuesday before wrapping up their Group B fixtures going into the quarterfinals.

The Canadians had earlier done Malaysia a big favour by edging France 3-2 in an exciting encounter.  Korea leads the table standings with four points, followed by Canada (4) and France (3) while Malaysia has yet to pick any.

#CC1 #FIH #MHC #shekhinahpr

Apr 27, 2014


Debutants France packed enough fire-power to give Malaysia a shocking 3-2 drubbing in the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan today.
Led by 12 players from the Junior World Cup squad that won silver in New Delhi last year, the French put on a polished performance which silenced the 5,000 home fans.

In other matches, New Zealand survived an early scare before labouring to a 2-1 victory over Ireland, gritty Japan edged Poland 3-2 while the fancied Koreans were held to a 3-3 draw by Canada despite taking a comfortable 3-1 lead.

National coach K. Dharmaraj gave German-based defender Kevin Lim his first taste of national duty in a major tournament while preferring the senior S. Kumar as goalkeeper over Junior World Cup’s Hafizuddin Othman against the French.

Malaysia went on a fast-attacking pace in the first 10 minutes of play but ace forwards Ismail Abu, Muhammad Saabah, Firhan Ashari and Muhammad Baharom were unable to find the breakthrough against a fortified defence marshalled by French goalkeeper Edgar Renaud. Renaud, a 22-year-old and with just six international caps under his belt before coming into this tournament, was in his element denying the Malaysians of any pot shots.

France, however, went on a sudden counter-attack in the 34rd minute which resulted in a goal. Olivier Sanchez picked the ball near the top of the semi-circle, and had only Kumar to beat. France led 1-0 at interval.

Fresh from a dressing room ‘run down’ from Dharmaraj, the Malaysians came on with renewed determination in the second half which saw the hosts nailing down France with two goals within a space of  nine minutes. Faizal Shaari found the equaliser in the 41st minute and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin knocked home the second.

But joy in the Malaysian camp was short-lived as France search for the equaliser turned fruitful in the 50th minute when Victor Charlet weaved his way past Kumar and flicked the ball into goal.

The night turned into another disaster for Dharmaraj and Malaysia when the French earned a penalty in the 64th minute when Kumar was deemed to have deliberately fouled Aristide Coisne who was on a solo mission. Hugo Genestet gave France a 3-2 lead for the first time. Kumar was replaced by Hafizuddin shortly and Malaysia went on the attack once again.

However, confusion reigned for several moments in the 65th minute when Faizal’s shot struck a defender’s leg and claimed a penalty which was disallowed by umpire Diego Barbas from Argentina. It was all over for Malaysia by now.

Both Canada and South Korea returned to Malaysia for the second time in almost a month following their participation in the March’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup invitational tournament. The Koreans breezed past the Canadians 3-0 than.

The side, coached by Shin Seok Kyoe showed signs of good form early in the game with the inclusion of midfielder You Hyo Sik, forwards Yoon Sung Hoon and Jang Jong Hyu - all of whom have passed the 200 international caps mark.

Korea took a 2-1 half-time lead with field goal from Cho Suk Hoon (13th) and Nam Yun (penalty corner, 24th) but Canadian Gabriel Ho-Garcia closed the gap a minute later. Kim Seong Kyu, however, put Korea 3-1 up in 39th minute but that was as far as they went after a sudden lapse in concentration allowed the Canadians to strike back with two quick goals from Matthew Guest (60th) and Taylor Curran (63rd) to level score at 3-3.

“At 3-1, we were holding a very comfortable lead. Our target is to win tonight, stay top in our group for the quarterfinals and we were heading the right direction. I am disappointed with this result. The players lost concentration, became impatient and nervous and this allowed Canada to take a vital point away from us,” said a dismayed Korean team consultant Paul Lissek.

“We play Malaysia tomorrow (Sunday) and cannot allow this kind of mistake. The Malaysians have been playing very well since the last one year. They are on the right path heading towards the World Cup so our match is going to be very difficult. It could go any way,” added the German who had coached the Malaysian side from 2000-2004.

New Zealand head coach Colin Batch named a squad comprising 10 players having more than 100 international caps including defender and skipper Dean Couzins against Ireland who are making a second successive appearance in the Champions Challenge 1, having debuted at the 2012 edition in Quilmes, Argentina.

On the opposite end, the ‘Green Machine’ as the Irish are fondly known, saw newly appointed coach Craig Fulton parading ace goalkeeper David Harte, captain John Jackson and Eugene Magee – three of the most experienced members of the squad with over 420 combined caps between them.

Considered by many to be favourites for the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1, the Black Sticks went 1-0 up just 11 minutes into the game through a masterly combination between Steve Edwards and Arun Panchia, leaving the former with a simple task of placing the ball past goalkeeper David Harte.

However, Ireland looked seeming unperturbed by the early setback, got their act together, and equalised five minutes later through forward Alan Sothern who scooped the ball over the onrushing keeper Devon Manchester to make it 1-1 at the interval.

New Zealand dominated the early proceedings of the second half, earning three more penalty corners which resulted in none until a field goal by Steve Edwards in the 42nd minute saved them the blushes of what would have been a disappointing start to the nine-day tournament.

#CC1 #MHC #FIH #ShekhinahPR 

Apr 24, 2014


Debutant France arrived for the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 hoping to create ripples of waves in this sea side city of Kuantan, beginning with the Group B tie against hosts Malaysia at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

French coach Frederic Soyez said they have included 12 players from the Junior World Cup squad that claimed silver in New Delhi, India, last December, and hopes to reach their target of at least a fifth finish among the eight teams participating.

“We just finished playing test matches against Belgium. Although we lost in these matches it gave us good account before coming here for this tournament,” said Soyez after watching his young side defeat Japan 4-3 in a warm-up match on Wednesday at Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium.

“We did not have a very long preparation for the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 after the Junior World Cup as we are looking more towards the new season in Europe. But we hope to play well here against very strong top teams.”

He reckoned that the match against Malaysia, ranked world No 13, will be an exciting one and has told his players to be fully committed against a backdrop of rousing support from the local fans and a Malaysian side bent on improving past records in the tournament.

“It is going to be a good game. We have always wanted to play against Asian teams and our match against Malaysia will give us a good indication of our present level. The Malaysians are a very experienced side and play fast hockey. They are also preparing for the World Cup and if can stop them or pull off a point, that would be great,” added Soyez, who has also included five experienced players with international caps of more than 100.

They are goalkeeper Mathiew Durchon (169 caps), defender Francois Scheefer (127), team captain Martin Genestet (113), Valentin Migneau (104) and Lucas Sevestre (103).

The humidity and sweltering temperatures in Kuantan, said Soyez, has not affected them much as they have quickly adapted to the conditions here and are looking forward to their opening match against the host nation.

“The weather is good for us, the heat is fine and Malaysia is a nice place,” he said.

For the record, the Tricolores produced an outstanding performance on home soil at the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in St. Germain last year where they finished second behind Belgium, defeating Canada and Poland in the process to snatch four wins from their five matches.

#shekhinahpr #FIH #MHC #CC1 

Apr 4, 2014


Recognition comes in many ways and nothing is far more meaningful and appreciated than to receive awards and medals conferred in conjunction with the birthday of a state ruler.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Dato’ Alex Soosay will receive the Darjah Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (DSAP) and his immediate assistant, Windsor Paul John, the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang (DIMP), both of which carry the title 'Datuk'. They will be among 172 recipients of various awards tomorrow in recognition of their contributions to society.

Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, will present the medals at an investiture ceremony at the Istana Abu Bakar in Pekan on behalf of HRH Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah. 

For the record, Dato’ Alex Soosay was conferred the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang (DIMP) on Oct 24, 2011. He has seen the entire spectrum of the beautiful game of football as player, coach and administrator. He was appointed as General-Secretary of AFC on July 15, 2009 after the resignation of Datuk Sri Paul Mony Samuel.

Windsor, who was Executive Director of AFC in 2012, and later appointed assistant secretary-general last year – a move seen by many in the Asian football governing body as recognising Windsor’s ability in the administrative field as the man has been performing his jobs rather diligently, and with so much passion.

Of recent, football’s world governing body, FIFA, had so much of faith in Windsor’s ability too. He was appointed by FIFA to ensure that the Confederation Cup which was held from June 15-30 was managed and organised well in Brazil. Come this June, Windsor will once again head for Brazil as General Coordinator of the World Cup.

The former teacher started his career as an assistant coach in Selangor under the supervision of Dato’ M. Chandran, one of the most accomplished footballer Malaysia has produced, before taking on an administrative job in the Football Association of Malaysia.

I can only congratulate Dato’ Alex Soosay and Windsor on their latest accolades and am strongly convinced they will carry on in their jobs as ‘great administrators’.

As much as they appreciate the recognition bestowed upon them by His Royal Highness Tengku Abdullah Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, I believe both are humble human beings who will not allow this auspicious occasion to bloat their egos, as we have seen in several individuals who have changed for the worse!

To Windsor’s wife, Jane, who has been very active in community service for the church alongside her husband, and her deep understanding of Windsor’s love for the development of football worldwide, this is just another way of good things happening to great people.

GOD works in mysterious ways no doubt. But in life, we reap what we sow. Gentlemen, you truly deserve it.