Nov 10, 2016

Thunderbolts Cup - bigger and brighter next year

Not surprisingly, the inaugural TNB Thunderbolts Cup held at the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) Hockey Stadium in Johor recently received the thumbs up from the eight competing teams.
The four-day tournament from which Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) emerged champions is the brainchild of Tenaga Nasional Berhad, Malaysia’s largest electricity utility, which set a high bench mark thus creating a pool of talented hockey players in the country through its Thunderbolts Development programme.
Bandar Penawar-based SSTMI, SMK Anderson Ipoh, Pahang Sports School and BJSS come under the purview of the Thunderbolts Programme while Singapore Development Team, SMK Datuk Bentara Luar Batu Pahat (Johor Sports School), Sabah Sports School Malaysia and Selangor joined the fray as invitees.
BJSS thrashed Sabah Sports School Malaysia 7-1 in the final. This was the second trophy BJSS has safely stashed in its closet this year after claiming the TNBMJHL Cup.
However, the inaugural Thunderbolts Cup only served as an appetiser as there are plans to pump the tournament with a bigger dosage of excitement next year as foreign teams will be invited which is in line with TNB’s motto of powering the nation to a whole new level.
"We will try very hard to get teams from Korea, Japan, Singapore and even India to agree to play in next year's edition. This will give our players the opportunity to play against stronger opponents at this age-group level,” said TNB Thunderbolts Programme chief coordinator, Nur Saiful Zaini.
"We have seen good hockey from all the teams including Singapore in the four days of competition. Teams like Pahang Sports School, Singapore, Sabah and even Anderson did not do well in their respective opening matches but there was all round improvement as the tournament progressed.
"Their level of confidence also grew when up against tougher teams like SSTMI and BJSS. Sabah even beat SSTMI in their semi-final match which shows how they came back mentally prepared to take on the challenges,” added Nur Saiful, who is also the head coach of the TNB Thunderbolts team in the TNBMHL Division 1.
Singapore’s national team head coach, K. Rajan, has vowed to arrange more matches for the juniors and development teams against Malaysian sides to gain experience so the Thunderbolts Cup was a perfect start.
"There are not many competitions in Singapore for the juniors to gain experience so we would like to thank the TNB Thunderbolts management for inviting us to compete here. It was a valuable learning experience for the players and we hope to be back again for this tournament,” said Rajan, a former Malaysian national team player.
BJSS may have ended up as champions but rest assured that SSTMI and the other teams will be out to turn the tables next year on SSTMI's blue-pitch. 
The Thunderbolts Cup was held in conjunction with the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) which featured Pakistan, England, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Malaysian Under-21 teams.
"All Thunderbolts Cup matches were completed by 4.00pm so that players from the eight teams could travel to watch the SOJC matches later the same evening. It was also an added learning experience,” said Nur Saiful.

Roll of Honour:
Champion: Bukit Jalil Sports School
Runner-up: Sabah Sports School Malaysia
Third: Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School
Fourth: Datuk Bentara Luar Batu Pahat (Johor Sports School)

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