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News 23 February 2014

All the news for Sunday 23 February 2014

Argentina women win first Test against SA

JONATHAN COOK in Mar del Plata

Marcelle Manson congratulates Lisa Deetlefs on her goal. Photo: RODRIGO JARAMILLO

With eight-times World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar delivering a master-class in close control and intuitive running, world number two Argentina came back from a goal down to lead 3-1 at half-time before running out 6-1 winners against the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team in the first of five Tests at Mar del Plata in Argentina Saturday night.

SA took the lead in the 14th minute when livewire runner Bernie Coston had a hand in setting up her team’s first penalty corner. Lisa Deetlefs timed her shot to the right-hand post to perfection.

But Argentina, the reigning World Cup champions and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallists, came back strongly with fine field goals from Carla Rebecchi, Daniela Sruoga and Delfina Merino, leaving SA with much to do after the changeover.

The umpiring did not help South Africa’s cause, but the Argentinians were the better side and did score some very good goals. SA had their chances, too but it wasn’t their night.

Argentina’s goals after the changeover came from a powerful Noel Barrionuevo penalty corner, then a wonder goal by Delfina Merino - and Aymar deserved getting on the scoresheet with the final strike of the night.

SA had some very good moments but Argentina had the edge in finesse when it mattered, and South African keeper Phume Mbande made a number of outstanding saves from full-blooded shots on goal.

South Africa time
Sun, 23 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
24 Feb: Rest Day
Tues, 25 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
26 Feb: Rest Day
Thurs, 27 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
Fri, 28 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)

SA Hockey Association media release

Critical moments cost SA men against Argentina

JONATHAN COOK in Mar del Plata

South Africa certainly deserved more yet it was Argentina who took their chances to go into half-time 3-0 up in the first Test of the five-Test series at Mar del Plata in Argentina Saturday night but the second half was marred with more controversial decisions and the South Americans capitalised to add three more goals for a 6-0 victory.

Furthermore, the three goals inside five minutes either side of half-time made a comeback very difficult.

First-half penalty corners by Gonzalo Peillat in the eighth and 27th minutes, the second after SA had given away a needless PC, plus a dubious field goal in the 34th by Juan Cruz Vila gave Argentina the lead at the changeover. After the break, field goals from Guillermo Schickendantz (37th minute) and Alan Andino (38th) plus Peillat’s hat-trick PC in the 64th minute were SA’s undoing.

SA fielded two new caps in Jaco Fourie of Free State and Dan Sibbald of KZN Coastal Raiders, both giving a good account of themselves.

Last time the sides met, world number 11 Argentina beat world 12 South Africa 5-0 in a series whitewash in KwaZulu-Natal.

Los Leones (The Lions) under head coach Carlos “Chapa” (Crazy One) Retegui, who is in a unique position as he also is head coach of the women’s side, are fast building a reputation as a formidable threat to any side but the South Africans had chances of their own, notably Lungi Tsolekile and Owen Mvimbi, who got themselves into good positions in the strike zone.

The umpires ruled nine PCs in the South Americans’ favour, a number that were plain error, coming off South African hands and not feet. SA were awarded one PC.

There was no doubt that Argentina were the better side, but definitely not by six clear goals.

South Africa: Rassie Pieterse, Gowan Jones, Jethro Eustice, Ashlin Freddy, Robin Jones, Dylan Swanepoel, Mohamed Mea, Matt Guise-Brown, Owen Mvimbi, Clint Panther, Jaco Fourie, Daniel Sibbald, Lungi Tsolekile, Pierre de Voux, Ignatuis Malgraff, Taylor Dart, Nicholas Spooner.

South Africa time
Sun, 23 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
24 Feb: Rest Day
Tues, 25 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
26 Feb: Rest Day
Thurs, 27 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)
Fri, 28 Feb: (midnight) Argentina vs South Africa (M); 1.40am Argentina vs South Africa (W)

SA Hockey Association media release

Waveriders run into Warriors in summit clash

Amitabha Das Sharma

A step closer: Delhi Waveriders are a happy lot after defeating Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the semifinals. Photo: Manob Chowdhury

Delhi Waveriders made its second successive final of the Hero-Hockey India League defeating Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1-0 in the first semifinal at the Morabadi Astroturf Stadium here on Saturday.

Forward Yuvraj Walmiki scored a field goal late in the first quarter to fetch the Waveriders’ winner.

Waveriders will take on Punjab Warriors which made its first entry in the final downing local favourite and defending champion Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 in the second semifinal.

Waveriders wrested the early initiative with some good ground play. Wizards had a chance to go ahead in the fourth minute, but Ramandeep Singh failed to connect a clever pass from Nikkin Thimmiah.

Waveriders regrouped quickly and earned the first penalty corner in the 11th minute. But, Rupinder Pal Singh found his drag-flick coming off the goal-post. Waveriders intensified their attacks and found the break in the 15th minute when Walmiki diverted home a pass from South African midfielder Lloyd Norris Jones.

Looking for the equaliser, Wizards went on a quick counter attack at the start of the second quarter and gained its first penalty corner in the 22nd minute. But aptain V.R. Raghunath saw his flick easily cleared.

Making good use of the flanks, Waveriders created another good opportunity in the 26th minute. But Walmiki was a trifle late this time as he failed to put stick to a diagonal shot at goalmouth from Gurbaj Singh.

Wizards had two penalty corners — one of which was given following a television referral — but both went waste as Raghunath shot the first one wide while the second one went off the cross-piece.

The costliest error was from forward S.K. Uthappa, who failed to slot the ball into an open goal when a cross from Australian midfielder Edward Ockenden reached him beating Waveriders goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi.

Rupinder Pal Singh, who played a key role in holding up the Waveriders defence in the face of a wave of Wizards attacks in the last two quarters, was named Man-of-the-match.

Drag-flick specialist Sandeep Singh converted two penalty-corners to realise a remarkable comeback win for the Warriors.

Forward Jake Whetton scored a fine field goal to complete the Warriors tally. Rhino found the lead through Ashley Jackson, who converted an early penalty corner, before Floris Evers reduced the margin late in the match.

Warriors hit back off a fine counter-attack early in the second quarter and earned its first penalty-corner in the 24th minute. Sandeep Singh made no mistake with his drag-flick to silence a 5000-strong crowd.

The host seemed to lose some steam in the third quarter when Warriors started regrouping. Sandeep Singh virtually took the match away from Rhinos in the 52nd minute when he flicked home his team’s fifth penalty corner to make it 2-1 and take his personal tally to 11 goals.

Rhinos could never recover from the crisis as Whetton finished another speedy counter-attack with a fine back-hand hit to make it 3-1 in the 55th minute. Though Evers pulled one back in the 59th, the effort came a bit too late.

The results: Punjab Warriors 3 (Sandeep Singh 24, 52, Jake Whetton 55) bt Ranchi Rhinos 2 (Ashley Jackson 14, Floris Evers 59).

Delhi Waveriders 1 (Yuvraj Walmiki 15) bt Uttar Pradesh Wizards 0.

The Hindu

Ranchi goes down gallantly

s2h Team

Ranchi Rhinos went down gallantly to Punjab Warriors in the second semifinals, as the latter moves into Sunday finals to engage Delhi, which won UP Wizards earlier in the first semis.

The second semifinal was expected to be cakewalk for Punjab, as they beat Rhinos in the previous two encounters famously, but today was different.

The semifinal win for Punjab was Barry Dancer's non-stop tenth win

Ashley Jackson, who very much justified his cost, led the Ranchi's onslaught and then fight back when things went bad, kept the chances of Ranchi winning till the last seconds.

The same Ashley who broke Jaap Stockmann's citadel converting Ranchi's first penalty corner, had an opportunity to level 3-2 score, off a penalty corner he earned just 30 sec left in the clock, but Jaap dived to his right to deflect the ball with his stick

In between its Sandeep Singh who struck a brace of goals to give Ranchi the 3-1 lead, but when Floris jumphed his height to deflect a balloning rebound in the 57th minute, things looked brighter for Ranchi, which it was not to be in the end.

Earlier, a goal of Jake Whetton after getting a minus from hardworking Affan Yousaff tilted the fortune in favour of Punjab.

His body swerve and the reflex goal that hit the top net is a stunner; he was fittingly won the Hero Goal of the match.


Punjab Warriors knock champions Ranchi out

Arnab Lall Seal

RANCHI: A huge crowd of 5,000 people shouted its lungs out but were left speechless in the end on Saturday as Punjab Warriors beat defending champions Ranchi Rhinos in the second semifinal of the Hockey India League.

Sandeep Singh scored a brace while Jake Whetton chipped in with another goal as Rhinos failed to make most of the chances and lost the match 2-3. Rhinos had a chance to take the match into shootout but Ashley Jackson failed to convert the final penalty corner of the night. Warriors, who lost in the semifinals last year, will now take on Delhi Waveriders in the final on Sunday while Rhinos will play Uttar Pradesh Wizards for the third place.

Both teams went on the offensive from the word go but it was Rhinos who drew first blood as Jackson converted their first penalty corner three minutes from the end of first quarter. Punjab Warriors equalized six minutes into the second quarter after Sandeep Singh converted their first penalty corner.

Just as the third quarter was coming to an end, Wizards took the lead as Sandeep made no mistake in converting their fifth penalty corner of the night. To the dismay of the home crowd, Wizards made it 3-1 after Jake Whetton scored two minutes into the fourth quarter. But there was more drama in store for Ranchiites as Evers pulled one back for the home side 13 minutes from time.

The Times of India

Delhi wins the lacklustre contest

s2h team

Un unfitting, boring semifinal saw Delhi Waveriders sailing into the final of the Hero Hockey India League with a lone goal struck by Yuvraj Walmiki in the first quarter itself, surviving till the end.

The much awaited semifinal, coming after three weeks of intense hockey, turned out to be a damphner as cautious approach of both teams doing no good to themselves or to the crowd.

Uttar Pradesh, which lost the semis last year too, got three penalty corners, two more than the ultimate winners, but their drills lacked elementary finesse.

Twice Raghunath flicked wide, the lone indirect of him had no takers due to poor communication

Gurbaj shone throughout the game, present on all flanks and at times to nip the rival's ball on the top of D, or near goalmouth

With Sardar Singh mostly briefed to guard the defence, and Rupinder Pal showcasing tremendous skills in interception, most of UP's attacks died at the outside edge of D, some of them which went inside did not produce any goals as Nikkin, Inglis, Alegre, all hurried their shots or delayed, even Jocobi need not have to produce his best to stop them. Yuvraj Walmiki won both YES Garv award and Hero Goal of the match, while man of the match award went to Rupinder Pal Singh.


Walmiki guides Delhi into Hockey India League final

Arnab Lall Seal

RANCHI: Delhi Waveriders made it to the final of the Hockey India League for the second time in a row beating Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1-0 in the first semifinal on Saturday. Yuvraj Walmiki scored the match-winner. In the final, Delhi will take on Punjab Warriors who beat defending champions Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 in the second semifinal.

Wizards had only themselves to blame as their skipper VR Raghunath missed all their three penalty corners of the night. Throughout the tournament he had been successful but on the night that mattered, the drag-flicker failed to make any impression. Not only penalty corners, the Roelant Oltmans coached side lacked precision inside the circle too and missed some close chances in the dying minutes of the match.

Delhi Waveriders couldn't have hoped for a better start to the match. Rupinder Pal Singh failed to convert their first penalty corner but Yuvraj made up for it by scoring the opening goal three minutes from the end of the first quarter. The move started from the midfield and it was Lloyd Norris-Jones who played it in from the edge of circle into the danger zone. Wizards' goalkeeper George Bazeley dived early and Yuvraj utilised the opportunity.

After the break, Wizards went on the attack and won a penalty corner. But Raghunath failed to sound the board and his shot took a deflection and went out of play. They had a good chance to equalize seven minutes later but Nikkin Thimmaiah's shot was well blocked by Vikram Pillay. Delhi Waveriders went on the attack after the first quarter.

Gurbaj Singh played it past the custodian with ease and all Yuvraj had to do was flick it into the net. But the striker was a tad slow to react this time and the ball went out of play. With the match nearing its halfway mark, Wizards tried hard to equalize but some good defending by Andres Mir Bel and Rupinder kept them at bay. Eight minutes into the third quarter, Wizards again had the opportunity to equalize after Ramandeep helped them win their second penalty corner of the night. But like the first one, Raghunath failed to convert it again as he missed the mark by quite a distance. More disappointment was in store for the Wizards as their skipper missed their third penalty corner of the match too.

In the meantime they also wasted a great opportunity to score a field goal after both Ramandeep and SK Uthappa, waiting in front of the goal, failed to make contact with an Edward Ockenden's pass. In the closing minutes of the game, Hugo Inglis also did well to penetrate the Waveriders' defence on a couple of occasions but Nicolas Jacobi did well to deny them the equalizer.

The Times of India

FIH signs 8-year contract with Star Sports

RANCHI: The International Hockey Federation signed an eight-year telecast deal with Asia's leading sports broadcaster Star Sports, where in the channel will have the exclusive rights of all FIH events throughout the globe barring Argentina.

FIH president Leandro Negre informed that as per the deal brokered between Star Sports and FIH, the broadcaster will also have internet, marketing and digital rights of all events.

He said money earned from the deal will enable FIH to be more self dependent, which means they will not have to rely on funding from the International Olympic Committee, which will drop down significantly.

"In a significant development for the game of hockey, the FIH today signed an important contract with Star Sports. It is a comprehensive deal and as per it Star Sports will also control the broadcasting, marketing, digital and internet rights of all FIH events starting from 2015," Negre told reporters before the start of the first semifinal of the Hero Hockey India League 2014 at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

"It is a global arrangement signed between FIH and Star Sports except for any event in Argentina as we already have an existing arrangement there. As per the contract, Star Sports will promote hockey all around the world," he said.

The FIH president was full of praise for HIL and said the franchise-based league has inspired other hockey playing nations to organise such events.

"For FIH, HIL is a key event as it has made a big change in the way how hockey is looked upon now," Negre said.

"Such has been HIL's influence that European nations are now thinking of organising a tournament like HIL. FIH is really indebted to Hockey India for giving the game such an event," he added.

The Times of India

Europe planning hockey league on lines of HIL

RANCHI: International hockey federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre said that Europe is planning a professional tournament like the Hockey India League (HIL).

"The players and officials have been left impressed by the way HIL is organised. Most foreign players speak highly of it. They want to have something similar in Europe offering decent money," said Negre on the sidelines of the HIL semifinals on Saturday.

The highly competitive Euro Hockey League is held over six months but is not as lucrative as the two-year-old HIL, which is only month long. Dutch legend Teun de Noojer is the highest paid player in the HIL, pocketing $87,400.

"The European Hockey Federation will decide when to host the event," said Negre when asked about the timing of the event.

In the same media interaction, the FIH boss also confirmed that they have signed an eight-year contract with Star Sports for their global broadcast and marketing rights, starting 2015.

"Star will broadcast our events around the world, barring Argentina. That is because we have got an existing contract with Argentina," said Negre, choosing not to divulge the amount of money involved in the deal.

Negre added that the pact will enable FIH to reduce its dependency on the funds from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"We have always relied on IOC funding. This deal will reduce their funding to one-third."

The Times of India

Astro-turf is beneficial for Indian hockey: Balbir Singh

NEW DELHI: Dismissing the oft-cited problems in adjusting to astro-turf as the reason for Indian hockey's decline, the legendary Balbir Singh said such an argument is merely an excuse to hide poor performance as the surface is beneficial for the country's players.

Balbir said he does not share the widely-held belief that India and Pakistan lost ground in world hockey after initial domination due to the introduction of astro-turf surfaces and change in rules.

"I don't believe that the change in rules and playing on astro-turf has given a disadvantage to India and Pakistan. It is just an excuse (for the poor performance in recent years). Rather it should be beneficial to sub-continental hockey," Balbir said.

The 89-year-old said the changes have been effected for good of the game.

"During our time, controlling the ball was a problem as we played on gravel fields. It was really difficult. Now the ground is smooth and the ball comes automatically. It's perfect conditions for ball control," said Balbir who now divides his time between Vancouver, where his three sons are settled, and Chandigarh.

"Now the pace of the game is also fast because of less interruptions. The referee allows to continue play (under advantage rule) and so there is flow in the game. People want to see fast and continues play. So, it's good for the game.

"It's a fair game now. It's good for Indian players and dribblers. The ball will come at the striking circle more often and if you have the talent you can dodge past two or three defenders and shoot at the goal. Dodging past opposition players inside the striking circle is the real dribble. Outside the striking circle anybody can do it and some do it for the gallery," he said.

Considered one of the finest ever centre-forwards the game has seen, Balbir rued the lack of field goals in contemporary hockey.

"Nowadays, players would even try to hit the ball to the legs of opponents to get a penalty corner. Penalty corner has become an excuse to score goals. If you have the talent you should score field goals. Now most of the goals are scored indirectly."

Balbir said he preferred to score through first time strikes rather than long dribbles.

"I preferred to score from first time strikes. The goalkeeper is not ready and you have a better chance to score. When you dribble before shooting, he gets time and it becomes more difficult."

Balbir candidly admitted that he copied a lot of tricks from another legendary hockey player and his senior Dhyan Chand but with an ambition to better him.

"Dhyan Chand was my role model. He was a very good human being, nice and gentle and people respect him. I used to touch his feet. I learnt a lot from him about integrity, concentration and work ethic.

"When I first played as goalkeeper he would be the centre forward of opposition team and I would think that I would one day become a player like him. I copy his tricks so that I can better him."

Balbir, who helped India win its first three Olympic gold medals while emerging as a newly independent nation, said he always considered his hockey stick and the tri-colour as the symbols of the country's sovereignty.

Balbir, who was a member of India's gold-winning hockey team in 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympics, said the thought of the tri-colour fluttering inspired him to go for the glory in the ultimate sporting arena.

"Thanks to the tri-colour. I played for the country, for the flag. When India won, the Indian flag would flutter and the National Anthem would be sung. That is something really special which will have to be experienced, not to be told or seen," Balbir said.

"What I am today is because of the hockey stick and Indian flag. I had always considered them as the symbols of India's sovereignty," 89-year-old Balbir, who still keeps a hockey stick by his bedside when he sleeps, said.

Balbir, who was one of 16 iconic Olympians chosen across different sports for their achievement in the Olympic history during the 2012 London Games, said his practice with a tennis ball in his early years at home helped him in developing quick reflexes and that was critical in goal-scoring.

Asked about the record five goals he scored in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic final against the Netherlands which India won 6-1, Balbir said, "At that time, the spirit and enthusiasm of the team was something different. Everybody was like, bring the ball at the striking circle (to score) and let's see. It was amazing.

"I used to practice with a tennis ball and I would hit it between the two doors of my house. The speed of the tennis ball, you know, it will come to you at a very fast speed and that helped me in developing my reflexes and I practiced a lot that I can even close my eyes and still put the ball between the two doors. That made me decisive and accurate inside the striking circle. That is how I scored five goals in that final match," Balbir said.

He said he would be happy if an Indian breaks his record of scoring five goals in an Olympic hockey final, which has been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records.

"The impression of the people is that that record will never be broken. But if an Indian happens to break that record, I will be a happy man," said Balbir, who was also the manager and chief of Indian hockey team which won the World Cup in 1975.

Asked about the stories of Dhyan Chand's hockey stick being broken by people to see if there was a magnet inside it, Balbir said, "Those are made up stories. Similar things were also written about me.

"There were also stories about Hitler offering Dhyan Chand to become an officer of captain's rank in his army. But that was also a made up story. Hitler would have shot the person who was instrumental in his team's defeat," said Balbir with a laugh.

He also recalled the interesting story of how he became a centre forward after starting as a goalkeeper.

"My father was a hostel warden and our house at Moga which we had on rent has a hockey ground just a few yards across the road and I watched the Indian team played matches there. When I started playing, I was a goalkeeper and then a full back and then a centre forward.

"It was a local tournament and one of our cousins who used to stay with us came up and told me two senior full backs have come and I will play as a forward. I said forward and he said centre forward. Since then I played as a centre forward."

The Times of India

European promotion still a possibility for Wanderers

Becky Ward of Dundee Wanderers

Dundee Wanderers are still in with a fighting chance of securing promotion in Europe after a 3-2 win over Belgian side Royal Antwerp in the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champions Trophy in Siaulai, Lithuania today.

Two goals in a minute from Sam Sangster and Vikki Bunce put Scotland’s European representatives 2-0 up shortly before half-time, before two goals for captain Laurine Delforge put the Belgians back on level terms.

Nevertheless, Bunce held her nerve four minutes from full-time to dispatch a penalty corner past Virginie Hermans and secure a priceless 3-2 win.

Reading’s 2-2 draw against fellow promotion rivals Gintra Strekte Uni HC means that Dundee Wanderers will most likely need a win against the English champions to finish in the top two places.

Earlier on today, the Dundonians progressed to the promotion pool stage despite a narrow 2-1 loss at the hands of hosts Gintra Strekte Uni HC. Jess Ross scored the goal for Wanderers.

Yesterday, the National Indoor League Division 1 champions drew 5-5 with Slagelse HC of Denmark in their opening match of the competition.

A double each from Bunce and Obsourne, and a goal from Elder ensured the Taysiders got off to a solid start against the Danes, before comfortably beating Italian side HC Lorenzoni 8-3 in their second pool match. Bunce netted four times, while Becky Ward helped herself to two goals. Ross and Charlotte Watson claimed a goal each.

Please visit the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champions Trophy competition page for information including results, fixtures and pool standings.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Sinton strike sinks Leicester

Clifton's Liz Sinton

A goal from Liz Sinton (pictured) with just seven minutes left proved enough for Clifton to beat Leicester and climb above them in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division on Saturday.

Her 64th minute strike from a penalty corner meant that Clifton stepped up into the top four and boosted their bid for a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Meanwhile, leaders Canterbury notched up their 11th win in 14 league matches so far this season when they won 1-0 over Beeston. Nicky Lloyd’s 11th minute goal from a penalty corner proved enough to take the win.

University of Birmingham completed the double over Bowdon Hightown, winning 3-2 at South Downs Road.

The Cheshire outfit were leading after Holly Hunt had scored on 10 and 21 minutes, but the University of Birmingham halved the deficit with Lily Owsley’s 23rd minute strike and pulled level when Alice Sharp scored from a penalty corner on the hour mark.

And with a minute remaining, Holly Payne scored from open play to snatch the win.

Sutton Coldfield came out 4-1 winners from their battle at fellow strugglers Olton and West Warwickshire.

Emma McCabe scored twice, while the others came from Sarah Parkinson-Mills and Jane Sixsmith. Amie Hone scored Olton’s only goal.

The top three all won in the Investec Conference North all won. Leaders Brooklands beat hosts Ben Rhydding 5-0 with Sarah Newman scoring two of their goals.

Heather Stafford scored two as Wakefield won 4-0 over Stourport, and third-placed University of Durham were 2-1 winners at Boots with Alice Toynton and Milly McWhirter their scorers.

Third-placed St Albans boosted their Investec Conference East campaign when they beat second-placed East Grinstead 3-0 with Megan Crowson scoring all three goals. Meanwhile, leaders Holcombe notched up another win, 5-0 at Sevenoaks.

Both the top two sides in the Investec Conference West secured five-nil victories, with leaders Slough winning at Bristol Firebrands and second-placed Buckingham beating visitors Exe by the same margin.

League Finals Weekend

The winners of the Investec Women’s Hockey League and the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League will be crowned over two action-packed weekends at Reading Hockey Club in April. The top four Premier Division teams qualify for their respective finals weekends, laying off against each other to be crowned league champions.

The men’s finals will take place on the 5-6 April while the women will battle it out a week later from 12-13 April. Tickets are now available to purchase for both weekends, please visit www.englandhockey.co.uk/tickets

Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, February 22 2014):

Investec Women's Premier Division: Bowdon 2, University of Birmingham 3; Canterbury 1 Beeston 0; Leicester 0, Clifton 1; Olton & West Warwicks 1, Sutton Coldfield 4.

Investec Women's Conference East: Chelmsford 2, Harleston Magpies 1; East Grinstead 0, St. Albans 3; Horsham 4, Old Loughtonians 2; Ipswich 1, Wimbledon 1; Sevenoaks 0, Holcombe 5.

Investec Women's Conference North: Ben Rhydding 0, Brooklands Poynton 5; Boots 1, University of Durham 2; Doncaster 0, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth 1; Kendal 2, Loughborough Students 2; Wakefield 4, Stourport 0.

Investec Women's Conference West: Bristol Firebrands 0, Slough 5; Buckingham 5, Exe 0; Isca 3, Gloucester City 1; Oxford Hawks 0, Swansea City 0; Trojans 1, Barnes 1.

England Hockey Board Media release

BJSS scrape through

DIVISION TWO: Sports school defeat Nur Insafi to book place in playoff final

By Jugjet Singh

Nur Insafi’s Faridzul Izwan Hanipah (centre) tries to go past Bukit Jalil Sports School players in their Division Two match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. Pic by Hasan Ismail

BUKIT Jalil Sports School (BJSS) will play Politeknik-KPM in the Division Two playoff final at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

BJSS, Politeknik-KPM, Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak-PKT) and MSP-Pahang also qualified to play in Division One next season.

Yesterday, BJSS beat Nur Insafi 5-2, while Politeknik-KPM thrashed MSP-Pahang 5-0 to qualify for the final.

The Politeknik-KPM goals were scored by Ain A. Rahman (14th, 24th), Kamarul Ariffin Kamaruddin (19th), Ashran Hamsani (45th) and Khairuddin Ramlan (57th).

BJSS, who were relegated to Division Two last year, were elated with the comeback.

"We reached our target of re-claiming our Division One spot, and even though the final tomorrow (today) is expected to be tough, my boys are ready to give their best," said BJSS coach S. Prakash.

Needing to win by three clear goals to pip Olak-PKT, BJSS went into the lead in the 8th minute through Mahathir Rathuwan.

But Nur Insafi were not going to make it easy and drew level in the 18th minute via Izaidi Ismail.

However goals from Norshahrezan Mat Jusoh (25th, 33rd), Fakhri Ardillah Saifullah (48th, 61st) gave them a 5-1 lead.

Nur Insafi tried to upset the form book, but could only score one more off Nur Mushawwir Hrsikesa Thaitchana in the 51st minute.

BJSS earned RM2,000 as Group X champions with Olak-PKT received RM1,500 as runners-up. In Group Y, Politeknik-KPM collected RM2,000 and MSP-Pahang RM1,500.

RESULTS: BJSS 5 Nur Insafi 2, Politeknik-KPM 5 MSP-Pahang 0.

TODAY: Division Two Final -- Politeknik-KPM v Bukit Jalil Sports School (7pm); Third-Fourth: Olak-PKT v MSP-Pahang (5pm). Both matches at the National Stadium II in Bukit Jalil.

New Straits Times

BJSS joins Olak-PHK in Division One

By S. Ramaguru

KUALA LUMPUR: Former double champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) qualified for the Division Two final of the MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysian Junior Hockey League when they whipped Nur Insafi 5-2 in their final group match at the National Hockey Stadium.

BJSS pipped Olak-PKT to the final spot, having scored more goals compared to their rivals. Both BJSS and Olak had three points apiece and a similar plus three-goal difference after a win and a draw. But BJSS had six goals while Olak had five.

BJSS will meet Politeknik Johor in the final on Sunday.

With Saturday’s win, BJSS also regained their place in next year’s Division One. They will also play in the knockout stage, which starts on Friday. The draw for the quarter-finals will be held on Sunday.

BJSS coach S. Prakash said their main aim was to gain promotion after being demoted last year.

“So making the final was a bonus. We will use the final as a stepping stone to the quarter-finals.

“It was a good outing for the players yesterday as they went all out to win the match. Any other result would have affected us badly,” he said.

Mahathir Rathuwan opened the scoring for BJSS while Mohamed Norshahrezan Jusoh and Mohamed Fakhri Ardillah scored a brace each. Nur Insafi replied through Mohamed Fahmi and Nur Mushawir Hrsikesa.

BJSS, however, are expected to face an uphill struggle against Politeknik on Sunday. Both teams met in the group stage earlier last month and the Johor team walked off with a convincing 4-1 win.

But Prakash said: “It is a different ball game in the final and we will try our best. There is no pressure on the players.”

Politeknik ended Saturday’s second round playoffs with a 5-0 mauling of MSP Pahang Juniors. Mohamed Ain Rahman (14th and 24th minutes), Mohamed Kamarul Ariffin (19th) and Mohamed Ashran Hamsani (45th and 57th) were the scorers.

BJSS and Politeknik bagged RM2,000 for being the group champions while Olak and MSP Pahang Juniors received RM1,500 each. The third placed teams – Nur Insafi and Bakat MSSK-PHK – took home RM1,000 each.

There is no prize money on offer in Sunday’s final.

The Star of Malaysia

Pakistan out, reduced to B grade event

The 23rd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is fast becoming a sham no thanks to poor planning by the Organising Committee.

The latest low came about when Pakistan withdrew from the seven team event by notifying the Malaysian Hockey Confederation who kept the news to themselves until New Straits Times journalist Jugjet Singh managed to get the official word from the national body late Saturday.

The whole tournament had lost its glitter, turning from a classy A level event to a C grade event following the decision by top teams to give the event a miss.

It all boils down to a poor choice of dates by the overzealous Organisors who clearly lacked the ability to convince teams to come with some forward thinking.

Even former national coach Paul Revington was baffled by the choice of dates for this years event given the fact that the Champions Challenge was slated for April 26 to May 4 and the World Cup in The Hague slated for May 31 till June 15.

Revington had requested, prior to resigning, to hold the tournament in February as that would have allowed to European sides like Germany, Holland, Belgium, England and Spain to be available. But all he got was a curt replay that the Sultan was not agreeable.

Those who know the Sultan will be well aware that he has the best interest of hockey at heart and has gone out of his way to hold the event even in January and May to suit the international calendar.

It is clear that inept officials caused irreparable damage to the event as they failed to look at the bigger picture. Thus the 23rd edition has lost its glitter as teams like Argentina, New Zealand, India, Belgium - all declined the invites and Australia will surely field the developmental squad.

And by having teams ranked behind Malaysia in the world ranking being invited to play, Malaysia is giving a paid for match practice to teams like Canada, China and France ( till they withdrew) a perfect platform to better themselves at Malaysian expense.

This is hardly the sort of preparation for the Malaysian team to prepare for a World Cup.

Perhaps the Perak HA, which has not even merged, thus running foul of FIH regulations that compelled MHF to merge with MWHA to form a single entity, could now field a combined team of illegals to play in what is the worlds longest running international tournament.

They will go down as a bunch of individuals who have gave scant respect to such a great tournament, all because of their lack of ability to think out of the box.

Azlan Shah Cup site

Pakistan out of Azlan Shah Cup

THE Azlan Shah Cup will be a six-team affair this year as Pakistan sent an e-mail to Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) secretary Datuk Johari Aziz stating their withdrawal.

The tournament will be held on March 13-23, with Malaysia battling World No 1 Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and South Korea.

"I received an e-mail late on Friday from the Pakistan Hockey Federation informing me that they have decided to withdraw from the Azlan Shah Cup.

"Pakistan had confirmed their participation earlier and their 11th hour withdrawal has placed us in a sticky situation. It is too late to invite another team, and also we don't want to beg a team who are not interested to play.

"So, it will be a six-team tournament this year," said Johari Aziz.

India were the first team to decline invitation, and then France pulled out to play in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan instead and South Africa were their replacements.

Malaysia finished runners-up to Australia in last year's edition.

New Straits Times

Pakistan withdraw from Azlan Shah Cup

By S. Ramaguru

India and Pakistan players at last year's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. This year, both countries will not be participating.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan have pulled out of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The Pakistanis informed the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) of their decision on Friday night but did not give any reason for their withdrawal.

MHC secretary-general Datuk Johari Abdul Aziz said that they will keep the event a six-nation affair as there is no time to invite another team as replacement.

The teams in the fray now are Canada, South Korea, South Africa, China, Australia and Malaysia. The tournament will be held from March 13-23 in Ipoh.

“We have no idea why they withdrew. All they said was that they are unable to take part this year. We are also unable to shorten the duration of the meet as most teams have already confirmed their travel arrangements.

“The fixtures will be reviewed. We will have to let the FIH ratify it first before releasing it,” he said on Saturday.

This year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has taken a major hit with nations not being able to field their best teams. India is absent for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1983.

France had also initially entered a team but opted out when they were invited to play in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan in April replacing the South Africans.

Australia is the defending champions and they are also likely to field a mixed team.

But for Australia, South Korea, South Africa and Malaysia, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is also the start of their World Cup journey. All four teams have already qualified for the Finals which will be held in The Hague, Holland from May 31-June 15.

The Star of Malaysia

PHF seeks govt help to proceed with planned India series

LAHORE - The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has sought help from its government to proceed with a bilateral series with India, planned for March-April this year.

PHF President Akhtar Rasool said that the planned six-match series could only be possible if the two governments gave clearances. "We have written to the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination and Foreign Ministry to help us in making this series possible," Rasool said.

The Olympian said whenever a bilateral series had been planned in the past, the Indian government had not given clearance for it. "This time both federations want to have this series and that is why we are using government channels to convince the concerned Indian ministries to give clearance to this series," he said.

Rasool said that if the series, that include three matches in India and three in Pakistan, took place it would help Pakistan overcome its financial crisis. "We are facing a financial crunch because we have been promised grants by the government but they have not yet been released to us. The PHF is also thinking seriously about whether it is worth it to spend millions of rupees on sending the national team to the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia when with a much lesser amount we can organise a grand national tournament in the country," he said.  Pakistan hockey is going through a major crisis in the last few months with the PHF admitting that it has become difficult for it to even send teams for international tournaments.

The Nation

Barren fields

Abid Hussain

— Photo courtesy of Dawn archives.

The scenes that transpired at Sydney’s Homebush Stadium, 19 years ago, will forever remain etched in the memory of those Pakistanis who saw it live on television. The booming voice of (late) Farooq Mazhar; the minute by minute low-down on the thrilling penalty shoot-out; the nervous Dutch youngster Jeroen Delmee’s decisive push; the agile Mansoor Ahmed with his brilliant save and the subsequent celebration by the team — all of it remains part of our hockey folklore. The title won was Pakistan’s fourth World Cup victory.

This was an outstanding feat given that there had been only eight editions of the event until then. Only months earlier, Pakistan had won the Hockey Champions Trophy, the most prestigious tournament in international field hockey’s annual calendar at the time.

That World Cup victory was the last time the green shirts managed to win any of the big three global competitions (the World Cup, the Summer Olympics and the Champions Trophy). Between 1990 and the end of 1994, Pakistan hockey was, indeed, riding a wave of success comparable to its golden era in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Within those five years, Pakistan managed eight podium finishes – securing an impressive collection of three gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals – in two World Cups, five Champions Trophy tournaments, two Asian Games and one Olympic games.

The ensuing years saw the performance of the national team gradually plummet. The team often failed to qualify for the last four slots in a major tournament. The last big win Pakistan had was at the Guangzhou Asian Games, in 2010. The mother of all disappointments, though, was the inability of the national side to qualify for the World Cup in 2014, despite getting multiple opportunities to do so. A hockey World Cup without Pakistan is akin to having a football World Cup without Brazil — at least for local fans.

Not that the Pakistani team was a serious contender for winning the upcoming World Cup. In 2010, our boys stood last in the competition, their worst finish in World Cup history, earning them the ignominious wooden spoon. And, as of November 2013, they are ranked nine, according to the latest international rankings.

What caused such a drastic downfall? Why is Pakistan’s national sport in such a shambles? Above all, can its lost glory be restored?

To begin the quest for answers, no place in the country is better suited than Gojra. This little central Punjab city, an hour’s drive from Faisalabad, is often known in modern memory for the anti-Christian riots that wracked it in 2009. But its original claim to fame is its unmatched capacity to produce world-class hockey players. Despite a small population of just about 300,000 souls, Gojra has given Pakistan more than 100 international players in the last 67 years. Many of them went on to become superstars.

Iqbal Bali, a former Olympian, a retired international hockey umpire and a Gojra native, says the decline of the game at the national level has coincided with a lack of interest in it, at school and college levels. “To sustain the game, we need a competitive club hockey structure. And for that, the pool of players has to come from schools and colleges. If they don’t provide raw talent, there will be no rough diamonds available for coaches to polish,” he says.

— Photo courtesy of Dawn archives.

An imposing presence, 67-year-old Bali has been involved with the game for more than four decades. A member of the team that played in the 1972 Munich Olympics, he went on to become an umpire, officiating at many international events. The Barcelona Olympics, in 1992, was his last event as an umpire. Since then, he has dedicated himself to coaching emerging talent in his hometown at the Gojra Hockey Club, which he owns.

Bali gives a number of reasons why young boys aren’t finding it easy to take up the game at schools.

“Equipment has become very expensive and educational institutions don’t have enough funds to allocate for sports,” he says.

-Photo by AFP

“A single hockey stick made of fibre can cost anywhere between 8,000 rupees to 10,000 rupees. A goalkeeper’s equipment can cost more than 100,000 rupees. Unless someone provides funds and incentives, educational institutions will never invest in hockey.”

Shahnaz Sheikh, a former Olympian, believes that the separation of the sports ministry from the education ministry in the mid-1980s is a major reason why schools failed to maintain their interest in sports.

“Funds allocated for sports were no longer available to schools, automatically,” he says.

The other related development, according to him, was the mushrooming of schools that did not have any playgrounds.

“Schools built on one-kanal [605 square yards] plots have led to the ruin of sports at the grass roots level,” he tells the Herald.

How does Gojra, then, continue to be the nursery for the next generation of hockey players for Pakistan? “It offers them a glimpse of a secure future,” Bali says, walking along the grassy field his club maintains at the Government Postgraduate College, Gojra.

“People here believe hockey is their ticket to a better life. They don’t necessarily look at it from a sporting point of view.”

Bali says Gojra has always been a hub of national-level competitions, which helps increase the quality of local players. These tournaments also give players an opportunity to impress the managements of teams owned by government departments, banks and other corporations. Those who get a chance to enter these teams, secure a sustained livelihood as well as a chance to play for the national team. “Parents ask us to train their child enough for them to be employed at an organisation. Their aspiration is to have a breadwinner in the family, not a medal-winner,” he says.

Moreover, hockey in Gojra is a community-based project. Numerous former players in the city have voluntarily taken up the responsibility of training the next generation of players. With two major clubs in the city, youngsters flock to the grounds every evening for training under the watchful eyes of former stars. Even the equipment that the trainees use is often donated by ex-players. On many occasions, the seniors pool in money to purchase new equipment for the juniors. The grass field, where Bali’s boys practice, is maintained with private donations.

The government does almost nothing to endorse the sport. The Punjab Sports Board owns an AstroTurf ground in the city but it is in very poor condition. The turf, in fact, passed its expiry date five years ago. With such scarce official investment in the game, it is difficult to see how long Gojra will continue its glorious hockey tradition.

Based in Faisalabad, Rao Saleem Nazim, a former Olympian and a member of the 1976 Montreal Olympics hockey squad, is scathing in his criticism of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) — especially its decision to open 18 regional academies in different cities. “The PHF wasted an incredible amount of resources building and promoting these academies. It has been four years since these went into operation but show me one player today who trained there and made it to the national team,” says Nazim.

The academies, launched in 2009, engage PHF certified coaches to train players in different age groups. The idea is to develop a pool of players – from among trainees at the regional academies – for training at the national academy in Lahore. The national academy, in turn, is tasked with building players for the national squad. The project, however, lacks funding and accusation of nepotism and politicisation swirl around it. Rana Mujahid, the recently elected PHF general secretary and a former coordinator of the academies, admits that the whole idea requires revision. “We are considering a review of academies. The stakeholders will thoroughly discuss how to improve them,” he tells the Herald.

“Technological advances in the game didn’t harm our progress. Our inability to adapt did.” -Photo by AFP

Others think that the idea is altogether flawed and needs scrapping. “This is not how academies work. They should be meant for fine-tuning players, not finding them. Players can only be found if you have a robust grass-roots system that promotes players at schools, colleges and clubs,” says Nazim.

Citing the example of Holland and Germany, he says the European nations have improved their game through a strong club system and domestic tournaments all year round. “They spot players who have talent for playing at the national level from these intensely competitive tournaments and send them to their central academies for advance training.”

Nazim is also critical of the way coaches are appointed at the academies. They have to be qualified enough to be able to spot talent at a young age and groom that talent according to modern requirements, he says. “Instead, we have political appointees at the academies with no experience of playing international hockey or of coaching.”

Although Nazim emphasises that evolving rules and tech-heavy equipment have had no significant bearing on Pakistan hockey’s fortunes, he does insist that younger players need to play on synthetic turfs rather than on grass. “When young players start playing, they develop their technique running on grass which is easier to do than running on turf. Physical fitness is of utmost importance to be able to play on turf — which, unfortunately, is not our strong point,” he says.

Tahir Zaman, one of the greats of Pakistan hockey and currently the head coach of the national team, agrees. “When we were at our peak during the early 1990s, the game was evolving by the day but we failed to adapt to modernisation due to hubris and lack of foresight,” he tells the Herald.

An attacking midfielder in his heyday, Zaman quit hockey after the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Since then he has become an international coach and has served stints with the hockey squads of Azerbaijan and Egypt. In 2011, the PHF hired him as a consultant for the national team. “Technological advances in the game didn’t harm our progress,” he says, “Our inability to adapt did.”

Zaman says the game oversaw technical changes in coaching methods and in players’ training in the mid-1990s but Pakistan continued to rest on its laurels. “The Europeans observed our game, adopted the skills-first nature of Asian-style hockey while marrying it with the efficiency and disciplined nature of the European style; thus, creating the concept of ‘Total Hockey’, similar to what Dutch football coach Rinus Michels invented for football,” says Zaman. In Total Hockey, “every single player can perform attacking and defending skills, equally.”

It is amazing how far Pakistan has fallen behind in the race to catch up with innovations in the game. Back in 1978, when Pakistan went to Argentina to play in the World Cup, our boys annihilated every single one of their opponents. Not only did they maintain a 100-per-cent winning record, they also scored 35 goals while only four were scored against them. Among the admirers of the green shirts was Argentine football manager, Cesar Luis Menotti, whose team was bidding to win the football World Cup on its home soil. Menotti sought out Pakistan manager, Abdul Waheed Khan, to laud his team’s game play as well as to discuss tactics and strategy. Two months later, Argentina won the football world cup for the first time in history. Menotti did not forget to send a telegram of appreciation to the Pakistani manager for the advice he received.

Zaman highlights the importance of a 360-degree programme to overhaul the structure of Pakistan hockey. His ideas involve dedicated development of coaches, creation of a coaching manual, changing players’ attitude towards training and fitness, working towards consistency and, above all, having patience for changes to bear results. “We expect every new coach to bring with him a miracle medicine to cure the game of all the ills it suffers from. This will take time,” he stresses.

The official managers of the game also talk about its development as enthusiastically as anybody but their standard gripe is that they never get the money they require for a turnaround. Mujahid harps on the same theme in his interview with the Herald but does not seem to have a well-defined strategy to put things right. He talks about the idea of introducing a hockey league, like India does and to increase the number of domestic tournaments to “allow quantity to build, followed by quality.” He, then, moves on to another idea — of separating team management from the administration of the game. “We have had cases in past where PHF officials were also part of the team management. This will not happen again,” he says, but does not specify how it has hurt the game.

“I have been playing for over 10 years and in those years Pakistan had a different squad for every tour. You cannot build a team like that.” -Photo by AP

Hockey players have a litany of complaints of their own. Most of them don’t look happy or optimistic about their personal fortunes as well as those of the national side. In conversations with the Herald, they hold lack of incentives, insecurity, lack of respect and mismanagement as the main causes of the game’s decline. Shakeel Abbasi, one of the few celebrated Pakistani players in the last decade, is a prime example of someone thwarted, more than once, by mismanagement. Now 30, Abbasi started playing hockey in 1997, representing Sandeman High School in Quetta. With the help of supportive parents, he was able to rise through the ranks and secure selection for the National Junior Training Camp by 1998. By the next four years, he made it to the senior camp and then to the national side.

In the last few years, Abbasi has been consistently ranked among the best players in the world. In 2004 and 2012, he was chosen as the player of the tournament in the Champions Trophy; in 2008 and 2009, he was selected in the International Hockey Federation’s World XI. In his 10-year career at the national level, he has been banned from playing due to committing multiple breaches of discipline and was dropped from the team on three occasions. “I still don’t know why. I was only told I was being given a rest,” he tells the Herald.

In Abbasi’s opinion, players only ask for respect and consistency in selection. “I have been playing for over 10 years and in those years Pakistan had a different squad for every tour. You cannot build a team like that. There has to be consistency in selection and there has to be a core group of players in each squad. Only then results will start coming.”

Haseem Khan, a Karachi-based player and the nephew of Pakistan’s former hockey great Hanif Khan, believes those aspiring to play hockey don’t get the kind of support intending cricketers get. “I am lucky that I have a family that supports me and encourages me to pursue the sport along with my academics. Not everybody is that fortunate.”

Due to lack of attraction in the game, Khan says, only few are playing hockey. “Look at cricket; it has a structure where people can choose to have careers as professional players even if they don’t make it to the national team. It isn’t like that in hockey,” he says. “Unless players know that they have a sustainable future in the game, they will not be lured back.”

Money in the sport, in fact, seems to squeeze rather than expand. Public-sector organisations, like the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are facing financial crises and cannot afford to employ players as they could in the past. Others, like commercial banks, have started cost-cutting measures, with the axe often falling on the sports department. At the most, players are getting yearly contracts, not knowing what to do after these expire.

Imran Shah, the national team goalkeeper, was working at Habib Bank Limited when the bank disbanded its hockey team. He hasn’t found a job yet. “With no financial support or a sustainable career path, why should I play hockey?” asks Khan.

There seems to be no ready answer. Pakistan hockey, in the meanwhile, continues to find itself trapped in a vicious circle — fewer quality players are leading to a decrease in ranking, while a slide in the national side’s fortunes leads to money drying up for the game. Whatever happened in Sydney in December 1994 is a distant memory for the later generations — fading and impossible to repeat in the foreseeable future.


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