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News 30 May 2014

All the news for Friday 30 May 2014

India beat South Africa 4-1 in final practice game ahead of World Cup

THE HAGUE (Netherlands): A spirited India defeated South Africa 4-1 in their final practice game to round off their warm-up campaign ahead of the hockey World Cup on a positive note here.

India had earlier lost 1-2 to Argentina in the first practice game.

Hit hard by injuries to two key strikers -- Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah, the Indians played the game against South Africa with a maturity head and sense of purpose.

India's three goals came from penalty corner conversion by Rupinderpal Singh (2) and VR Raghunath, while captain Sardar Singh also contributed to the scoreline with a field goal.

India dominated proceedings for most part of the match and took the lead at the closing stages of the first half through a penalty corner conversion by Rupinder.

Rupinder registered his name in the scoresheet again when he successfully converted another penalty corner in the second half to double India's lead.

The South Africans did manage to pull one back from a set piece but the Indian defence stood tall thereafter to thwart any danger to their citadel.

Skipper Sardar made the scoreline 3-1 in favour of India with a field strike before Raghunath completed the formalities with a penalty corner conversion.

Speaking on India's performance against South Africa, India's High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, said: "The first half of the match turned out to be a little slower than expected, but the second half of the game saw a really good performance by the team, where defence also gave an excellent response.

"We are happy to see both Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki (Ramandeep and Nikkin's replacements) living up to the expectations from their very first match. The team has been preparing for a long time now and it's time for the boys to deliver their best. I am confident that the boys will perform well in this tournament."

India captain Sardar Singh too was satisfied with the outcome of the match.

"It was the second practice game and I am glad the team is showing good results. The good part is that we all understand the wavelength and carry on with the game with the same mindset," he said.

"This win against South Africa will further help in boosting the confidence of every player and especially Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki as it was their first game. We are ready to take up more challenges and deliver even better results in the tournament," Sardar added.

India will open their World Cup campaign against Belgium in a tough Group A on Saturday.

The Times of India

India down SA 4-1 in final warm-up tie

NEW DELHI: India warmed up for the hockey World Cup with a 4-1 win over South Africa in their last practice match at The Hague, Netherlands. India took control of the proceedings with a Rupinder Pal Singh goal towards the end of the first half before the drag-flicker added another to the tally after the break.

South Africa managed to convert one penalty corner to reduce the margin, but the Indian defence stood firm to deny the rivals from scoring further goals.

Captain Sardar Singh consolidated the team's position through a field goal before second drag-flicker in the side, V Raghunath, put the issue beyond the South Africans by successfully converting a penalty corner.

"The second half of the match saw a really good performance by the team, where defence gave an excellent response.

"We are happy to see both Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki living up to the expectations from their very first match itself. The team has been preparing for a long time now and it's time for the boys to deliver their best. I am confident that the boys will perform well in this tournament," Roelant Oltmans, high performance director said in a Hockey India release.

Captain Sardar Singh said: "This win against South Africa will help in boosting the confidence of every player and especially that of Upadhyay and Walmiki as it was their first game.

"We are ready to take up more challenges and deliver even better results in the tournament."

The Times of India

Feelings of gold

Just 1 day to go and we know there is only 1 feeling every team wants to have at the end

With just 24 hours until the first match of the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup gets underway, the sense of excitement among players, organisers and spectators is palpable. We meet two players who know just what it feels like to win the coveted trophy.

Jamie Dwyer was part of the all-conquering Australia team, who beat Germany in the final by a narrow 2-1 scoreline, while Las Leona's Carla Rebecchi knows just what it feels like to lift the cup and celebrate before a passionate and unbelievably noisy home crowd after Argentina won 3-1 against the Netherlands.

For the Kookaburras it had been a long wait; a gap of 24 years ended with a 2-1 victory over defending champions Germany, with Luke Doerner scoring the winning goal from a penalty corner 11 minutes from the end. This was a case of third time lucky for the Kookaburras as they had lost out to Germany in the finals in 2006 and 2002. Doerner, and Germany's goal scorer Moritz Fuerste, will not be present at this edition of the World Cup, but Edward Ockenden, who put the Kookaburras ahead in that match is one of the returning World Cup holders.

Another returning hero from 2010 is Australia's Jamie Dwyer. The Australian, who has more than 315 caps to his name and has been FIH Player of the Year on five occasions, spoke of his joy that day: "Winning the World Cup in 2010 was a dream come true. World Cup tournaments are the best hockey tournaments ever and I can't wait for this one to start."

For Carla Rebecchi and her Argentinian team mates, the 2010 World Cup was an unbelievable statement of just how dominant a team can be. Unbeaten in the group stages, Argentina conceded just three goals in the entire competition, and the main story to emerge from the World Cup centred around the brilliance of Las Leonas and their talisman Luciana Aymar. Carla says: "Winning the World Cup again would be a dream. It will be incredible if we are able to repeat what we achieved in Rosario in 2010."

With Ric Charlesworth preparing to make his exit from the world hockey stage there is nothing the men in gold and green would like better than to give him a golden send-off, and the women of Argentina would love to make it a double Dutch defeat, but there is a lot of exciting hockey action, and no doubt some real surprises, between now and 15 June when two new world champions will be crowned.

FIH site

Men’s teams gear up for Rabobank Hockey World Cup

Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 preview – men

(Photo: Treeby Images)

With the start of the hugely-anticipated Rabobank Hockey World Cup rapidly approaching, we bring you the first of two team-focused tournament previews ahead of tournament Day 1 in The Hague.  Today we take a closer look at all 12 teams that will do battle in what promises to be a truly epic men’s competition. Tomorrow, we will switch our focus to the 12 women’s national sides that will fight for the right to be crowned as the greatest team on earth. More information about the teams including complete squad lists can be found on the following link: http://www.rabobankhockeyworldcup2014.com/countries . Enjoy!

Pool A – Australia, England, Belgium, India, Spain, Malaysia

Current FIH World Ranking: 1
How they qualified: Continental champions of Oceania
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 8th, 1975 – 5th, 1978 – 3rd, 1982 – 3rd, 1986 – 1st, 1990 – 3rd, 1994 – 3rd, 1998 – 4th, 2002 – 2nd, 2006 – 2nd, 2010 – 1st
About the team: Reigning World Champions Australia come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup as the number one ranked team and have set themselves the clear target of defending the title they won in New Delhi, India four years ago. Legendary coach Ric Charlesworth – who recently announced his intention to step down after the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland – has named a squad packed full of tried and tested world class players along with a sprinkling of fresh talent. Four players – Rob Hammond, Liam de Young, Mark Knowles and 35-year-old striker and five times FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer – are all Gold medalists from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and were central figures in the squad that won the 2010 World Cup. Kieran Govers, Fergus Kavanagh, Glenn Turner, Simon Orchard, Matthew Swann and brilliant attacker Eddie Ockenden were also members of the 2010 team, ensuring that there is plenty of Hockey World Cup experience within the group. The youngest member of the squad is Jeremy Hayward, a 21-year-old attacker who recently made his senior international tournament debut at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, impressing with three goals as “The Kookaburras” claimed the title. Australia are widely expected to be among the frontrunners for the Gold medal, and could take some stopping.

Current FIH World Ranking: 4
How they qualified: 3rd place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Johor Bahru (MAS)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 6th, 1975 – 6th, 1978 – 7th, 1982 – 8th, 1986 – 2nd, 1990 – 5th, 1994 – 6th, 1998 – 6th, 2002 – 7th, 2006 – 5th, 2010 – 4th
About the team: As expected, England coach Bobby Crutchley has named his strongest possible squad for this tournament, with experienced trio Ashley Jackson, Simon Mantell, and Nick Catlin being selected alongside brilliant captain Barry Middleton, a player considered to be among the very best attackers in the game. However, the team will be without defender and penalty corner specialist Richard Smith, who looks likely to miss all of the 2014 calendar due to knee surgery. Midfield ace Adam Dixon, who has been one of England’s star performers over the past 18 months, has also been selected despite recently suffering ligament damage whilst representing his club side Beeston in the Euro Hockey League.  England claimed a fifth place finish in the 2006 Hockey World Cup in Mönchengladbach (GER) and went one better at the 2010 event in New Delhi (IND) by finishing fourth.  Their talented, fit and well-drilled squad certainly has the potential to get among the medals in The Hague.

Current FIH World Ranking: 5
How they qualified: 1st place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 8th, 1978 – 14th, 1994 – 11th, 2002 – 14th
About the team: Competing in their first World Cup since the 2002 event in Kuala Lumpur (MAS), Belgium have made incredible strides forward over the past few years. Head coach Marc Lammers, the legendary Dutchman who guided the Netherlands women to Olympic Gold at Beijing 2008, has moulded the “Red Lions” into one of the most feared attacking sides in the world, a fact proven by two victories over reigning World Champions Australia on their way to winning the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final event in Rotterdam last summer. The Belgium side that competes in The Hague is hugely experienced, with ten players having surpassed the 100 international appearances mark – Xavier Reckinger (310+ caps), John-John Dohmen (260+), Jerome Truyens (260+), Cedric Charlier (170+), Thomas Briels (200+), Felix Denayer (170+), Alex de Saedeleer (170+), Simon Gougnard (140+), Elliot van Strydonck (100+) and goal machine Tom Boon (150+). Despite their vast on-field experience, the fact that this group contains just one player over 27 – 30-year-old Xavier Reckinger – suggests that this talented pool of players are likely to remain together for many years to come. Although Belgium were narrowly beaten by Olympic Champions Germany in the final of the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations Continental Championship last summer, they will come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup knowing they are serious contenders.

Current FIH World Ranking: 8
How they qualified: 6th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 3rd, 1973 – 2nd, 1975 – 1st, 1978 – 6th, 1982 – 5th, 1986 – 12th, 1990 – 10th, 1994 – 5th, 1998 – 9th, 2002 – 10th, 2006 – 11th, 2010 – 8th
About the team: Although many have written off India’s chances of a podium finish, there are some – most notably Hockey India’s High Performance Director and legendary Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans – who believe that the side are making big strides in the right direction and could well surprise in The Hague. Current head coach and former Australian international Terry Walsh has been working hard to enhance India’s physical and mental strength ahead of this tournament in a bid to give his charges the best possible chance of success. Walsh has selected a team which is still very much focused on the future, with only four members of the Hockey World Cup squad having surpassed the 100 cap marker – Gurbaj Singh (150+ caps), S.V. Sunil (130+), V.R. Raghunath (150+) and inspirational captain Sardar Singh (180+). Giant drag-flicking defender Raghunath and classy midfielder Sardar are the stars of the show, but lively 19-year-old striker Mandeep Singh is another player well worth keeping an eye on. India’s young guns claimed an extremely creditable second place finish behind Korea at the 2013 Asia Cup, and will be hoping to continue their rapid development in The Hague.    

Current FIH World Ranking: 10
How they qualified: 5th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 2nd, 1973 – 5th, 1975 – 8th, 1978 – 5th, 1982 – 11th, 1986 – 5th, 1990 – 8th, 1994 – 9th, 1998 – 2nd, 2002 – 11th, 2006 – 3rd, 2010 – 5th
About the team:  With fifth place finishes in both the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships (Boom, BEL) and the Hockey World League Semi-Final (Rotterdam, NED), it is fair to say that 2013 was not the best of years for Spain. That being said, they have more than enough big game players in their team to perform well above what their 10th place in the FIH World Ranking would suggest. The squad selected by head coach Salva Indurain contains eight survivors from the side that claimed Olympic Silver at the Beijing 2008 Games, including attacking superstars Santi Freixa and Eduard Tubau; brilliant shot-stopper Quico Cortes as well as talented siblings Ramon and David Alegre. Roc Oliva, Sergi Enrique and Eduard Arbos were also members of the “class of 2008”, ensuring that the squad contains plenty of world class experience. As well as their tried and tested campaigners the team also contains a number of promising youngsters who are very much the future of the Spanish team. The pick of the bunch is 23-year-old speed merchant Xavi Lleonart, who has the potential to be a big star at this Hockey World Cup. Spain come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup on the back of winning a four nations invitational tournament in Barcelona, defeating Wales (5-0), Russia (4-3) and Ireland (4-2) to finish top of the standings.

Current FIH World Ranking: 13
How they qualified: 5th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Johor Bahru (MAS)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 11th, 1975 – 4th, 1978 – 10th, 1982 – 10th, 1998 – 11th, 2002 – 8th
About the team: Making their first World Cup appearance since the 2002 event on home soil in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will arrive in The Hague in high spirits following a decent run of form. The team claimed a second place finish behind world number 1 and fellow Pool A rivals Australia in March’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (Ipoh, MAS) before taking Bronze at the recent Champions Challenge 1 event (Kuantan, MAS), their first ever medal in Champions Challenge competition. They will be hoping that their recent progression will be the springboard to even greater accomplishments in The Hague. The team is coached by former Malaysian international Muhammad Dhaarma Raj, who stepped up from coaching the men’s U-21 team following the recent departure of South Africa’s Paul Revington. The Malaysia side selected for the World Cup contains seven players who have made more than 200 international appearances – Azlan Misron (330+ caps), Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib (210+), Mohd Sharun Nabil Abdullah (210+), Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor (210+), Kumar Subramiam (goalkeeper - 210+) Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim (200+) and Roslan Jamaluddin (goalkeeper – 200+). Despite being the lowest ranked team in the competition, there is more than enough quality in this Malaysia side to cause problems for any opponent.

Pool B: Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina, South Africa

Current FIH World Ranking: 2
How they qualified: Continental champions of Europe
Rank in previous editions*: 1971 – 5th, 1973 – 3rd, 1975 – 3rd, 1978 – 4th, 1982 – 2nd, 1986 – 3rd, 1990 – 4th, 1994 – 4th, 1998 – 3rd, 2002 – 1st, 2006 – 1st, 2010 – 2nd
About the team: 2013 was yet another great year for Germany, the 2006 World Champions. Building on an incredible 2012 which saw the side become Olympic Champions for the second time in succession, the team coached by Markus Weise powered to glory at the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations continental championships before taking a first place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johor Bahru. As well as this, the under-21 team produced a string of sensational performances to win the Hero Hockey Junior World Cup in New Delhi (IND), providing plenty of evidence that the European giants are likely to remain a global force for many years to come. At the start of 2014, a weakened Germany team could only manage a disappointing 7th place finish at the Hero Hockey World League Final in New Delhi, India. However, you can be certain that the Olympic Gold medallists will be back to their very best in The Hague. The 18-player squad named for the event contains some of the game's most gifted players, including sensational strikers Christopher Zeller and Florian Fuchs as well as world class defenders Max Müller and Martin Häner. Another player worth noting is 20-year-old Christopher Rühr, an explosive game-changer who netted nine goals at the Junior World Cup before being named 2013 FIH Young Player of the Year. Sadly, the Hockey World Cup has arrived too soon for 2012 FIH Player of the Year Moritz Fürste, who misses the event after failing to sufficiently recover from a cruciate ligament injury sustained in March. However, two other injury hit players have made the squad, with Oliver Korn and Tobias Hauke both being named. Korn has recovered from an appendix operation in February, while 2013 FIH Player of the Year Hauke is likely to play the event wearing a protective mask after suffering a facial injury in training.
* includes results representing West Germany between 1971 and 1990.

Current FIH World Ranking: 3
How they qualified: Host nation
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 6th, 1973 – 1st, 1975 – 9th, 1978 – 2nd, 1982 – 4th, 1986 – 7th, 1990 – 1st, 1994 – 2nd, 1998 – 1st, 2002 – 3rd, 2006 – 7th, 2010 – 3rd
About the team: By their own very high standards, host nation and 2012 Olympic Silver medallists the Netherlands had a disappointing 2013 thanks to third place finishes at the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations continental championship in Belgium and the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final on home soil. However, the European giants started 2014 in stunning fashion when they powered to the victory in the Hero Hockey World League Final, thrashing New Zealand 7-2 in the Gold medal match. The result sent out a strong message that the team are more than ready to challenge for their first Hockey World Cup title since 1998, an event which also took place on Dutch soil in the city of Utrecht. The Netherlands squad contains a glittering array of world class talent including midfield dynamo Robert van der Horst, playmaker Billy Bakker and quicksilver goal-scorer Jeroen Hertzberger, while powerhouse defender Mink van der Weerden is arguably the best penalty corner flicker in the world. With the passionate home fans cheering their every move, expect the Netherlands to be competing for top honours at the Kyocera Stadium.

New Zealand
Current FIH World Ranking: 6
How they qualified: 4th place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 7th, 1975 – 7th, 1982 – 7th, 1986 – 9th, 1998 – 10th, 2002 – 9th, 2006 – 8th, 2010 – 9th
About the team: New Zealand come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup on the back of a disappointing Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Kuantan, Malaysia. Following a Silver medal winning performance in the Hero Hockey World League Final event in India at the start of the year, the Black Sticks were seen as heavy favourites for the Gold medal at the Champions Challenge 1. However, an agonising shoot-out defeat in their quarter-final match against Malaysia meant that they would compete in the classification matches for the 5-8 positions. New Zealand eventually finished in fifth place thanks to impressive victories over Poland (6-1) and France (6-3), and will be fiercely determined to get among the medals in The Hague. Head coach Colin Batch – a member of the triumphant Australia squad that won the 1986 World Cup in London – has made no alterations to the squad that competed in Kuantan, naming 13 players who have surpassed the 100 international appearances marker. Dazzling striker Simon Child is a member of the 200 cap club, while veteran attacker Phil Burrows and team captain Dean Couzins have both played over 300 times for their country. A shot at the medals is well within their capabilities.

Current FIH World Ranking: 7
How they qualified: Continental champions of Asia
Rank in previous editions: 1994 – 8th, 1998 – 7th, 2002 – 4th, 2006 – 4th, 2010 – 6th
About the team: Korea enter the Rabobank Hockey World Cup as the continental champions of Asia, a title that they claimed in Malaysia last year thanks to victory over India in the final of the Asia Cup in Ipoh. The team coached by Shin Seok Kyo recently returned to Malaysian soil and claimed another success, winning the Pahang Champions Challenge 1 event in Kuantan to secure their place in the 2016 edition of the elite Champions Trophy. The team are currently riding high on a wave of confidence, making them a team to be feared in The Hague.  The Korean squad contains a huge amount of international experience, with only four players having played less than 100 games for their country. The 18 member team have a combined total of over 2600 international appearances, which is an average of over 145 caps per player. Six players have surpassed the 200 caps mark - You Hyo Sik, Yoon Sung Hoon, Hong Eun Seong, Jang Jong Hyun, captain Lee Nam Yong and goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho.

Current FIH World Ranking: 11
How they qualified: Continental champions of Pan America
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 10th, 1973 – 9th, 1975 – 11th, 1978 – 8th, 1982 – 12th, 1986 – 6th, 1990 – 9th, 1994 – 7th, 2002 – 6th, 2006 – 10th, 2010 – 7th
About the team: Pan American Champions Argentina have always produced international teams with plenty of talent, but over the past 18 months the current men’s team has developed into a side that can challenge the very best in the world. Coach Carlos Retegui is overseeing the revolution, helping “Los Leones” (The Lions) to realise their massive potential. Retegui is the man who guided Argentina women to World Cup glory in 2010 and, following his recent reappointment to head coach of “Las Leonas” (The Lionesses), will be targeting podium finishes with both the men’s and women’s teams. If he manages to pull it off it will be a truly staggering achievement, but it certainly promises to be a busy two week period for the charismatic former Argentine international. The South Americans may be among the lowest ranked teams in the competition, but their superb recent form and fearless attacking style provides plenty of evidence that they should not be underestimated. They have shown glimpses of sheer brilliance in the past year, with their second place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johor Bahru (MAS) and rampant displays on route to winning the Pan American Cup proving to be real head-turners. Star players include free-scoring attackers Lucas Vila, Matias Paredes and Facundo Callioni as well as rising star Gonzalo Peillat, the 21-year-old defender who is already considered to be one of the finest penalty corner drag-flickers in the game.

South Africa
Current FIH World Ranking: 12
How they qualified: Continental champions of Africa
Rank in previous editions: 1994 – 10th, 2002 – 13th, 2006 – 12th, 2010 – 10th
About the team: African champions South Africa will be taking part in their fourth successive World Cup following appearances in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Their 10th place finish at the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi was their joint highest finish in World Cup history, matching their efforts at the 1994 event in Sydney, Australia.  Surpassing that achievement will be the minimum that head coach Fabian Gregory – who took the hot-seat in February this year in place of Charlie Pereira – will expect from his players in The Hague. Team captain and defensive lynchpin Austin Smith is always a key performer for South Africa, but the side is also boosted by the return of prolific penalty corner expert Justin Reid-Ross, who will compete in his first major international hockey tournament since the London 2012 Olympic Games. Defender Reid-Ross has had an outstanding season with Dutch club side Pinoké, and has just signed a deal to join Amsterdam H&BC, one of the highest profile clubs in world hockey.    

FIH site

Hockey World Cup without Pakistan

By Shahid Khan.

The 13th edition of the men’s World Cup starting tomorrow in Utrecht, Holland has proved to be the unlucky one for Greenshirts, as it will be the first time that the Pakistan team has sadly failed to even qualify for an event which it has won a record number of four times.

The competition is now generally regarded in the sport as having surpassed the importance to that of the Olympics Games. Greenshirts have featured in no less than six of the past twelve finals. No wonder that they are often referred to as the hockey’s equivalent to the Brazilian football team.

In the late 1960s Pakistan were the dominant force in hockey and predictably were the holders of both the Asian Games and the Olympics titles, They were the only two major competitions they could compete in and had duly won these titles in 1968 (Mexico) and 1970 (Bangkok) respectively.

Such was the abundance of talent in the sport in the country at the time, that when it organised 9-Nations International Tournament in Lahore in 1969, with participation by the most high ranked world teams, the hosts were able field a Pakistan Whites team also, effectively their 2nd XI. Both host teams reached the final of the tournament with the A team winning the tournament with a late goal by Khalid Mahmood, without conceding a single goal while scoring 17 in the tournament.

On the conclusion of the tournament the PHF President, Air Marshall Nur Khan, presented the expected World Cup trophy to FIH President Rene Frank. This was to be the first move for the holding of the World Cup tournament.

The FIH council in its meeting on 12 April 1970 adopted the proposal put forward to hold the competition of World Cup 1971.

The inaugural World Cup was duly awarded to Lahore in Pakistan.  However due to the unsettled political situation in the country the tournament had to be moved at short notice and the inaugural World Cup was held in Barcelona (Real Club de Polo) in September 1971 instead.

Greenshirt despite losing home advantage went into the tournament as the favourites to lift World Cup. However their progress in the competition was not as easy as was predicted. Although they were comfortable victors in their opening match against Australia (5-2) with ace penalty corner striker Tanvir Dar striking a hat trick, they dropped points by drawing 3-3 against Holland despite Tanvir grabbing another hat trick. Pakistan suffered a humiliating 3-2 defeat at the hand of the hosts, Spain in their final pool match.

Greenshirts faced the real possibility of elimination from tournament in the group stages, and had it not been for a shock victory for Japan against Holland (1-0) they would have not progressed. However they went on to defeat their arch rivals, India (2-1) in the semi final before registering a 1-0, victory against Spain with a goal through their full back, Akhtarul Islam to win the trophy they had donated.

This was the start of the World Cup journey for Pakistan as its illustrious players such as Khalid Mahmood, Islahuddin, Akhtar Rasool, Samiullah and Shabaz Senior  were to become household names by bringing the World Cup back in 1978, 1982 and lastly on home soil in 1994.

Alas the Greenshirts hallmark of flowing hockey will not be on display at the latest mega hockey event in Utrecht for which the sport will poorer, however it must recognize its contribution to make the mega competition a mighty success.

Exclusive to Fieldhockey.com

Shahid Khan is a senior Hockey journalist who has covered all major tournaments including World Cups since 1973 and is a contributor to BBC Radio Asia Network as well as to other publications.

Mansoor decries Green-shirts ouster from HWC

ISLAMABAD - Former ace goal-keeper Mansoor Ahmed feels disappointed for the green-shirts, being not a part of the 2014 Hockey World Cup (HWC), but still has some of his own old memories to cherish for the mega event saying the responsibility of the four-time winner Pakistan's ouster from the extravaganza lies on the nation more than the federation.

The 2014 Men's Hockey World Cup will be the 13th edition of the Hockey World Cup and will be staged from May 31 to June 15 at the Netherlands. This will be for the first time that Pakistan has not qualified for the mega event.

Talking to APP, Mansoor, who was declared the World's best goalkeeper by FIH in 1994, said he remembered the final of the 1994 Hockey World Cup at Australia against Holland when it was decided that each team hits the other's net five times will be the winner. "I remember when I saved two penalty hits from the Dutchmen and chants of ‘Hockey Power, Paki Power’ filled the air of the Sydney stadium. It was the best moment of my life," he said.

Mansoor said the Pakistan nation had a lot to do with the decline of the national game from the past few years. "At our times Pakistani nation used to watch our matches regularly with passion but nowadays the people have stopped taking interest in the game," he said. Mansoor said: “Now he doesn’t see any crowd coming to the hockey matches or watching them on television. When our cricket team loses the whole nation criticises them and when they win the same praise them. But the people don't bother and take no interest if our national hockey team loses or wins."

Speaking of the national team's chances in the Asian Games to be held in South Korea in September, Mansoor, who had been awarded President Award in 1988 and Pride of Performance, the Highest civil award in 1994, said teams of India and Malaysia would give Pakistan a tough competition in the event. Responding to a question, Mansoor said when Shahnaz Sheikh had accepted the responsibility of being the national coach, he should have fulfilled it rather than saying that it would take 3 to 4 years to bring the national team on track.

"Our team is the defending champions of Asian Games and if in this event the team performs below par, the responsibility lies on the coach," he concluded.

The Nation

Investec South Africa superstar Pietie Coetzee in World Cup hockey team


SHE'S BACK: World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee (left) is a late inclusion in Investec South Africa's World Cup side. Team-mate Sulette Damons clearly approves. Photo: PLATE PICTURES

World record goalscorer, the legendary Pietie Coetzee, has made a surprise return to the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team following the withdrawal of double Olympian Lenise Marais.

Due to pressing work commitments – and in archetypal  low-key fashion, superstar Coetzee, scorer of a phenomenal 280 goals in 281 Test matches, had made a quiet early exit from the World Cup reckoning for the four-yearly showpiece that begins for SA here on Sunday.

Yet the enforced withdrawal of Marais this week following a leg injury gave Coetzee the chance to come in at a very late hour for the much-anticipated event that finishes on June 15.

Going into her fourth World Cup odyssey, which began in Utrecht here in Holland in 1998, Coetzee said before late afternoon training Thursday that her participation was a pleasant surprise but it was unfortunate to come following Marais’ sad news.

“Yes, I feel for Leno [Lenise] but at the same time it is great to be here, we beat [non-World Cup side] Italy 5-2 in a training game this [Thursday] morning and my fitness is good,” said the Johannesburg-based multiple title-winning Southern Gauteng playmaker.

SA captain Marsha Cox echoed her long-time provincial and national team-mate’s words regarding the Durban-based KZN Coastal Raiders kingpin and also welcomed Coetzee back into the fold.

Into her fourth World Cup, Cox – like Coetzee – is a triple Olympian and an icon in South African hockey and women’s sport. The leader said this World Cup is an even more exciting prospect now than ever before in a career that began in 2001.

“It’s even more special in that the men’s tournament is taking place at the same time and at the same venue,” said Cox, now a resident of Amsterdam who is married to The Netherlands assistant coach Alexander Cox.

The SA go-to player who has represented the national side in a record 332 Test matches and is the heart of the team, said the spirit in the side is good and preparation has been productive, which apart from Italy has included training matches against back-to-back Olympic champions, world number one and 2010 World Cup finalists The Netherlands (0-3) and world number eight Korea (3-0).

SA head coach Giles Bonnet said he is happy with the team’s preparations: “We are just busy with the details now, the small things, prepping for our first match on Sunday and looking forward to it.”

The girls in green and gold meet reigning World Cup champs, world number two and London 2012 Olympic finalists Argentina at 7.45pm on Sunday.

All the World Cup matches are at SA time (no time difference with The Netherlands) and an unprecedented all 76 men’s and women’s games will be televised Live on SuperSport, who recently came on board as the SA national men’s team event sponsors.

The SA men meet back-to-back Olympic champs Germany in their opener at 10.30am Sunday.

Got to http://www.supersport.com/aa.aspx?t=sport&v=Hockey&view=full to source all 76 Live match times as well as multiple match re-reruns, highlights and blitz packages.

SA Hockey Association media release

Hockeyroos v Korea Preview

Hockeyroo Casey Eastham discusses Saturdays match against Korea

Hockeyroos midfielder Casey Eastham believes the Hockeyroos will need to hit the ground running in The Hague if they’re to give themselves a chance of fighting it out in the big matches later in the tournament.

The 2009 World Young Player of the Year was speaking ahead of the Australian women’s opening World Cup fixture, which sees them take on eighth ranked Korea in the GreenFields Stadium on Saturday.

“[We’re] really looking forward to game one against Korea and getting out there and playing on the pitch,” said Eastham. “Traditionally they’re another Asian team that plays a really fast style of hockey. For us, one of the biggest things we’ll have to be on our game [with] is the first ten or 15 minutes because they tend to put a lot of pressure on early in the game. If you don’t execute well early on in the game then you can find yourself in trouble later on if it’s a pretty close game.”

Eastham believes the team has learnt from the London Olympic Games when a 1-0 defeat to rivals New Zealand in game one put them on the back foot from the off and cost them a place in the semi-finals.

“In the past we’ve had some pretty poor performances in our first game so we know after missing out on semi-finals on goal difference how important that first game is,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot of mental preparation coming into this tournament so I think we’re really ready; more so than any other tournament we have so far for that first game.”

The Hockeyroos and Korea met at the World Cup in Rosario four years ago when a goal from Eastham and one from Nicole Arrold helped the girls in green and gold to a 2-1 victory, their fourth in four World Cup meetings between the two sides.

Explaining what fans can expect from her team, Eastham said, “The Hockeyroos have generally played a pretty fast, creative, high paced game of hockey. One of our big assets is our press, the ability to press and counter and get back quickly in defence is a real strength of ours. Like any other tournament you can expect to see a lot of that.

“We’ve developed a lot over the last 18 months, two years under Adam Commens’ guidance so I think we’ve managed to polish up a lot of our game play and develop a lot more tactics. For us, we’re creating a brand [of hockey] that is our own and one that can really match it with the top nations in the world.”

See the Hockeyroos’ opening World Cup match on Saturday live on ABC 2 from 10:20pm in Eastern states. Non-Eastern states can watch it in full on delay on ABC 2 at 10:20pm their local time while the game is also live online at youtube.com/fihockey.

Hockeyroos v Korea
World Cup Match 1
Saturday 31 May
10:30pm AEST / 8:30pm AWST / 2:30pm CET

Hockey Australia media release

Last hurrah for coach Charlesworth

By S. Ramaguru

THE HAGUE: Australia, the world number one, will be well motivated to retain their title as a parting gift to their world-renowned coach Ric Charlesworth.

Charlesworth had recently announced that he would step down as chief coach of the Kookaburras after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July.

This World Cup will be his last at a major International Hockey Federation (FIH) event.

The former player and politician, has been a coach for more than two decades.

Prior to taking up the job with the men’s team, he was also successful with the Australian women’s team as he took them to the number one spot.

He also managed India, but only for a short spell.

Under Charlesworth, the Kookaburras returned to the top of the world rankings in 2010, five years after they had last held the number one spot.

He led the team to the 2010 World Cup and Commonwealth Games titles, an Olympic bronze medal and four Champions Trophy gold medals. He is also the first man to win a World Cup medal as a player (1986) and coach (2010).

Charlesworth said that the time is right to relinquish his post.

“I believe it is the right time to reassign my priorities to my family; my wife, children and grandchildren,” he said.

“I am no longer keen on spending up to three months a year away as one must do as the national coach of Australia.

“I have long believed that coaches can stay too long. The team is in good shape and can be further refreshed by a new head coach as they head towards the Rio Olympics,” he added.

Australia, the top seeds, are in Group A with Belgium, India, England, Spain and Malaysia.

They start their World Cup campaign against Malaysia on Saturday.

The Star of Malaysia

England relying on the backline

By S. Ramaguru

Bobby Crutchley (right) in a file photo. He feels England cannot afford to underestimate any team at the World Cup.

THE HAGUE: World No. 4 England believe that having a solid backline will be crucial to a successful outing in the World Cup.

And that’s what coach Bobby Crutchley has been working on.

“We’ve had a horrible spate of injuries in the past few weeks. But all the players look to be on their way back to fitness and, hopefully, they will all be in contention for the World Cup,” he said.

“We’ve also had a good build-up and I’m very happy with the teams we’ve played against. Now, it is a question of getting the team to play with consistency throughout a match.

“We definitely need to be a bit more clinical with our finishing. When it comes to defending, we are pretty frugal ... and don’t give much away ... but we have to keep developing that.

“Having a good, solid defence is something that we need to take with us into the World Cup.”

Crutchley has been coaching England for over 18 months. He is a former international with 80 caps and knows what the World Cup is all about.

England play Spain, India and Belgium before facing world No. 1 Australia in Group A. Their last match in the group is against Malaysia.

Crutchley agreed that they can’t afford to underestimate any team at the World Cup.

“With six teams in each group, it is going to be a long tournament ... so, it’ll be good to win early. But what you really want to do is win games without playing your best hockey early on.

“As Germany generally show, they rarely start strongly ... but they always get over the finish line,” he said.

England are generally a consistent team and, on their day, can beat the best in world hockey.

Among the players they will be relying on are penalty corner specialist Ashley Jackson, who has scored 86 goals in 157 outings, Barry Middleton, goalkeeper George Pinner and Iain Lewers.

Crutchley said he’ll be relying on these influential players to provide leadership on the pitch.

“We need all the guys to step up to the plate ... if they perform to their potential, we can have a great tournament,” he said.

The Star of Malaysia

Malaysia can spring a surprise: Shahrun

By S. Ramaguru

Mohamed Shahrun Nabil (left) in a file photo. Although left out of the Champions Challenge I and Sultan Azlan Shah Cup squads, he was picked for the World Cup after the selection trials.

THE HAGUE: Mohamed Shahrun Nabil is ready to provide the midfield thrust for Malaysia in the World Cup after missing out on the last two assignments.

Shahrun was at the centre of a selection controversy when he wasn’t picked for the Champions Challenge I tournament last month.

He was earlier left out of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March as well.

He wasn’t the only who was dismayed at being left out, many of the other senior players also felt that they were being sidelined for the juniors although it was they (the seniors) who helped Malaysia qualify for the World Cup.

Their unhappiness resulted in the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) holding a three-day trial to select the team to the World Cup, which begins in The Hague, Holland, on Saturday.

Shahrun aced the trial and was selected.

“There is no issue (regarding the selection) and the matter is closed,” he said on Thursday.

“All the players are ready for action ... I will work extra hard to get the engine room moving.

“The matches against Australia and Belgium are two of the toughest openings any team can have. They are both title contenders and we will have a difficult time.”

But Shahrun – ever the optimist – said they should aim for two points from those two matches.

“Yes, we may not have beaten Australia in recent years ... but why should we feel inferior?” he asked.

“The World Cup is the biggest stage for all of us and we have nothing to lose. We need to go all out from the start and aim to win each match.

“I know that this is a tall order ... but, unless we give it our best, the opposition will have the upperhand.”

Shahrun will have Fitri Saari, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil and Mohd Ramadan Rosli to help him ignite the midfield engine.

“I’ve played with all of them before and I’m comfortable with them. But what I believe is important is that we must play as a unit and complement each other. This has to be a team effort ... that’s the only way we can minimise the mistakes,” Shahrun said.

“In midfield, we have to keep it tight and make sure they don’t get too much space to attack.”

The 27-year-old is confident that the team can spring a surprise or two.

“Yes, we can do it and I hope the players will respond likewise,” he said.

Shahrun, like the 16 other players in the team, is making his World Cup debut. Goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin is the only member of the team with World Cup experience.

The Star of Malaysia

Injured Kevin ruled out of World Cup

By S. Ramaguru

Kevin Lim (left) pulled a hamstring during the practice match on May 29, 2014, and has been ruled out of the World Cup. Mohamed Izad Hakimi will be his replacement. – S. S. Kanesan / THE STAR

THE HAGUE: Kevin Lim has been dreaming of playing in the hockey World Cup.

On Friday, the defender, who made his Malaysian debut at the recent Kuantan Champions Challenge I, watched as his dream went up in smoke.

The German-born Kevin pulled a hamstring during the practice match on Thursday night and has been ruled out of the World Cup.

Mohamed Izad Hakimi has been called up as his replacement and the Perak-born player will be here on Saturday morning.

National coach K. Dharmaraj confirmed that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has already approved the change.

“Kevin is devastated but there is nothing we can do. His whole family is here to watch him play and they were also at the practice match. It is just unfortunate. We just have to deal with it,” he said.

Izad did not feature in the selection process in Kuala Lumpur for the World Cup as he was down with fever for two weeks. Dharmaraj said Izad had been chosen after weighing the options.

“We basically had limited choice and it probably came down to Izad or Baljit Singh. In the end, we went for the younger player,” he said.

Malaysia start their World Cup campaign on Saturday against world champions Australia.

The Star of Malaysia

Susannah Townsend - 'We shouldn't fear anyone'

Susannah Townsend at the EuroHockey Championships 2013

Susannah's heading for her first World Cup, as many of England's players are, and we've caught up with the No. 9 to find out her thoughts on the World Cup, Jason Lee and the support of her family.

Susannah Townsend just missed out on the Olympics in London - the England midfielder was one of a cluster of players from the Central Programme for whom the competition came just too soon. However, the Canterbury star has since put the disappointment of her non-selection behind her and become an integral member of Jason Lee’s brave new England side.

A powerful, quick and dynamic attacking player, she has come on leaps and bounds on the field and has carved herself a reputation as one of the more popular and entertaining members of the squad off the field. Having made her international debut back in 2008 aged just 19, she has since collected three medals in her four tournaments for England to date.

This is your first World Cup. What are you looking forward to most?

It’s great that it’s the men’s and the women’s competitions together, it makes it more of an exciting tournament, especially in Holland where the interest in hockey is massive. With Sky covering the competition and the increased following, the team is getting it’s a good chance for us to show people what we can do. Seeing hockey played on a stage like the one in The Hague will hopefully get all sorts of people interested. The publicity is already starting to build up and we have a good a chance so it’s really exciting.

How hard is it to relax and find things to do without losing focus between games?

This trip is a bit different as normally tournaments are over a week, whereas this one is over two. A game every other day means there is a lot of free time for us. Thankfully we spend a lot of time together as a squad anyway, so we’re used to each other’s company. There’s always a game of Articulate going on or a hard drive being passed around with the latest movies or TV series on it so we’re rarely bored. We have preparation to do as well with meetings and video analysis, so although there is a lot of free time, you manage to fill it quite easily.

Who are the people who keep the girls entertained and morale up during the tournaments?

There’s always someone joking around in the group. Sally Walton and Ash Ball are pretty funny but everyone pitches in and we all hang out together. We’re really fortunate that we know each other so well and there are no cliques in the group. You have to be focused, but it’s important to be able to step away and think about other things. Our hotel is by the beach which will be nice, although I’m not too sure about going swimming in the North Sea!

You missed out on the London Olympics but have been a fixture in the side since. What’s changed about your game? What’s improved?

Not going to London was devastating at the time but with hindsight my defensive game wasn’t ready. My attacking game was probably just about there but you need to be an all-round player to compete in those tournaments. I think starting the new cycle was good for me. I’ve had the experience and the conditioning of being involved before and my fitness is now up there. My defending has come on a lot and I’m continuing to improve all the time. I’m really enjoying myself, too. It’s important to enjoy it or there’s no point.

How have you found Jason Lee as a coach now he’s been around a while?

His tactical work is outstanding as you’d expect from a top level coach. He’s also really helped me, too. He’s worked hard on my self-belief. He’s always encouraging me to get on the ball and use my strengths. Even when you’re tired you know you’ll be ok as he’s prepared you to the point that you know where you need to be and what you need to do and you still back yourself to come through the challenge.

People forget psychology can play a big role in sport. Little things can help your confidence and Jason has emphasized that a lot. He allows us to believe in our abilities but also to enjoy our hockey. You can see we enjoy it by the way we play: free-flowing attacking hockey. We’re still learning from him and him about us but it’s been great so far.

Have you all cracked his sense of humour yet?

He makes jokes sometimes but you get used to it and are able to give him some back. It’s nice to have a coach like that and he picks the right times to do it. We have a good time when the time is right but we work hard when we have to and we’re in no doubt as to which should happen when.

You’ve beaten teams like Holland, Germany and Argentina in recent competitions. Is there a real belief and confidence in the group because of those results?

We’ve worked really hard on our psychology and the mental side of things. We discuss how it feels to face the top teams and we definitely have a mind-set that maybe the team didn’t have ten years ago. We have beaten these teams and we know what it’s like to do so, we have a lot of belief in the group. People can say they believe in themselves and the team and not mean it, but with this group you can see they do. There’s a bit of an aura about the team which I think comes across. We shouldn’t fear anyone.

Who are the main threats in The Hague?

Australia have done well the last couple of years. They’ve been building since before London and it’s a big aim for them to win the tournament. To be honest every team in a competition of this quality is a threat. Anyone can beat anyone on their day which is why you have to stay focused and take it game by game.

Where do you think England will finish?

We’re ranked third in the world and the rankings don’t lie. We’ve performed consistently over the last couple of years and picked up medals in every tournament so we go into every tournament aiming to make the podium, the World Cup is no different. There are 12 top teams there and we have a really tough group, but if we perform like we can then we're perfectly capable of picking up medal.

Your family are big supporters of yours. What does it mean for you to have them there supporting?

My family will be there in full force and supporting us with their England flag. My Dad won’t go crazy if we win a medal, he’ll probably cry, though! It’ll be very emotional and he’ll definitely enjoy it once he’s stopped crying!

I’m one of five children, so we each have our own strengths and we each get support in different ways. My family have been fantastic and always there for me - I hope I can give them something to celebrate!

England Hockey Board Media release

George Pinner and Maddie Hinch, England's goalkeepers ready to shut out rivals

In George Pinner and Maddie Hinch, England now have two charismatic and dependable goalkeepers in their men's and women's teams

By Rod Gilmour

Yes, the penalty shoot-out curse still applies for England’s hockey teams. Thanks to those dreaded denouements, in the last four years there have been Commonwealth Games and Word League exits for the men, as well as last summer’s EuroHockey final defeat to Germany for the women.

However, both England men’s and women’s teams aren’t phased as they head into the dual World Cup in The Hague. There have been notable successes too - beating Argentina and Holland in the past year - and, in George Pinner and Maddie Hinch, England now have two young, charismatic and dependable goalkeepers. Both will be playing their first World Cups after cementing respective No.1 places after the Olympics.

This will also be the first World Cup to have the shootout, which starts from the 23 metre line. There is no limit on shots, just that the shooter has eight seconds in which to score. It makes for an entertaining watch.

And for the goalkeepers? “It is more a game of skill and I prefer it,” admits Pinner, who won the goalkeeper of the tournament award at the World League in India at the start of the year.

“The players prefer it as it’s up to you how you deal with the situation. The fact you have rebounds and don’t only have one chance, it’s much better and I really relish the challenge.”

The problem with the old penalty strokes, Pinner says, was that it was a total lottery. “If a player got hold of one, the guys in goal couldn’t react, it was just too quick. The shoot-out is now a test of skill. The player has to hold their nerve to keep hold of the ball and he has to have a plan B if the goalkeeper comes out and covers.”

Hinch, who has been England’s No.1 for over a year and is another World League goalkeeper award recipient, is in agreement. She believes strokes favoured the shooter and welcomes their abolishment. “As the keepers are getting better, so are the players,” the Holcombe stopper says. “I am adapting my game and adding areas to my game so I don’t become too obvious.”

Hinch keeps a ‘playbook’ to document players and shoot-outs. “I do a lot of work on individual players on the opposition and the shoot-out situation. Under pressure, they tend to resort what they are comfortable with. So it’s a case of counter-acting that with my strengths.”

Meanwhile, Pinner may have saved three penalties in the play-off final shoot-out in April as Beeston won the Championship, but he still holds frustrations at losing out to New Zealand in the World League semi-finals. His office workers – he works part-time for insurance firm Lorica – have ribbed him mercifully.

“Well done on your bronze medal, but you got lobbed! You’re 6’ 4’’ and you got lobbed,” Pinner recalls of his colleagues’ jibes.

Pinner is referring to the moment when Simon Child, the Kiwi forward, somehow found the net from a reactionary lob off his stick after his initial shot had rebounded off England's towering keeper.

The Telegraph

Semifinal finish in World Cup will be big for Indian hockey: Pargat

CHANDIGARH: Fully aware about the Herculean task that awaits the Indian men's hockey team in the upcoming World Cup, former captain Pargat Singh on Thursday said a semifinal finish in the mega-event would be a big achievement for the past masters of the game.

"Going by the team's performance since last year till date, if we reach the semifinals that will be a big achievement. It will be a credit to the team," Pargat said.

The hockey World Cup will be played at The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15. Eight-time Olympic champions India will open their campaign against Belgium on Saturday.

But before the start of the tournament, India were dealt two huge blows in the form of strikers Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah, who were ruled out due to injuries.

"We are already eighth in the world ranking. And adding to this injuries (to Ramandeep and Nikkin) have come at this hour. We will need to put up a really good show to compete with the top teams," Pargat said.

Pargat pointed out that Indian hockey lacks a "structured system".

He also felt that there was over-reliance on players from Punjab, a state known for producing the finest hockey talents in India.

"We are not promoting talent at the grassroot level from other areas to the level that is expected," Pargat said.

Pargat also said that though Indians are passionate about hockey, there is plenty of work needed to be done to bring the sport into limelight.

"For four years, I have been trying to get a 4-nation or a 6-nation Cup to be conducted in Punjab, which we have to get allotted from Hockey India. But so far there has been no success. We have constructed five stadia (in Punjab). We have set the stage, we are contributing maximum players, but we have to get events so that our players compete with top teams," he said.

"We may say hockey is our national game but the fact remains is that we need to get events on a regular basis for our players to compete," he added.

Meanwhile, former India striker Gagan Ajit Singh also said that the injuries to Ramandeep and Nikkin couldn't have come at a worse time for India as it would disturb the team's balance in the showpiece event.

"It is a big blow to miss out on the two key players," said Gagan, who is now an officer in Punjab police.

He said India's first match against Belgium will be crucial as the Belgians have emerged as a strong hockey playing nation in the last 2-3 years.

Gagan said India should take one match at a time. "If we can make it to first five, then it is very good. In the 2006 World Cup, we ended at the 12th position," he said.

"We should take it step by step. In the recent past we have not won any major tournament or performed that good. We should take it step by step."

The Times of India

India looks for solid start against Belgium

Indian men's hockey team during a practice session in New Delhi. India open their World Cup against Belgium on Saturday.   

Injury-hit India will be seeking to reverse the tide of their recent encounters against Europe’s rising hockey powerhouse Belgium in the World Cup opener at the Kyocera Stadium on Saturday.

Far removed from the glorious era of India’s global domination, the Sardar Singh-led team is aspiring to give a credible show in the World Cup, where India has not qualified for the semifinals for nearly four decades since the title triumph of 1975 in Kuala Lumpur.

European Cup runnersup Belgium are the new force to contend with on the hockey turf after making impressive strides during the past three years.

Starting with the Champions Challenge in Johannesburg in 2011, where they upstaged India in the last five minutes to clinch the title after conceding a twogoal lead, the Belgians have lost just one of the past four key encounters with India.

The Belgians went on to post a victory over India in the 2012 Olympics Games, but their wayward shooting allowed India to hang on to a lone-goal lead in the quarterfinals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne later that year.

In their last meeting, Belgium dashed India’s hopes of emerging winners in the World League Finals play-off for the fifth position.

On Saturday, the Indians will seek to avenge their defeat, and get off to a flying start in the World Cup. India are drawn in Group A alongside defending champions Australia, formidable Spain and Belgium, beside 2012 Olympic semifinalists England and fast improving Malaysia.

Group B features Olympic gold medalists Germany and hosts The Netherlands -- winners of two World Cup title each.

Completing the lines up are Argentina, New Zealand, South Korea and South Africa.

“We’re ready for the big moment,” says Indian skipper Sardar Singh, while the team’s high—performance director Roelant Oltmans stresses on the need for consistency if India are to maintain their upward spiral in the sport.

The last-place among 12 teams at the London Olympics was the most embarrassing moment for India, winners of eight Olympic gold medals in the past.

“It’s a tough group, and the players are aware of the challenge confronting them,” says Dutchman Oltmans, who guided The Netherlands to both the men and women’s World Cup titles.

Under him, the Dutch men also won the Olympic gold medal.

Oltmans says India would need to put up a sound performance to improve or even emulate their eighth-place in the last World Cup.

“We could produce some surprises if we can be consistent,” he said. Having seen frequent changes to its coaching staff, India are now under the charge of ex-Australian striker Terry Walsh for whom “psychology has been a significant area of team preparation.”

“We have introduced new tactics and focused on the development of each player,” says Walsh, who expects the Indian players to prove their mettle by raising the level of their game against stronger teams.

“We have the potential, but need to go in with confidence and believe in our ability.”

Only four Indian players of the current side featured in the eight-place finish at the last World Cup on New Delhi’s home turf, yet the young team is confident of overcoming the injury-caused setback after strikers Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah were sidelined during a practice match and training after reaching The Hague. They were replaced by Lalit Upadhyaya and Yuvraj Walmiki.

In comparison, the Belgians are the more seasoned outfit.

Although playing in their first World Cup since the 2002 event in Kuala Lumpur, Belgium’s squad features 10 players who have played more than 100 internationals.

Plotting the Belgian success is also a Dutch coach, Marc Lammers, under whose charge The Netherlands women won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Hindu

The impact of artificial turf

S. Thyagarajan

The history of hockey World Cup deserves to be studied in two parts; the competition on natural grass and on artificial surface.

This will reflect the progressive shift in the power balance from Asia to Europe.

Launched in 1971 against the backdrop of the unprecedented political turbulence, that forced the proposer, patron and the host Pakistan agree to shift the venue to Barcelona, the ebb and flow of the World Cup has a fascinating ring about it.

Eventful in more ways than one, the competition has coursed through four decades and a half overcoming trials and tribulations.

Edition after edition mirrored an era of vibrancy.

It ranged from the enlarged sophistication in training, tactics and coaching, alteration of rules, research, development and design in equipment manufacture, pragmatic formatting of components to capture the expanding TV audience.

Today, the World Cup, starting on Saturday at The Hague, is slated to attract millions of viewers on several social networks, apart from TV.

On natural grass Asia’s dominance was pronounced in the five championships from 1971 to 1982. The synthetic pitch was used for the first time in 1986 at Willesden.

In the five played on grass, Asia cornered four titles: Pakistan in 1971, 78, 82, and India in 1975, with Netherlands winning the title in 1973 in a pulsating tie-breaker against India.

Apart from the single triumph of Pakistan in 1994 at Sydney, no Asian country has managed to taste success in the seven editions from 1986 to 2010.

Australia, the defending champion, Germany and the Netherlands have won the cup twice each. Among them, Germany has an outstanding record of figuring in 11 semifinals from 1973 to 2010.

Different ball game

Conscious elaboration of the historical data does support the argument that hockey continues to be a different ball game for Asians on synthetic pitches. This is a reality that needs to be admitted.

Asia must strive to march on in the quest to narrow down the chasm.

With Pakistan out for the first time, the onus of Asia retaining its imprint squarely rests on three countries — India, Korea and Malaysia.

How far will they go in this is what the hockey fraternity in the continent is waiting for.

The winners: 1971— Pakistan; 1973 — Holland; 1975 — India; 1978 — Pakistan; 1982 — Pakistan; 1986 — Australia; 1990 — The Netherlands; 1994 — Pakistan; 1998 — The Netherlands; 2002 — Germany; 2006 — Germany; 2010 — Australia.

The Hindu

Did India miss out on turf advantage?

Harpreet Kaur Lamba

Just how far teams go to prepare for mega-events is evident from the examples the sporting world throws up, time and again. Going that extra inch is often what separates a winner from the rest.

Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra indulged in bungee jumping - far removed from the tranquil world of shooting - while the England football squad are training with three layers of clothing to help acclimatise to the heat in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

For the Hockey World Cup beginning at Hague in Holland, a lot of attention has been on the new artificial pitches the tournament will be played on. Greenfields TX -- a recent innovation -- seems to break away from the traditional turf and offers "natural" ball movement.

Developed in close collaboration with technology concern TenCate and leading Holland players, one of most unique features of this artificial pitch is its being non-directional, unlike most other products used worldwide.

Explains India coach Terry Walsh, "The non-directional aspect means the pitch does not ‘bobble’ in any direction. Most directional pitches (referred to as having a grain) are laid so the east-west characteristic across the pitch is with the grain in one direction and against the grain in the other.

"Playing ‘against the grain’ will cause the ball to bobble. This is the reason why the ball seems to behave unpredictably on penalty corner injections on different grounds.

"In essence, on this surface, if you play the ball technically efficiently, the ball movement is excellent. If the technical efficiency is poor the surface is somewhat unforgiving," says Walsh.

And just how meticulous teams are with their planning is evident from the fact that Holland replaced pitches in their 11 top clubs -- each having at least two or more fields -- making it mandatory for players to train on them for an year.

Australia were the next to follow, with coach Ric Charlesworth asking for an installation in Perth as his boys look to defend their title, while Olympic champions Germany too were not far behind.

The Indian players got a taste of these pitches during their European tour last month and only had good things to say, especially the non-direction aspect.

"The surface is very important," says Walsh, who took over as India coach late last year. "When watered well the Greenfields surface is very playable and in the view of the players, allows good control and speed. These elements are the most crucial."

It is reliably learnt that Walsh and high performance director Roelant Oltmans too were keen on such pitches and had asked the Sports Authority of India last year to replace the two surfaces in Bhopal with Greenfields TX -- a venue they had finalised for the national camp initially.

The coaches wanted the synthetic turf to be laid by March 2014, but nothing worked out.

Interestingly, the freshly-laid pitch in Manipur is the only Greenfields TX available in the country, but it was not possible to hold the camp in the state due to different reasons.

Walsh, who had earlier criticised Delhi as a choice of venue due to extreme weather conditions, chose not to comment on the matter, but said, "Overall the players really enjoyed the surface and the experience of playing on this surface in the Holland tour was invaluable.

"My personal view is that if a pitch is directional (has a grain) it should not be permitted for World Cup and Olympic competition."

How is Greenfields different from traditional pitches?

  • Increased rolling speed and accuracy of the ball
  • Identical ball roll in all directions
  • Low friction properties
  • Suitable for sliding
  • Quality and consistent foot grip
  • Ball bounce absorption
  • Less water consumption due to better water retention
  • Optimal shock absorption

The Asian Age

Singhs are Kings in Delhi - World Cup 2010

by Dil Bahra

Passionate supporters at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi during the 2010 World Cup. Photo: Alex Masters / alexandermasters.com

The last article in our series of the impact Sikhs have had at Men’s Hockey World Cups, we look at the twelfth World Cup held in New Delhi, India in 2010.

The twelfth Men’s Hockey World Cup was held at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi, India, from 28 February – 13 March 2010.

Twelve nations competed and were divided into two pools of six as follows:

Pool A: Argentina, Canada, Germany, Korea, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Pool B: Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain.

One Sikh Official, an umpire, was appointed for the New Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Amarjit Singh of Malaysia was on the Umpires panel for his fourth World Cup. He had umpired at the Utrecht 1998, Kuala Lumpur 2002 and Monchengladbach 2006 World Cups. He became the second FIH Umpire to have officiated at four or more World Cups. Santiago Deo of Spain had umpired at a record seven World Cups – from Buenos Aires 1978 to Kuala Lumpur 2002.

Amarjit was born in Ipoh, Malaysia and educated at the Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh. He graduated from the Open University Malaysia. He was associated with the Perak State Players Association.

He started umpiring at the age of 20 and his first international match was in a 4 Nations tournament in Darwin, Australia when he umpired the Australia v Argentina match in May 1992. He was awarded his International badge in April 1993 and his Grade 1 badge in February 1996. He umpired at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998 and in Manchester in 2002. He was awarded his World Panel badge in August 1998.

Amarjit was awarded the FIH Golden Whistle during the opening hockey match at Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Golden Whistle is presented to FIH International Umpires who have completed their 100th official senior international inter-nations match.

He umpired in the Final of the Junior World cup in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2005. 

Amarjit umpired at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

The Indian team, captained by a Sikh, had six Sikhs in their squad for the New Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Raj Pal Singh, a right winger from Punjab, was making his second appearance at a World Cup and this time as a captain. He graduated from Chandigarh’s SGGS Khalsa College. He played at the Junior Asia Cup in May 2000 and Junior World Cup in Hobart in 2001, which India won. He won his first senior cap during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2005. He played at the Monchengladbach 2006 World Cup. He was India’s captain at the Champions Challenge in Salta, Argentina in 2009.

Raj Pal scored two goals at Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Sandeep Singh was making his first appearance at a World Cup. He was born in Shahbad in Haryana and educated at Khalsa College, Patiala.  A penalty corner/drag flick specialist, he played for Punjab Police. He won his first senior international cap in 2004 against Germany at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He played at the Champions Trophy in 2004 in Lahore. In January 2009 he was appointed as India’s Captain for the 2009 Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia. Sandeep played at Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Sandeep scored four goals at Delhi 2010 World Cup.

India’s Sandeep Singh (L) and Canada’s Ranjeev Singh Deol (R) in action. Photo: FHC

Prabhjot Singh, a forward from Punjab Police, was making his first appearance at a World Cup. He was born in Masania in Punjab and played for Indian Oil Corporation. He made his international debut in 1999. He played at the Junior World Cup in Hobart in 2001, which India won. He played in the Champions Challenge in Kuala Lumpur in December 2001 where India won the Gold. He played at The Champions Trophy in Cologne in 2002, in Amstelveen in 2003, in Lahore in 2004 and Chennai in 2005. Prabhjot played at Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Prabhjot scored one goal at Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Sardar Singh, a centre half, was making his first appearance at a World Cup. He was born in Rania Tehisil Sirsa, Haryana, India. He played for Haryana Police and made his junior debut during India’s tour to Poland in 2003. He won his first senior international cap in 2006 against Pakistan. He played at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. He became one of India’s youngest captains when he was appointed to lead the team at the Sultan Aslan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia in 2008 at the age of 21.

Sardar scored one goal at Delhi 2010 World Cup.  

Gurwinder Singh Chandi, a forward, was also making his first appearance at a World Cup. He was born in Chugitti, Jalandhar, Punjab, India. He made his international debut against Australia during the 4 Nations tournament in Australia in 2008. He played at Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Gurwinder scored two goals at Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Sarvanjit Singh, a forward from Punjab, was also making his first appearance at a World Cup. He was born in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India. He played for Punjab and made his international debut in 2007 during the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia. He also played at the Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Sarvanjit scored one goal at Delhi 2010 World Cup.

India Team: 1. Adrian D'Souza (G/K); 2. Sandeep Singh; 3. Arjun Halappa; 4. Prabhjot Singh; 5. Sardar Singh; 6. Gurwinder Singh Chandi; 7. Deepak Thakur; 8. Sarvanjit Singh; 9. Gurbaj Singh; 10. Tushar Khandker; 11. Raj Pal Singh (Capt); 12. Sreejesh Raveendran (G/K); 13. Shivendra Singh; 14. Bharat; 15. Dhananjay Mahakik; 16. Vikram Pillay; 17. Danish Mujlaba; 18. Diwakar

Manager: Harendra Singh: Coach: Jose Brasa.

The Canadian team had two Sikhs in their squad for the New Delhi 2010 World Cup.

Ranjeev Singh Deol was playing at his first World Cup in Delhi. He was born in Lusaka in Zambia and spent most of his childhood in Nairobi, Kenya. He was educated at the Aga Khan Academy in Nairobi, Kenya.

His father, Surjeet Singh Deol, affectionately known as Surjeet Senior, was regarded as Kenya’s best ever player. He was Kenya’s captain at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games and he also played at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games. Ranjeev followed his father’s footsteps by joining the famous Sikh Union Nairobi club. He started playing hockey at the age of 12. He played for Sikh Union Tigers.

He emigrated to Canada in 1992 at the age of 16. He studied at Applewood Heights High School in Canada and joined Toronto Lions Hockey Club. He played at the 1996 Junior Pan American Games in Barbados and won his first senior cap in 1998 when he played against USA. He played at the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2009.

He played at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Ranjeev played at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Canada’s Sukhwinder Singh (L) and Pakistan’s Sohail Abbas in action during Delhi World Cup. Photo: Tim Myers / sportsmediagroup.com.au

Sukhwinder ‘Gabbar’ Singh was also playing his first World Cup. He was born in Batala, Punjab, India and educated at Shivalik Public School, Chandigarh, India. He represented India in the Asian School Hockey Championship in 1994 and played for Punjab Police.

Sukhwinder emigrated to Canada in 1997 at the age of 19. He joined United Brothers Field Hockey Club in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. He won his first international cap in 2007 during the Sultan Azlan Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia. He played at the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2009.

Sukhwinder played at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Canada Team: 1. Matt Peck; 2. Philip Wright; 3. Scott Tupper; 4. Jesse Watson; 5. Richard Hildreth; 6. Ken Pereira; 7. Wayne Fernandes; 8. David Jameson; 9. Rob Short; 10. Scott Sandison; 11. Connor Grimes; 12. Paul Wettlaufer; 13. Mark Pearson; 14. Ranjeev Singh Deol; 15. Keegan Pereira; 16. Sukhwinder ‘Gabbar’ Singh; 17. Taylor Curran; 18. David Carter

Manager: Shiaz Virjee; Coach: Alan Brahmst

Final Classification: 1. Australia; 2. Germany; 3. Netherlands; 4. England; 5.Spain; 6. Korea; 7. Argentina; 8. India; 9. New Zealand; 10. South Africa; 11. Canada & 12. Pakistan.

Here are some interesting facts which have emerged over the course of our 12 articles on the impact of Sikhs at the World Cups:

  • Sikhs have played at every World Cup since it started in Barcelona in 1971.
  • Sikhs have represented four Nations at World Cups – Canada, India, Kenya and Malaysia.
  • Seventy two Sikhs have played at World Cups.
  • Sikhs have officiated at World Cups as FIH Jury of Appeal, Assistant Technical Officers, Judges and Umpires.
  • Sikhs have played in every position at World Cups.
  • Sikhs have scored 115 goals at World Cups.
  • Sikhs have captained the National teams of India and Kenya at World Cups.
  • A Sikh was the Captain of the Indian Team which won the World Cup.
  • Sikhs have coached the National teams of India and Kenya at World Cups.
  • Sikhs have played in teams that have finished in all 12 positions in World Cups.
  • Sikh brothers have played at four World Cups representing Canada, India and Kenya.
  • A Sikh father and son have played at World Cups.
  • The 2014 World Cup starts in The Hague, Netherlands tomorrow (31 May). India’s team which is captained by a Sikh includes 10 Sikhs.

Sikhs in Hockey

I would like to thank Dil Bahra for this enlightening series of articles leading up to to the start of this year's World Cup and for giving Fieldhockey.com the opportunity to publish them first.

Merit only criteria for selection of national squad

Mohsin Ali

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) chief selector Olympian Islahudin Siddiqui termed merit only criteria for the selection of national squad for the Asian Games.

alking to The Nation, Islah said: “We have selected a poll of 640 players during the whirlwind talent hunt starting from Quetta to Peshawar. These youngsters are full of talent and they can help Pakistan hockey a great deal in the years to come.”

“We will shortlist 8 to 12 players from the current camp and the rotation policy will continue till the final selection for the Asian Games-bound squad. There is still time left before the prestigious event and we want to ensure players will remain in shape. We want consistent performances from them as they are capable enough to deliver for the national team and earn laurels for the country,” he added.

Islah said national tournament was starting next month and camp commandant Shahnaz Sheikh would visit venues to check the players’ progress during the tournament.  “We have divided 640 players into four categories i.e. A, B, C and D. Top players make up each category as these 30 or so players in the camp are the best of the lot. We would also include players from departments and respective provinces before the announcement of final squad,” the ex-Olympian added.

He said the national tournament was being started from June 17 and after that, the camp would resume again on July 3 and it would end just before Eidul Fitr. “After Eid, we will start another 13-day camp for the third phase and after that, we have requested the PHF to arrange an Asian tour for the team to get much-needed international exposure and prepare for the team for mega tasks ahead. If the planned tour of Asia takes place, it will be in great benefit for the players to learn how to play against opponents in competitive matches. But if the federation, due to non-availability of funds, fails to arrange tour, we will again start the camp and the final phase of the camp will span on 12 days.”

He elaborated: “We have planned to establish the final phase of the camp in Sialkot, but only in case, if we will be provided better facilities than those which the players have been enjoying during the camp in Islamabad and if we don’t get such facilities there, then we will focus on continuing the camp at Naseer Bunda Hockey stadium Islamabad. We are very satisfied with the arrangements and facilities being provided by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) during our stay in Islamabad and we hope same kind of treatment will be given to the camp in the future too.”

“The federation, head coach and selection committee have been playing their positive roles and now it is players’ turn to respond in the same fashion. They have to maintain same fitness levels, same aggression and passion during the off days and if they fail to do so, then they will be replaced with the fittest ones,” Islah concluded.

The Nation

Terengganu content

A Terengganu player (in white) takes on a Johor player in their Malaysia Games Group A match on Wednesday. Pic by Eizairi Shamsudin

DESPITE notching a 4-0 win over Pahang in their final Pool A match and maintaining their unbeaten record in the competition yesterday, Terengganu were forced to settle for a second place finish in the group stages of the Malaysia Games hockey tournament.

Perak, who beat Perlis 5-0 on Wednesday and thumped Sabah 7-1 yesterday, ended the preliminaries on an equal 13 points with Terengganu but took the top spot due to a superior goal difference.

Perak scored 25 and conceded only four while the East Coast giants scored only 16, having let in the same amount of goals.

Terengganu captain Muhammad Shahiram Zali is, however, unperturbed by the situation.

“It was our goal to finish the group as winners and get a more favourable draw for the semi-finals but, unfortunately, Perak have done better than us,” said said Muhammad Shairam.

“Obviously we want to defend our title here.

“I think the boys are not really thinking about who we have to play in the semi-finals any more. The other group is more open so it is hard to predict who we will play.

“We just have to give it our absolute best.”

The other Group A match saw Johor beating Perlis 1-0. In Group B, which has seven teams compared to the six in Group A, Federal Territories beat Malacca 2-0 and Negri Sembilan defeated Kelantan 2-1.

FT, Negri and Penang all have a chance to finish the group as champions. FT and Penang will face off today while Negri play Malacca tomorrow.

New Straits Times

Defender Ganeisha spurs Negri on

By Aftar Singh

T. Ganeisha (left) in a file photo. He has scored four goals in five matches at Sukma.

KANGAR: Penalty corner drag flicker T. Ganeisha is the bright spark of the Negri Sembilan hockey team.

He was only 18 when he scored eight goals to help Negri win the 2011 Razak Cup Division Two title in Malacca.

He not only helped Negri gain promotion to Division One, but was also awarded the top goalscorer award for the tournament.

Now 21, the defender is leading Negri in Sukma and he wants to help his home state lift their first ever men’s Sukma hockey title.

Ganeisha has been in very good form in Sukma as he has marshalled the defence and netted four goals in five matches.

Negri had a bad start as they were beaten 4-1 by Penang in their opening Group B match last Friday.

But they stormed back to win four consecutive matches to stay on track for a place in the semi-finals.

They outplayed Sarawak (8-0), Selangor (5-3), Federal Territories (3-2) and Kelantan (2-1).

Negri now have 12 points and just need a draw against Malacca on Saturday to seal a place in the semi-finals.

Based on their performance in Negri’s first match, nobody thought they would bounce back to win four matches in a row.

“Nothing is impossible to achieve. We just need to have faith in ourselves,” said Ganeisha.

“We won because of the dedication and the fighting spirit shown by my team-mates,” he said.

“Although we only need a draw against Malacca to get into the semis, we will go all out to beat them.

“My mission in Sukma is to defend well and score a goal in every match. I believe we have a good chance of ending our Sukma title drought,” said Ganeisha, who was in the 2013 project squad but failed to earn a place in last year’s Junior World Cup in New Delhi.

The Star of Malaysia

Hockey India relegates Kerala to associate member

NEW DELHI: Hockey India (HI) has relegated Hockey Kerala to an associate member from full member status because of alleged irregularities in its functioning.

The decision was taken by HI's disciplinary committee in a meeting here yesterday where they discussed the issue of governance and operations in Hockey Kerala.

According to a HI statement, the committee members reviewed the report provided by Hockey Kerala during the meeting and agreed that there were irregularities in its functioning as a member unit.

"With effect from 28 May 2014, Hockey Kerala has been relegated to Associate Member category of Hockey India," the statement read.

Hockey Kerala will have an opportunity to appeal against the decision within 30 days.

Hockey Kerala was represented in the meeting by senior vice-president M A Kareem and general secretary Ramesh Kolappa.

The Times of India

Sultan Azlan Shah remembered

TRIBUTE: World Cup to observe moments of respect

Sultan Azlan Shah, who passed away on Wednesday, was the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) president as well as an Executive Board member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

“Sultan Azlan Shah was an important and passionate member of our Executive Board and we are very saddened by this news,” said Leandro Negre, president of FIH.

“Our condolences go out to his Royal Highness’ entire family and especially his wife, Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun, his son, (Sultan) Raja Dr Nazrin Shah and daughters, Datuk Seri Raja Azureen, Raja Eleena and Raja Yong Sofia,” added Negre.

FIH ceo Kelly Fairweather said: “This is a great loss for the hockey world as Sultan Azlan Shah was an icon in hockey.

“His commitment and his dedication as an ambassador for the sport will truly be missed.”

The FIH press release also said: “Moments of respect will be paid during the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.”

Sultan Azlan Shah passed away at the age of 86 after being the president of the AHF since 1990, and saw the growth of AHF from 20 to its now 31 members.

In addition, Azlan Shah was pivotal in the start-up of the Raja Ashman AHF-MHFC Academy, which is now the leading centre for hockey officials and coaches in Asia.

Malaysian coach K. Dharmaraj said his players will wear black arm-bands as a mark of respect.

“The players and officials were all shocked when we heard about the passing of Sultan Azlan Shah, and on a personal note, he was a guiding figure when I was a national player, as well as when I became a coach.

“I remember with fondness when he came to watch my boys become champions in the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca (and qualified for the Junior World Cup),” said Dharmaraj.

Malaysia’s World Cup fixtures — Tomorrow: v Australia (4.30pm); Monday: v Belgium (11.30pm); Thursday: v England (7pm); June 7: v India (8.30pm); June 9: v Spain (8.30pm) — all Malaysian time.

New Straits Times

He helped many hockey players

By Jugjet Singh

Sultan Azlan rarely cracked jokes, so he caught me by surprise when he whispered into my ears:....

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Father of Malaysian Hockey left his mark on so many areas of the sport that it would be impossible for any other official to even come close to his work since 1966.

Sultan Azlan Shah had not only established his own invitational tournament which has been running since 1983, but was also credited with founding the Yayasan Hoki Malaysia (YHM) in 1992. The foundation helps national players to further their studies, and provides them financial assistance, depending on the number of caps when they retire.

Back then, there was no help for players who needed money to enrol into universities, but when the father of one player approached Sultan Azlan in the 1990s, he started the ball rolling for a foundation to give players the opportunity to have a better future when they hang up their hockey sticks.

Some players became professionals, such as doctors and engineers, with the help of the YHM, which also gives out medical benefits and other forms of aid to players facing financial difficulty after they were no longer playing with the national team.

Sultan Azlan's vision to organise an international tournament in 1983 won accolades from the International Hockey Federation as the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup became the longest running private tournament in the world.

The idea for the tournament began in 1980 when Sultan Azlan looked at the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) accounts and saw that travelling overseas to play friendlies takes a big chunk of their annual budget.

This story was told to me by the late MHF secretary S. Satgunam: "The Sultan then asked me and Tan Sri (P. Alagendra, former MHF deputy president), what if we brought six teams to Malaysia to play in a tournament instead of sending the Malaysian team to six countries to play friendly matches?

"Would it not cut travelling, accommodation and food costs by more than half?

"The meeting room fell silent, after which there was a round of applause before we started working on the idea, and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was born," revealed Satgunam.

In 1983, that suggestion became a reality, and Australia became the champion with Pakistan as runner-up, India in third and Malaysia in fourth place.

Back then, the teams were provided with flight tickets. Now, boarding and lodging are still free for invited sides.

There was all the glitter and fanfare at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium this year, with the fans turned up in full force as the Malaysian team went on a roll, but missing was Sultan Azlan, his golden coloured chair empty as he fought his private battle with illness.

It was a sad sight, as the chair was never empty when he was previously healthy. Sultan Azlan  used to arrive 30 minutes before the first match, which would normally start at 5pm, and then watch the 7pm as well as 9pm matches before departing.

It was a routine in every match day of his tournament, until recently, as Malaysia won back-to-back silver medals in the last two editions. Sadly, he was not well to watch both achievements.

Sultan Azlan was ever the gentleman, as even when the press criticised him relentlessly in 2004, and called for his resignation as MHF president, he always had a smile for the writers.

After one hard-hitting article, which outlined the failure of the MHF to help its states develop grassroots hockey, the body held an emergency meeting, and among the resolutions was to sue the press.

Following a two-hour meeting, out came Sultan Azlan with a smile: "Jugjet, the council wants to sue you for the article today... but I told them to relax, as the points raised were not allegations, but the truth."

He then stepped down as MHF president and handed over the reins to his son, Raja Nazrin Shah, but kept playing an active role as the Asian Hockey Federation president as well as a board member of the International Hockey Federation till the very end.

In his last meeting with me, three Azlan Shah Cups ago, when he was still able to watch matches, the Sultan called me again to meet him outside the stadium after Malaysia played another really bad match.

Sultan Azlan rarely cracked jokes, so he caught me by surprise when he whispered into my ears: "Japan, South Korea and Malaysia went to meet God and ask him the same question. Japan asked first 'When will they win the World Cup', and God answered 'Soon' and the whole of Japan cried in happiness.

"Korea asked the same question, and the answer was also 'Soon', and the whole of Korea cried in joy. Then came Malaysia's turn, and when we asked God when will the Malaysian hockey team win the World Cup... God cried."

It was a joke with a reality punch line that caught me by surprise and I asked him if I could quote him in the next article, and he replied: "Not as long as I'm still around", and gave me a knowing smile.

The best Malaysia could give Sultan Azlan at his own invitational tournament was a handful of silver medals, but never a gold medal.

Nonetheless, he had certainly left Malaysia a gold mine in legacy when he first came up with the tournament.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

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