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News 31 May 2014

All the news for Saturday 31 May 2014

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander graces Opening Ceremony

Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 officially opened

(Photo: (c) Koen Suyk )

It was an exciting moment for the 24 men’s and women’s teams competing at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 as the 16-day event officially began after the Opening Ceremony, 30 May, at the World Forum Theatre in The Hague. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander was part of the official welcome party, posing for a photo with all of the team captains, while Mayor Jozias van Aartsen of The Hague greeted the delegates on behalf of the host city.

“The Hockey World Cup is the climax of the international hockey calendar and the culmination of several years of intense preparation for the 24 best men’s and women’s teams in the world,” said Leandro Negre, FIH President. “I know that each game will not only entertain the world but also inspire a global passion for this incredible sport. Today’s opening ceremony was a superb start to the tournament highlighting all the different facets that make hockey so brilliant.”

The ceremony included impressive entertainment from the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, who treated guests to a superb cultural music tour of all 15 participating countries. Members of the band sported the different uniforms of the teams, while accompanying photos and videos gave everyone a preview of what is to come over the next two weeks.

“This tournament is more than just a platform for top class international sport,” said Jan Albers, President of KNHB. “It is also a way of bringing together and uniting adults and children from all walks of life. We want to create a movement that will live on after the hockey tournament is over.”

The Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 begins tomorrow, 31 May, and runs until the 15 June and will feature 24 men’s and women’s teams from 15 countries. More than 250,000 fans will pour through the gates at the Hockey Park, filling the Kyocera and Greenfields stadiums for 76 matches. Joining them will be over 300 million viewers on global television and live YouTube streaming, while social media expectations will be bigger than ever on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

FIH site

Royal opening for Hockey World Cup

It was an exciting moment for the 24 men’s and women’s teams competing at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 as the 16-day event officially began after the opening ceremony at the World Forum Theatre in The Hague.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander was a part of the official welcome, posing after for a photo with all of the team captains, while Mayor Jozias van Aartsen of The Hague brought greetings on behalf of the host city.

“The Hockey World Cup is the climax of the international hockey calendar and the culmination of several years of intense preparation for the 24 best men’s and women’s teams in the world,” said Leandro Negre, FIH President.

“I know that each game will not only entertain the world but also inspire a global passion for this incredible sport. Today’s opening ceremony was a superb start to the tournament highlighting all the different facets that make hockey so brilliant.”

The ceremony included entertainment from the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, who treated guests to a superb cultural music tour of all 15 participating countries. Members of the band sported the different uniforms of the teams, while accompanying photos and videos gave everyone a preview of what is to come in the next two weeks.

“This tournament is more than just a platform for top class international sport,” said Jan Albers, President of KNHB.

“It is also a way of bringing together and uniting adults and children from all walks of life. We want to create a movement that will live on after the hockey tournament is over.”

The Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 begins tomorrow, 31 May, and runs until the 15 June and will feature the 24 men’s and women’s teams from 15 countries.

Over 250,000 fans will pour through the gates at the Hockey Park, filling the Kyocera and Greenfields stadiums for 76 matches. Joining them will be over 300 million viewers on global television and live streaming, while social media expectations will be bigger than ever on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About the Rabobank Hockey World Cup

The Rabobank Hockey World Cup is the sport’s greatest prize and was established in 1971 for the men and 1974 for the women. The event occurs every four years between Olympic cycles with the defending champions currently being Australia for the men and Argentina for the women.

The 2014 event will be only the second time that the men’s and women’s tournaments have been hosted at the same venue, with the first time being in 1998 in Utrecht. Since then, hockey has doubled in size in The Netherlands highlighted by ticket sales for all 16 days of the 2014 event already having been sold out.

The event will showcase 15 nations, 24 teams and 432 athletes. The 2018 World Cups will be hosted in India, for the men, and England, for the women and both events will feature a new 16-team format.

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Will the Aussies rule again?

Hunt for crown gets underway today amidst an unusual mood of buoyancy

Subramaniam Thyagarajan

READY TO FIRE: Australia, the overwhelming favourite and defending champion, begins its World Cup campaign against Malaysia on Saturday.

The quest for the hockey world title is to be set in motion on Saturday amidst an unusual mood of buoyancy. The aficionados are debating the chances of the 12 contenders.

The exercise is fascinating. But the pointers aiding the forecasts need cautious scrutiny. It is indisputable that the teams in the fray have gone through a gruelling set of qualifying competitions featuring almost all the hockey-playing nations.

The temptation to make Australia, the defending champion, from Pool A, the favourite is governed by the amalgam of experience and expertise possessed by the squad. Added to this is the genius of coach Ric Charlesworth whose means and methods defy the canons of predictability. With a star-cast that includes such outstanding players as Jamie Smith, Liam de Young, Mark Knowles and Robert Hammond the Aussies appear a safe bet.

Challenge for Australia may be England, given the recent alignment of power in Europe. Coach Bob Crutchley has a bunch of motivated players headed by the allrounder Ashley Jackson with support from Nick Catlin and Simon Mantell.

The danger team is Belgium. Under the Dutch coach, Marc Lammers, the Belgians have created a new script. Over 10 of their players are in the 100 cap bracket.

Placed 14th in its last edition in 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Belgium will surprise many if it does not enter the semifinals.

Fighting to regain its identity is India. Dependent purely on the form of skipper Sardar Singh, the Indians, under the new coach, Terry Walsh, should ensure a degree of consistency to stay afloat.

The defenders, Rupinder Singh and Raghunath with goal-keeper Sreejesh hold the aces.

Veterans Eduard Tubau and Santi Freixa lend a veneer of stability for Spain, while for Malaysia, the return to the fold after 2002, is an event in itself.


Germany, the champion in 2002 and 2006, and the runner-up in Delhi 2010, is a powerhouse. Marcus Weise, a marvellous designer of strategies, has assembled a wealth of talent in Christopher Zeller, Florian Fuchs, Oliver Korn and the youthful Christopher Ruhr, to execute his plans impeccably.

For the Dutch, the home advantage is a plus point. Winner of the trophy in 1998 at Utrecht, the Netherlands places its chances on the proficiency of Robert van der Horst. New Zealand is a tough nut to crack under the experienced midfielder Simon Child.

For all the expectations generated, the Koreans have remained an enigma. But they are the best bet from Asia. The Argentine coach, Carlos Retegui, expects a superlative show from attackers — Lucas Vilas and Mathias Parades — to showcase the South American flair. Where does South Africa figure in this equation is difficult to decipher.

The teams:

Pool A: Australia, England, Belgium, India, Spain and Malaysia.

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

Today’s matches (all times IST): Australia v Malaysia (2 p.m.); India v Belgium (7.30 p.m.); England v Spain (9 p.m.).

The Hindu

Women's teams ready for action at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup

Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2013 preview - women

(Photo: treebyimages)

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s preview of the men’s teams, we now switch our attentions to the women’s nations that will challenge for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup title in The Hague. World number 1 and reigning Olympic champions The Netherlands come into the event as favourites, but 11 other world class sides also have their eyes on the prize and know that anything is possible. More information about the teams including complete squad lists can be found on the following link: http://www.rabobankhockeyworldcup2014.com/countries. Don’t forget, you can keep track of all the action from this mammoth event on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the official tournament website. We hope you all enjoy the show. 

Pool A – Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Belgium

Current FIH World Ranking: 1
How they qualified: Host nation
Rank in previous editions: 1974 – 1st, 1976 – 3rd, 1978 – 1st, 1981 – 2nd, 1983 – 1st, 1986 – 1st, 1990 – 1st, 1994 – 6th, 1998 – 2nd, 2002 – 2nd, 2006 – 1st, 2010 – 2nd
About the team: The Netherlands have long been one of the most dominant forces in world hockey, and in recent years have claimed many of the biggest prizes in the game. They are the Olympic Gold medallists from both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, and are red hot favourites to win the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in front of their home fans in The Hague. It would be fair to say that the team coached by former Argentina defender Max Caldas did not have their greatest year in 2013. A second place finish behind Germany in the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final tournament in Rotterdam was followed by a third place finish at the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations Championships in Boom, Belgium, where the team failed to defend the European crown that they won both in 2009 and 2011. However, the side ended the year on a massive high by winning the Hockey World League Final competition in San Miguel de Tucumán (ARG) despite fielding a severely weakened team.  Attacking talents Naomi van As, Eva de Goede and Kim Lammers were missing from that event but are reported to be fit, healthy and raring to go for the World Cup. Combined with various other world class players such as Ellen Hoog, Lidewij Welten and peerless captain Maartje Paumen, the Netherlands are unquestionably the team to beat.

Current FIH World Ranking: 4
How they qualified: Continental champions of Oceania
Rank in previous editions: 1981 – 4th, 1983 – 3rd, 1986 – 6th, 1990 – 2nd, 1994 – 1st, 1998 – 1st, 2002 – 4th, 2006 – 2nd, 2010 – 5th
About the team: It has been some time since the Hockeyroos were the dominant force in world hockey, but the momentum that the current group is gathering under coach Adam Commens suggests that they should be considered as championship contenders at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Following a fifth place finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Australia’s young guns have hit some seriously impressive form. Early signs of progress were seen when the team claimed the FIH Champions Challenge 1 tournament in September 2012, a success which was quickly followed in 2013 by first place finishes at the Hockey World League Semi-Final (London) and Oceania Cup continental championship before claiming a stunning Silver medal at the Argentina Hockey World League Final in San Miguel de Tucumán. The majority of the squad that competed in Tucumán have gained World Cup selection, including star players Casey Eastham, Madonna Blyth and Anna Flanagan, the 2012 FIH Young Player of the Year. Sadly though, the group will be without experienced defender Teneal Attard who misses the event due to a stress reaction injury in her lower leg. Australia’s last World Cup success came on Dutch soil at the 1998 event in Utrecht. Can they repeat the trick in The Hague?

New Zealand
Current FIH World Ranking: 5
How they qualified: 4th place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1983 – 7th, 1986 – 4th, 1990 – 7th, 1998 – 6th, 2002 – 11th, 2010 – 7th
About the team: Under the guidance of coach and former Australian international Mark Hager, New Zealand’s Black Sticks have enjoyed arguably the most successful period in their history. In 2011, the team claimed their first ever Champions Trophy medal when they took third place at the tournament in Amsterdam, and a year later narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal when they were beaten by Great Britain in the fight for Bronze. The results did not go entirely to plan in 2013, finishing fourth at the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final in Rotterdam before losing out to Australia in the final of the Oceania Cup, which was played on home soil in Taranaki. Teenagers Elizabeth Thompson and Sophie Cocks were both given their international debuts at the Oceania Cup and have since secured a dream selection for the World Cup. New Zealand ended the year with a solid 5th place finish at the Argentina Hockey World League Final event in San Miguel de Tucumán and will be looking forward to challenging for the silverware in The Hague. Players to watch include attacking midfielder Krystal Forgesson, quick-silver forward Anita Punt and midfield dynamo Kayla Whitelock (formerly Sharland), the latter of which was shortlisted for the FIH Player of the Year award both in 2012 and 2013.

Current FIH World Ranking: 8
How they qualified: 3rd place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1990 – 3rd, 1994 – 5th, 1998 – 5th, 2002 – 6th, 2006 – 9th, 2010 – 6th
About the team: It has been a difficult last 12 months or so for Korea. The side missed out on winning the 2013 Asia Cup when they were beaten in the tournament final by lower ranked Japan last September, while an eighth place finish at the Argentina Hockey World League Final in San Miguel de Tucumán at the end of the year was certainly below expectations. Their most recent disappointment came at the Champions Challenge 1 event in Glasgow, where they arrived as tournament favourites and left without a medal, in fifth place. That being said, Korea have always been a wonderfully capable team and will be absolutely determined to give their best possible showing at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Star striker Park Mihyun is the most capped player in the current squad with well over 210 senior international appearances, while 21-year-old Kim Hyun Ji is set to make her senior international tournament debut in The Hague. The team is captained by forward Kim Jong Eun, a player who is rapidly closing in on the 200 caps mark. Korea are known for being one of the most well-organised international sides in the game, and on their day they are capable of giving any team a run for their money.

Current FIH World Ranking: 9
How they qualified: Continental champions of Asia
Rank in previous editions: 1978 – 6th, 1981 – 7th, 1990 – 11th, 2002 – 10th, 2006 – 5th, 2010 – 11th
About the team: Over the past decade the Japanese women’s team has been making in-roads on the international hockey scene and will be looking to upset the FIH World Rankings in The Hague, something which they did on a number of occasions during 2013. Their most notable performance last year came when they defeated the higher-ranked Korea in the final of the 2013 Asia Cup, a superb result which secured a place at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup for the “Cherry Blossoms”. Their first foray into the Olympics in 2004 earned them an eighth place finish, and they have qualified for all subsequent Games. The team has a longer history in the World Cup; they came sixth in the 1978 World Cup and seventh in 1981. This was followed by a barren spell with only one appearance in 1990, when they finished 11th. Since 2002, Japan has appeared in every World Cup, finishing in tenth, fifth and eleventh place. Three players have played more than 100 times for Japan – Keiko Manabe (110+ caps), Mayumi Ono (170+) and Miyuki Nakagawa (230+). The squad also contains three players who at the time of writing each had less than ten caps to their respective names: Yoshino Kasahara, Hazuki Yuda and Shoko Kanefuji.

Current FIH World Ranking: 12
How they qualified: 6th place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1974 – 5th, 1976 – 4th, 1978 – 3rd, 1981 – 8th
About the team: Belgium is one of the rising superpowers of global hockey. Very much like their male counterparts, the women’s national team – known as the “Red Panthers” – have made massive strides forward in recent years, powering up the world rankings from 27th in 2005 to their current position of 12th. 2012 proved to be something of a landmark year for Belgium’s women thanks to a brilliant performance at the Olympic qualifying event on home soil in Kontich, where they stormed to the title and secured their first ever appearance at an Olympic games. The side finished 11th in that tournament courtesy of a 2-1 classification match victory over USA. Their performances in 2013 provided further evidence that they are a growing force on the world stage, with a fourth place finish at the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships and qualification for this summer’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands being their two stand-out achievements. The side recently took part in the Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Glasgow where they finished in 6th place following a shoot-out defeat at the hands of Korea. Coach Pascal Kina has selected eight players who have broken through the 100 senior international caps barrier – Louise Cavenaile (140+ caps), Stephanie de Groof (140+), Anouk Raes (170+), Lieselotte van Lindt (120+), Emilie Sinia (160+), Barbara Nelen (150+), Jill Boon (180+) and team captain Charlotte de Vos (190+). Striker Jill Boon is the sister of Tom Boon, a star player for the Belgium men’s international team.

Pool B – Argentina, England, Germany, China, USA, South Africa

Current FIH World Ranking: 2
How they qualified: Continental champions of Pan America
Rank in previous editions: 1974 – 2nd, 1976 – 2nd, 1978 – 3rd, 1981 – 6th, 1983 – 9th, 1986 - 2nd, 1990 – 9th, 1994 – 2nd, 1998 – 4th, 2002 – 1st, 2006 – 3rd, 2010 – 1st
About the team: Alongside the Netherlands, “Las Leonas” (The Lionesses) have been the dominant force in women’s hockey for well over a decade. The team are the reigning World Champions, having won the 2010 title in Rosario, the home city of star player Luciana Aymar. Even at the age of 36, Aymar – nicknamed “La Maga” (The Magician) – is still the driving force of the Argentina team and a player who is globally feared and respected in equal measure. She is widely expected to hang up her stick after this tournament and will be looking to go out on a high. The team is coached by Carlos Retegui, the man behind both their 2010 World Cup triumph and the Olympic Silver medal winning performance at London 2012. Ominously for the opposition, Retegui – who is also overseeing the Argentina men in The Hague – believes the Argentine women's team is approaching the level it showed in 2010, a bold statement which suggests that they are in fine fettle coming into this tournament. It goes without saying that Aymar is the star of the show, but she has a sensational supporting cast which includes some of the most gifted players in the world. Delfina Merino, Carla Rebecchi and Rosario Luchetti are all potential match winners for Argentina, as is classy defender and penalty corner expert Noel Barrionuevo. With so much talent at their disposal it is hardly surprising that they are considered to be among the frontrunners for the Gold medal.

Current FIH World Ranking: 3
How they qualified: 2nd place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final, London (ENG)
Rank in previous editions: 1983 – 5th, 1986 – 5th, 1990 – 4th, 1994 – 9th, 1998 – 9th, 2002 – 5th, 2006 – 7th, 2010 – 3rd
About the team: England have earned the respect and admiration of every hockey playing nation thanks to a string of medals at world levels events in recent years. The team claimed Bronze at the 2010 World Cup in Rosario (ARG) before going on to form the majority of the Great Britain team that would take Olympic Bronze at the London 2012 Games. 2013 proved to be another special year for the team coached by former England & GB men’s boss Jason Lee, who guided the women to Silver and Bronze medals at the European Championships and World League Final respectively. The squad remains largely unchanged from those events, although one notable omission is the vastly experienced midfielder Helen Richardson-Walsh, who has been suffering with ongoing back problems. Lee has also named two relative newcomers in attacker Ellie Watton and defender Zoe Shipperley, while talented young players like Sophie Bray and Lily Owsley are really starting to establish themselves on the international scene. With three World Cups under her belt and a Bronze medal from the 2010 event, England captain Kate Richardson-Walsh will be hoping her side can improve on third this time around. Pacy striker Alex Danson is a key player for England, and her consistently excellent performances over the years have earned her a reputation as one of the most feared strikers in world hockey. Having beaten the top two sides in the world last year - the Netherlands and Argentina – England head into the tournament as genuine contenders.

Current FIH World Ranking: 6
How they qualified: Continental champions of Europe
Rank in previous editions: 1974 – 3rd, 1976 – 1st, 1978 – 2nd, 1981 – 1st, 1983 – 4th, 1986 – 2nd, 1990 – 8th, 1994 – 4th, 1998 – 3rd, 2002 – 7th, 2006 – 8th, 2010 – 4th
About the team: Following the retirement of legendary striker Natascha Keller at the end of the London 2012 Olympics, many wondered how “Die Danas” would cope without their Olympic Gold medal-winning superstar. However, if the last 18 months are anything to go by, the post-Keller era is shaping up to be something very special indeed. In June 2013, the team, coached by former Germany men’s international Jamilon Mülders, produced a string of sensational performances at the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final tournament in Rotterdam, powering through to the event final with four straight victories before defeating host nation and reigning Olympic Champions the Netherlands in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Two months later, the team proved that their return to form was no fluke by storming to the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations title, defeating England to claim the Gold medal. The side suffered a slight dip in form at the Argentina Hockey World League Final in San Miguel de Tucumán where they could only manage a seventh place finish in searing temperatures, but you can be sure that they will be 100 percent on their game in The Hague. Although the Germany team has plenty of exciting young players such as Marie Mävers, Kristina Hillmann as well as teenagers Anne Schröder and Hannah Gablac, there is also a huge amount of experience within this squad. Eight players have surpassed 100 international caps, among which the influential trio of Tina Bachmann, Maike Stöckel and team captain Julia Müller have each moved past the 200 cap marker. 

Current FIH World Ranking: 7
How they qualified: 4th place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final, London (ENG)
Rank in previous editions: 1990 – 6th, 1994 – 7th, 1998 – 11th, 2002 – 3rd, 2006 – 10th, 2010 – 8th
About the team: China come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup currently ranked 7th in the FIH World Rankings, landing their place in this elite event thanks to a fourth place finish at last year’s Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final event in London. It is fair to say that this China team is currently in something of a transitional phase. Gone are the great players of the past such as Fu Barong and Ma Yibo, the inspirational duo who helped the team to win Silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. There is a clear focus on youth these days, with the vast majority of their side being aged 23 or under. The group contains just three players who have 100 caps to their respective names, with Wang Mengyu, De Jiaojiao and Xu Xiaoxu being by far and away the most experienced players in the squad. China showed great form in the early stages of last September’s Asia Cup continental championship in Kuala Lumpur, topping pool A with three wins from three matches. However, they could not take their early form into the latter stages of the competition and finished fourth behind Japan (1st), Korea (2nd) and India (3rd). The youthful side recently performed admirably in a test series against New Zealand’s Black Sticks, losing the first game 3-2 before drawing the second match 1-1.

Current FIH World Ranking: 10
How they qualified: 5th place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final, London (ENG)
Rank in previous editions: 1983 – 6th, 1986 – 9th, 1990 – 12th, 1994 – 3rd, 1998 – 8th, 2002 – 9th, 2006 – 6th
About the team: USA enter the Rabobank Hockey World Cup brimming with the sort of confidence that only a tournament victory can give you. The side powered to a stunning success at the recent Champions Challenge 1 event in Glasgow, defeating Ireland 3-1 in the tournament final to secure their place at the 2016 Champions Trophy. Katie O’Donnell netted five goals in the competition, finishing the event as joint top scorer alongside Korea’s Park Mihyun. Eight players have represented the USA senior side more than 100 times, with ace midfielder Rachel Dawson and team captain Lauren Crandall having also surpassed the 200 cap mark. Dawson, defender Katie Reinprecht and attacking midfielder Kathleen Sharkey were all named in the 2013 Pan American Elite Team, which recognises the finest players in the Pan Am region. The team is coached by Englishman Craig Parnham, with former Dutch international Janneke Schopman joining the staff in the role of assistant coach. Schopman, a double Olympic medallist, brings masses of world level experience to the table, being able to pass on her knowledge to a group that is aiming to build on their fine performances in Scotland.

South Africa
Current FIH World Ranking: 11
How they qualified: Continental champions of Africa
Rank in previous editions: 1998 – 7th, 2002 – 13th, 2006 – 12th, 2010 – 10th
About the team: Following his side’s Bronze medal performance at the recent Champions Challenge 1 event in Glasgow, Scotland, South Africa head coach Giles Bonnet initially named an unchanged team for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. However, a late injury to double Olympian Lenise Marais has seen the return of legendary striker Pietee Coetzee, the 35 year old world record goal-scorer who has hit the target 280 times in 281 test matches. Alongside Argentina’s Luciana Aymar, Coetzee is one of only two players at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup to have also competed in the last joint men’s and women’s World Cup, the 1998 event in Utrecht. The African champions have a talented and experienced squad, with no fewer than 13 players who have made over 100 senior appearances for their country. Triple Olympian Marsha Cox (formerly Marescia) is South Africa’s most experienced player with more than 330 international matches under her belt. Following the Champions Challenge 1, the Rabobank Hockey World Cup is the second of three major international tournaments on European soil for South Africa, with the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, SCO) also on the horizon. They will be looking for a strong performance in The Hague and are more than capable of causing a few upsets.

FIH site

Old timers set to steal show

Pietie Coetzee and Luciana Aymar – sole survivors of 1998 Hockey World Cup

Sarah Juggins

(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

Two hockey superstars are re-writing the record books yet again as they prepare to play their part in the Rabobank Hockey World Cup.

South Africa's Pietie Coetzee is the highest goal scorer in women's international hockey, while Luciana Aymar has won the FIH Player of the Year award on a record eight occasions. The two women have now entered the record books again – this time as the only players to grace the pitch the last time the World Cup was a joint occasion back in 1998. On that occasion Argentina finished fourth and South Africa finished seventh. Pietie got her World Cup career off to a flying start, scoring seven goals in that tournament, while Luciana failed to get on the score sheet. Two World Cup gold medals have probably made up for that disappointment since!

For Pietie the chance to play on the World Cup stage nearly passed her by. Discussions dating back to February led to the player and the South Africa coaching staff deciding that she would be better off missing the World Cup and targeting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow instead. "The extensive build-up for the World Cup was something that I just couldn't be part of, for the sake of my business really, but I have never stopped training, so I feel that I can step in and perform a role."

And the experienced player is all too aware that the demands on her this time around might not be the role she is used to playing. "I am there for the team and what is best for the team. If that means being on the bench, so be it. I am surprised and delighted to be here, but I know that I am here in a different role this time."

Talking about the South Africa team, Pietie smiles as she says that it is a team that might spring a few surprises. "We have experienced players that you know all about, but there are some other players who could make a difference. In the past we have fallen short when it comes to consistency, but the squad has been playing more internationals and spending more time training together, so it is time for us to perform at a higher level all of the time, that is the thing that will lift us from being a top 12 team to being in the top six."

Both Luciana and Pietie have shown longevity in a sport that is notorious for injuries. They have both developed their training and nutrition to a point where they are able to monitor their health and, to a certain extent, protect their bodies. "It is all a question of personal experience," says Pietie. "When you have played for a number of years you learn how to train smart. I always do a lot of research into training and I have learnt a lot over the past 14 years."

Pietie's inclusion in the South Africa squad was only announced earlier in the week, when it was clear that Lenise Marais would not recover from a leg injury. Luciana Aymar by contrast has always been on the Argentine team sheet and, according to team head coach Carlos Retegui, is part of a squad that is ready for this tournament after a disappointing few months. Certainly the player they call The Magician in Argentina is ready for the occasion. She tweeted: "Las Leonas are anxious with just a short while to the World Cup, but there are good vibes in the team."

For both these hockey icons, this World Cup is likely to be their last, and as Pietie says: "I have had a long and enjoyable career, whatever happens here I will look back and be very happy and satisfied that I have given my best."

FIH site

Cherry blossoms looking to upset apple cart

Smiling captain ready to lead Japan's World Cup challenge

(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

Miyuki Nakagawa is the captain of Japan, the team that historically has provided upsets and excitement in the big international tournaments. Their most notable performance last year came when they defeated the higher-ranked Korea in the final of the 2013 Asia Cup, a superb result which secured a place at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup for the “Cherry Blossoms”.

Explaining their 'big match' mentality, Miyuki says: "Big tournaments, whether it is the Olympics or the World Cup, only come round once every four years, so we put everything into our training and preparation for that event. We like to time our preparations so we are right on form when it is time to perform."

Certainly, Miyuki acknowledges that they will need to be on top of their game for their first encounter, a match against the tournament favourites and host nation, The Netherlands. "The stadium will be awash with orange, but that will serve as a spur to us to perform. We cannot go into that match with any fear or show the Dutch team too much respect. We must attack them at speed and perhaps catch them off-guard."

The 27-year-old first picked up a hockey stick when she was 13-years-old and at junior school. She says she was just copying her older sister and had no idea that she would end up playing for, and leading, her country. With more than 230 caps to her name and more than 20 international goals, Miyuki is one of the stars of her team. Back home, she has brought fame to her home town and is a well-recognised athlete, although she says that hockey is not yet as big in Japan as she would like it to be.

When we spoke, Miyuki was surrounded by team mates and there was a real feeling of excitement and anticipation among the squad. "We are really excited to be here and playing in the World Cup in a place where hockey has such a high profile. I hope that if we do well, then hockey will become bigger in our country and more children will want to play."

The Cherry Blossoms have a long history in the World Cup. They The came sixth in the 1978 World Cup and seventh in 1981. This was followed by a barren spell with only one appearance in 1990, when they finished 11th. Since 2002, Japan has appeared in every World Cup, finishing in 10th, 15th and 11th place. Their first foray into the Olympics came in 2004 when they came eighth, and they have qualified for every games since.

Besides their opening match against The Netherlands, Japan will also be facing their fellow asian representatives Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Belgium. Miyuki acknowledges the strength of the home team but sees the second place spot as being very much up for grabs and, with the confidence garnered from the recent victory over higher-ranked Korea, she feels that the Cherry Blossoms could once again prove the dark horse of the competition. "We have worked very hard and we shall be taking advantage of our speed in attack," she said.

Whatever the outcome, the smiling captain is clearly enjoying herself and is looking forward to leading another Japanese performance on the big stage.

FIH site

World Cup begins today

KARACHI: The World Cup hockey tournament starts in the Hague on Saturday.

The ADO Den Haag football stadium, equipped with artificial turf and big screen monitors for the occasion, will host the matches.

Some 15,000 people are expected to attend the tournament daily and tickets of most of the matches already sold out.

Teams from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England, Germany, India, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the Netherlands will participate in the men’s competition.

Women’s section of the World Cup will feature Argentina, Australia, Belgium, China, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, US and the Netherlands.

The Dutch women, ranked number one in the world, are favourites to take the women’s title. Argentina and Australia are the second and third.

The Dutch men are currently in the third place in the world rankings behind Australia and Germany. The group matches begin in the Kyocera Stadium and a temporary stadium, built next to it. The finals take place on June 14 and 15.


World Cup opening round: SA teams relaxed and ready


YOU could hardly ask for more daunting opponents than those the SA men’s hockey team and the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team will play in their opening World Cup Group B matches here Sunday.

Captain Austin Smith’s SA men tackle 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions Germany at 10.30am (all matches SA time, there is no time difference) while Marsha Cox’s side take on defending World Cup champs Argentina at 7.45pm. Both matches are at the most impressive converted 15 000-seater Kyocera Football Stadium.

Germany have the likes of 2013 World Player of the Year Tobias Hauke; a domineering forward in double Olympic gold medallist and World Cup 2006 winner Christopher Zeller, and a man who has emulated Zeller’s major gold medal list in 2012 World Player of the Year Moritz Fuerste.

In Argentina’s Las Leonas (The Lionesses) one need go no further among their team than eight-time World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar (36). Regarded as the best women’s hockey player of all time, the attacking midfielder with the incomparable dribbling skills is described as the Diego Maradona of hockey, after the Argentine football mega star.

Yet both South African camps are not fazed by the prospect and look in relaxed mood, determined to give a good account of themselves. Indeed, both SA sides – with no major injury concerns - are relishing the opportunity to get their World Cups under way.

Whatever the results, if the world number 12 SA men and world number 11 SA women can defend with accuracy in open play and at set-pieces for the full 70 minutes while capitalising on their strengths when going forward – and, crucially, don’t give away too much ball through unforced errors – they will come off the pitch at match end with a feeling of accomplishment for what lies ahead.

All 76 World Cup matches are Live on SuperSport  - more than any country in the world - with the opening men’s and women’s round in Group A Saturday and all the Group B action Sunday. The matches begin at 10.30am and the last match on each day will finish at about 9.15pm.

Saturday’s fare is on SuperSport channels 4, 7 and 8 with Sunday’s fare on SS 5 (SA men) and SS 7 (SA women). It’s a rare opportunity to watch the very best men’s and women’s hockey players and teams in the world in real time in the comfort of your TV lounge.

Make sure the fridge is full of your favourite beverages and snacks.



Goalkeepers: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng); Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders)

Defenders: Rhett Halkett, Austin Smith (capt), Dylan Swanepoel (all Western Province); Jethro Eustice (Southern Gauteng); Justin Reid-Ross, Lloyd Madsen (both Northern Blues)

Midfielders: Wade Paton, Taine Paton, Tim Drummond (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Clint Panther (Southern Gauteng), Jonty Robinson (Northern Blues)

Strikers: Julian Hykes (Southern Gauteng), Lungi Tsolekile, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Pierre de Voux (all Western Province); Ignatuis Malgraff (Eastern Province)


Goalkeepers: Anelle van Deventer (North West); Sanani Mangisa (Southern Gauteng)

Defenders: Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng), Marcelle Manson (Border), Nicolene Terblanche (Northern Blues), Quanita Bobbs (Western Province)

Midfielders: Marsha Cox, Bernie Coston (both Southern Gauteng); Shelley Russell, Tarryn Bright, Ilse Davids (all Western Province), Kelly Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders)

Strikers: Dirkie Chamberlain (Northern Blues); Kathleen Taylor (Western Province); Celia Evans, Sulette Damons (both North West); Lilian du Plessis (Southern Gauteng)

Late inclusion: Pietie Coetzee (Southern Gauteng)

SA Hockey Association media release

EHL stars abound for World Cup

The Hockey World Cup begins in The Hague tomorrow afternoon with a wide array of Euro Hockey League stars likely to be on display throughout the two week festival.

Surprisingly, Tobias Hauke is the only player from the all-conquering Harvestehuder THC to make the German side who will be aiming to follow up their 2012 Olympic victory with success in the Netherlands.

But they have a very strong panel with Rot-Weiss Koln’s Christopher Zeller available following his exams. They play in Group B of the competition and are the top ranked side alongside Olympic silver medalists the Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and South Africa.

World class defenders Max Müller and Martin Häner are available while 20-year-old Christopher Rühr is an explosive  force to watch out for having 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.

The Dutch side draws heavily on clubs like Oranje Zwart, Kampong and Bloemendaal who are all likely to contest next season’s EHL along with a smattering of talent from Amsterdam.

Among their number are EHL heroes Jeroen Hertzberger and Mink van der Weerden, arguably the best drag-flicker in the world at the moment.

New Zealand will hope to break up their semi-final hopes and have a number of players with EHL experience, most notably former Rotterdam man Phil Burrows, a vastly experienced performer.

In Group A, Australia are favourites to progress but will have stiff competition from the likes of England and Belgium. The Belgians draw extensively on players from Dragons, Racing Bruxelles and national champions the Waterloo Ducks as well as a couple who shone this year in Holland with Bloemendaal and OZ.

Ten players have 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+) to show their experience.

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.

Spain complete the European contingent with a large number of Polo de Barcelona players in tow including the ever improving Xavi Lleonart. They will be battling with Malaysia and India to try and push for the upper reaches of a tough group.

The action gets underway at 10.30am, Central European Time with Australia’s men taking on Malaysia in the Kyocera Stadium.

Euro Hockey League media release

First three tough clashes all must-win games for Black Sticks to stand chance of reaching semis

By David Leggat

Break the New Zealand women's hockey challenge at the World Cup down to this: three games must be won to at least get them challenging for the sharp end of the tournament.

The cup begins for the top 12 men's and women's teams in The Hague tonight with New Zealand starting against Belgium.

If the Black Sticks are to exceed their previous best result - fourth in Amstelveen 28 years ago - beating the lower-ranked Belgium, Korea and Japan is a must.

Then they need to find a way to challenge the world No 1 Dutch, the cup favourites, and get something out of what is sure to be a tough final round-robin tussle against Australia.

They last met the Belgians at the World League semifinal in Rotterdam a year ago, and won 4-2.

"We've heard they're playing quite well," attacker Krystal Forgesson said.

"And at this level you can't take any teams easily. We've targeted those three games and there's no excuse - we have to win."

Forgesson, whose 202 caps make her one of three double centurions in the New Zealand squad along with captain Kayla Whitelock (207) and Emily Naylor (240), is back from ankle surgery early in the year and ready to make herself a nuisance to opposing defences with her harassing style of play.

Also returning to strengthen the midfield after knee surgeries late last year are striker Katie Glynn, New Zealand's alltime leading goalscorer, and classy midfielder Stacey Michelsen.

New Zealand's last outing was the inaugural six-nation Festival of Hockey in Hastings in April. The hosts finished fourth - they won only two of six round-robin games, but interestingly given their cup draw, against Korea and Japan - and the tournament showed up some alarming issues at the defensive end.

"We recognised we had things we had to work on," Michelsen said. "Our basics were really poor compared to some other teams. Obviously the amount of goals we were leaking meant defensively tightening up in the circle, but we're scoring more goals now, which is good."

Set piece work at both ends of the field have been a focus. There are several players, including Whitelock, Glynn, midfielder Anita Punt, young defender Liz Thompson and attacker Olivia Merry who offer a range of options at attacking penalty corners.

In Forgesson's mind, New Zealand should have confidence in their prospects. They must make the top two in their pool to be in semifinal contention.

"We've been working hard on our structures for the last three or four weeks and hopefully everyone's on the same page now and understanding when we want to do certain things at different times in games ... We've definitely gained a lot more confidence.

"Katie and I are rooming together and we were talking about the tournament the other night. We truly believe we have a good chance, which is exciting."

New Zealand were seventh in the 2010 tournament in Argentina.

The men's team start their campaign early on Monday morning against the Koreans.

Their draw has their tougher matches at the end, against world No 2 and 3, Germany and the Netherlands.

Their best result at the cup is seventh, achieved in 1973, 1975 and 1982. They were ninth in Delhi four years ago.

The New Zealand Herald

Black Sticks women humming in The Hague

The Black Sticks can't wait to get their opening World Cup hockey match out of the way in The Netherlands from tomorrow.

"Everyone's pretty excited. We've had a couple of weeks of build up so we're wanting to get on with it," Emily Naylor, of Hawke's Bay, said last night from The Hague.

The Mark Hager-coached New Zealand women play Belgium first up at 11pm tomorrow (NZ time) at the multi-use Kyocera Stadium.

"We've been training there and it's a sellout crowd. They've done a pretty good job of promoting it [the World Cup] with big billboards and a lot of hype," said Naylor, adding the stadium seats 15,000 fans and is the home ground of Dutch soccer team ADO Den Haag.

"It's an incredible stadium. I'd say it's up there with the Olympic stadiums I've played at. It's quite neat in that it looks almost covered and sheltered."

It is a far cry from the Six Nations tournament staged in Hastings as part of the inaugural Hawke's Bay Festival early this year but the defender/midfielder said that could all change with more seating at the HB Regional Sports Park and TV coverage.

"Over here they will televise to 180 countries. The games will be watched in Africa for the first time, in a country where they don't play much hockey," she said.

Ranked fifth in the world, the Kayla Whitelock-captained Kiwis should have an ideal dress rehearsal to the cup against the world No12 Belgians in pool A.

They shouldn't work up too much sweat against No8 Korea and No9 Japan either but it is imperative to know the Asians left some key players behind when they competed in the Bay.

The stiff challenge will kick in when they face hosts and world No1 The Netherlands on Friday, June 6, before crossing sticks with world No4 Australia on Monday, June 9.

The Dutch weren't at the Six Nations here but Australia dominated Hager's women although it's vital to note the Kiwis also injected youth in nutting out a final squad for the cup.

The playoffs begin for the women's teams on Friday, June 13, with the Colin Batch-coached Black Sticks men, including vice-captain Shea McAleese, of Napier, will be hoping to be in the business end of the cup the following day from pool A. The Kiwis are ranked No6 in the world.

The Sticks women spent 10 days preparing and acclimatising at Linden village, about 20 minutes drive out of The Hague. They beat England 3-1 and drew 1-1 with Germany in warm ups.

"I caught up with some of my old club teammates from HGC [HOC Gazellen-Combinatie] so a lot of them will come to support us," she said.

"This week we've moved to a beautiful hotel near the seaside in The Hague so it's been great."

The 28-year-old from Kereru, near Hastings, is the most-capped women's Black Stick (240) in a side that has nine changes from the team that missed out on a podium place at the 2012 London Olympics.

Striker Katie Glynn is the team's leading scorer with 69 goals.

Since London, they have played 56 tests, winning 28, losing 18 and registering 10 stalemates.

The 1986 gold medal-winning former Australian player, Hager, is at his seventh World Cup and is not shy in the winning department, adding a silver medal as assistant coach with the Australia men's team in 2006 to two bronzes.

The Kiwis finished seventh in the last World Cup where he was also coach.

The men, with Dean Couzins and Phil Burrows as co-captains, have an unchanged, experienced line up from the one that won five out of six games at the recent Champions League in Malaysia.

Central Mavericks midfielder McAleese, 29, is two games away from his 200th cap.

The New Zealand Herald

Changes to Australian World Cup squad

Kookaburras lose Simpson & Ford to injury. Deavin & Gohdes called up.

Photo credit: Grant Treeby / Treeby Images

The Kookaburras have made two changes to the squad for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, which begins on Saturday in The Hague.

Victorian Glenn Simpson has been withdrawn from the squad after sustaining a fractured ankle in last Sunday’s Test match against England. He will be replaced by Tasmanian Tim Deavin, who is one of two travelling reserves to have trained and played with the World Cup team in England and the Netherlands over the past ten days.

After sustaining a calf tear in a practice match against Germany on Thursday, Victorian Russell Ford (pictured) has also been withdrawn from the squad. Ford will be replaced by Queenslander Matt Gohdes, who is already with the team in The Hague as a travelling reserve.

Both Deavin and Gohdes were members of the Australian team that won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Kookaburras open their World Cup title defence against Malaysia at 18:30 AEST on Saturday. The match will be shown live online at youtube.com/fihockey and on delay on ABC 2 after the Hockeyroos' match against Korea, which is live on ABC 2 in Eastern states at 22:30 AEST.

Revised Kookaburras World Cup squad
Rabobank Hockey World Cup, 31 May – 15 June
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT) 63/0 [27]
Chris Ciriello (Melbourne, VIC) 133/78 [28]
Liam De Young (Brisbane, QLD) 305/34 [32]
Tim Deavin (Launceston, TAS) 84/3 [30]
Jamie Dwyer (Rockhampton, QLD) 314/203 [35]
Matt Gohdes (Rockhampton, QLD) 87/25 [24]
Kieran Govers (Wollongong, NSW) 86/42 [26]
Rob Hammond (Townsville, QLD) 249/28 [33]
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT) 10/3 [21]
Fergus Kavanagh (Geraldton, WA) 178/14 [29]
Mark Knowles (Rockhampton, QLD) 232/19 [30]
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA) 23/0 [27]
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS) 208/52 [27]
Simon Orchard (Maitland, NSW) 143/46 [27]
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD) 100/5 [24]
Glenn Turner (Goulburn, NSW) 105/76 [30]
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD) 55/23 [22]
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA) 30/3 [23]

Kookaburras' World Cup schedule
31 May – Kookaburras v Malaysia, 6:30pm AEST / 4:30pm AWST
2 June – Kookaburras v Spain, 9:00pm AEST / 7:00pm AWST
5 June – Kookaburras v Belgium, 00:00am AEST (6 June) / 10:00pm AWST
7 June – Kookaburras v England, 00:00am AEST (8 June) / 10:00pm AWST
9 June – Kookaburras v India, 9:00pm AEST / 7:00pm AWST
12 June – TBC - Classification matches
13 June – TBC – Semi Finals
14 June – TBC – Classification matches
15 June – TBC – Medal Matches & classification matches

Hockey Australia media release

Kookaburras v Malaysia preview

Eddie Ockenden says Kookaburras going for goals, goals, goals

Eddie Ockenden, two-time Olympian and one of the Kookaburras’ 2010 World Cup winners says the team is raring to go ahead of Saturday’s opening World Cup clash with Malaysia.

It’s been a long build up for the group since the World League Finals in January, taking in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Test matches against New Zealand and England before arriving in The Hague earlier this week.

Speaking after the Kookaburras’ final training session, Ockenden said he was looking forward to finally getting the action underway at the 15,000 seat Kyocera Stadium.

“It’s an exciting 24 hours before our first game because we’ve had a long preparation; we’ve been in England for two games, we’ve had two practice games [against Argentina and Germany], we’ve had a few training sessions in this brilliant stadium so it’s exciting now we can finally focus in on playing Malaysia tomorrow and getting our campaign underway.”

Despite a comprehensive Australian win in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March, the 27 year old midfielder believes he and his teammates will need to be aware of the threat the Malaysians pose.

“We’re expecting to play a number of tough teams in this tournament,” he said. “Malaysia are a really difficult team. We’ve played against them in the Azan Shah a few times, we also played them in Perth a little bit so we know their team. They’re really skilful, really fast. I think we’ve seen over the last couple of months that they’re really tough as well so they’re going to be a really difficult opposition.”

But with confidence high, Ockenden says he believes that Australian viewers watching on the ABC are in for a treat from a Kookaburras team looking to become only the third team to successfully defend the men’s World Cup title.

Pointing to a keen eye for goal, the Tasmanian said, “The viewers back home should be really excited about this team. We have a lot of talent, a lot of good forwards and we’re going to score some great goals. And, hopefully, not let too many in, show some exciting hockey and show how fast and fit and skilful we are. We’re really ready to go.”

Both teams will wear black armbands with the match preceded by a one minute silence as a mark of respect for the Sultan Azlan Shah who passed away in Malaysia earlier this week at the age of 86.

Watch the Kookaburras v Malaysia
Saturday 31 May
LIVE: 6:30pm AEST / 4:30pm AWST – online at youtube.com/fihockey.
HIGHLIGHTS: 00:00 in your state on ABC 2 (following the Hockeyroos v Korea match)

Hockey Australia media release

Early blow for Malaysia

WORLD CUP: Kevin injury forces late reshuffle in defence


THE Malaysian hockey team are expected to face a torrid test of their defence against World No 1 Australia in the curtain raiser of the World Cup at the Hague, Netherlands, today.

On the eve of the big match, coach K. Dharmaraj had to reshuffle his defence again as German-born Kevin Lim pulled a hamstring and has been ruled out of the tournament.

Izat Hakimi Jamaluddin was being flown in as a replacement and will only arrive today morning, and jet-lag could pose a big problem when he is paired with Razie Rahim in the opener.

“Kevin pulled a hamstring during our last training match against a Dutch club, and he has been ruled out of the tournament.

“I still consider it as a lucky break as we had time to fly in a replacement and I picked Izat over Ahmad Kazamirul and Baljit Singh.

“I had three choices. Kazamirul is also a flicker but we have enough flickers (for penalty corners) in the team while Baljit has been on and off injuries and I was afraid he would get injured again if he pushes himself in the World Cup.

“As for Izat, he played in the Azlan Shah Cup as well as the Champions Challenge 1 but unfortunately when the World Cup selection was done, he was down with viral fever and hospitalised.

“But Izat has recovered now, and I believe he is the best choice among the three options I had as replacement,” said Dharmaraj.

Izat is the younger brother of No 1 goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, who is the only surviving member of the 2002 World Cup in the Malaysian side at the Hague.

As for the opening match against Australia, who Malaysia lost 8-3 to in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup, Dharmaraj will rely on counter attacks.

“It would be suicidal to play an open game against Australia, and we hope to do the damage on counter attacks.

“Also the defenders, especially (goalkeeper) S. Kumar, will have to be at their best to defend Australia’s penalty corners for the team to post a good result,” said Dharmaraj.

For the record, Kumar was not between the posts when Malaysia lost 8-3, as juniors goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman played.

Malaysia’s World Cup Fixtures — Today: 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).

New Straits Times

Malaysia to wear honour Sultan Azlan at World Cup

By S. Ramaguru

THE HAGUE: Malaysia will wear a black armband and observe a minute’s silence in their World Cup opener against Australia on Saturday to honour the late Sultan Azlan Shah who passed away on Wednesday.

Sultan Azlan Shah was the longest serving president of the then Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF), serving from 1976-2005.

He was also the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) president at the time of his demise.

Team manager George Koshy said on Friday that this is something the team wants to do and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has given their approval.

“The matter was raised with the FIH ahead of the team managers meeting and they have given the go-ahead to wear the armband. We felt it was better to get an official confirmation on the matter, as we did not want to ruffle any feathers,” he said.

The Malaysians wrapped up their practice matches with a 3-2 win against RC Rotterdam at the GreenFields Stadium on Thursday night but paid a heavy price when defender Kevin Lim pulled a hamstring.

He has been ruled out of the World Cup and will be replaced by Mohamed Izad Hakimi, who arrives here on Saturday.

The Star of Malaysia

Will Malaysia spring a surprise at the World Cup?

By S. Ramaguru

The Malaysian hockey team training in The Hague, Holland, ahead of the World Cup which begins on May 31, 2014.

THE HAGUE: Malaysia are back in the Hockey World Cup after 12 long years. No wonder they will go into the tournament, which begins on Saturday in The Hague, Holland, as the lowest ranked team at No. 13.

Frankly, the last time Malaysia made the World Cup on merit was in 1998 (Utrecht). In 2002, their participation was due to them hosting the tournament and an extended number of teams.

Malaysia’s best ever finish in the World Cup is a fourth placing in the 1975 edition on home ground. Their next best was in 2002 – when they finished eighth.

So, don’t be surprised if Malaysia finish rock bottom in The Hague, considering they have not done well overseas.

The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC), aware that the team are far from being among the elite, have only set a top-10 placing for coach K. Dharmaraj’s men.

Achieving four points in the group phase could well see them meet that target.

But is that enough? Are the team going to take the easy way out and be satisfied with having just made the cut for the World Cup?

The coaches and players answered with a resounding “No”, saying they are determined to prove their critics wrong.

To do that, they will have to play as a unit and help each other out. The national team have also a more attacking game in the last two tournaments – with the forwards firing on all cylinders.

Defensively, though, they are still not up to the mark. That could prove to be Malaysian’s Achilles’ heel as they have defending champions and world No. 1 Australia, England (world No. 4), Belgium (No. 5), India (No. 8) and Spain (No. 10) for company in Group A.

They play Australia in the opening tie and that could spell disaster – Malaysia have never beaten them in a top-level meet.

If Malaysia decide to go all gung-ho and don’t provide proper backing for the defence, then they could be in for a thrashing.

It also does not help that their second match will be against Belgium, who are being touted as potential winners here.

Skipper Azlan Misron and his men are viewed by many as being way too inexperienced in Group A.

But don’t tell that to the Malaysian team. They are optimistic that they can take at least a point from the first two matches.

This, they claim, will boost their confidence for the remaining group ties.

Dharmaraj said: “It is all about taking as many points as you can in the group phase. Each point will just take us close to our target ... or beyond it.

“The path has been laid out for us and it’s up to us to make it happen. We know that ours is the lowest ranked team and that the other sides are counting on taking full points off us.

“We won’t make it easy for them ... we have our own plans.”

Of course the plan Dharmaraj is talking about is to take it one match at a time and to get as many points on board as possible.

Dharmaraj’s men should be able to go into the matches with no pressure since all the other teams are looking at Malaysia as a “sure three-pointer”.

With all the matches being televised live here, the players must realise that they will come under scrutiny back home as well.

So, all anyone can ask of them is that they do their best and play to their full potential. Hopefully, they will surprise us all.

The Star of Malaysia

Germany still a force to be reckoned with

By S. Ramaguru

THE HAGUE: Olympic champions Germany and host Holland – by virtue of their world No. 2 and No. 3 rankings respectively – loom as the strongest title contenders from Group B.

The other teams in the group are New Zealand (world No. 6), South Korea (No. 7), Argentina (No. 11) and South Africa (No. 12).

The Germans are two-time winners – in 2002 and 2006. The Dutch have gone one better – winning it in 1973, 1990 and 1998.

Both teams have also featured in all 13 editions of the World Cup.

So, it cannot be denied that they do have the talent and ability to win the title. Defending champions Australia, who are in Group A, are the only team with enough power to stop them.

Germany are perennial slow starters but they always find that something extra at the finishing straight. They are the only team in the World Cup to have qualified for all the semi-finals.

They also come here with a strong team as they have several players who are considered among the best in the world.

The Germans are coached by Markus Weise, whose 18-player squad comprises some of the game’s most gifted players – including strikers Christopher Zeller and Florian Fuchs as well as Max Muller and Martin Haner.

Another player to watch out for is 20-year-old Christopher Ruhr, who netted nine goals at the Junior World Cup in December before being named 2013 FIH Young Player of the Year.

The return of the injured Oliver Korn and 2013 FIH Player of the Year Tobias Hauke also offers the Germans more flexibility with their line-up.

The only setback for the Olympic champions is the absence of Moritz Furste, who has yet to recover from a ligament injury sustained in March.

Still, not many will bet against Germany making the final.

Try telling that to the Dutch, though.

The hosts fancy their chances as they have a good track record playing at home. They won the title when they hosted the tournament in 1973 and 1998.

Their coach, Paul van Ass, has also put together an experienced squad who have, in recent months, shown good form.

In January, they won the inaugural World League final in style – hammering New Zealand 7-2.

In Mink van der Weerden, the Dutch have a prolific penalty corner flicker.

Other well-known players in the Dutch team include Robert van der Horst, Billy Bakker and Jeroen Hertzberger.

With a vociferous crowd expected at all their matches, the men in orange will surely be title-chasers.

The Star of Malaysia

Need to keep a check on Belgium’s Tom Boon: Sardar

Sardar Singh, India's captain   

India captain Sardar Singh feels his team’s success in the tough hockey World Cup opener against Belgium on Saturday will largely depend on keeping opposition hit-man Tom Boon under check.

There is very little to choose between both the teams as far as FIH rankings are concerned as India is ranked eight while Belgium is a rung below at the ninth position. But Sardar is confident about a positive start.

“The team is all set for the opening match against Belgium and we are confident of making a winning start,” he said on the eve of their Group A encounter.

“We are putting our strategies in place for every Belgian player but our main focus is on their drag-flicker Tom Boon.

We all are aware that he is one of the best drag—flickers in the world today and hence we are working on how best to tackle him. Keeping him under control will be like half the game won,” Sardar said.

“We last played Belgium in the Hero World League Finals.

We lost that match 1-2 and this was solely because of the goal scored by Tom Boon in the last few minutes. So he cannot be taken lightly at any point in the game,” the skipper added.

Sardar, however, said the 4-1 win over South Africa in their second and final warm-up game augurs well for India.

“I am happy that as a team we performed really well in our last warm-up match against South Africa. That win has provided a boost to our confidence level. I have advised my teammates not to take any pressure and just play their natural game and stay positive on the field,” he said.

India’s chief coach Terry Walsh too looked confident ahead of tomorrow’s match but warned his players against complacency against the European Cup runners-up.

“We had a good game against South Africa. We showed good sign of confidence and control, and melded it with some Indian flair and dodging capabilities,” he said.

“All the boys are determined and are oozing with confidence and positivity. But we cannot forget Belgium’s target for World Cup and plus the fact that they have been playing very good hockey recently with positive results.

“From our end we will focus on our style and thwart the powers they can potentially bring. Our objective is to perform close to our potential and execute our plans effectively which will make us a formidable opponent against Belgium tomorrow,” Walsh added.

Drag-flick exponent Rupinder Pal Singh scored two goals against South Africa the other day and Walsh said the lanky defender could play a key role in India’s success tomorrow.

“The two goals scored by Rupinder Pal Singh in the last warm-up game played against South Africa makes me believe that he is the player to watch out for in tomorrow’s match,” he said.

The Hindu

World Cup is here but India aren’t aiming for stars

Indervir Grewal

Chandigarh - In a few hours from now, one of the biggest events in hockey will kick off and India will begin their campaign against a team that came into the tournament after winning the qualifying tournament.

While Belgium beat defending champions Australia in the final of the Hockey World League Semifinals in Rotterdam to qualify, India’s journey to the World Cup was one of uncertainty; they were one of the last teams to qualify. That is the reason why India, ranked 10th in the world, should be considered the underdogs not only in the opening match but also in the whole tournament, where each team comes extremely well prepared after two to four years of development.

An example is the Belgian team, which has risen to world No. 5 after four years of planning and development. India, on the other hand, have come into the tournament with a coach who has not even completed one year, and a team filled with first-timers.

Even head coach Terry Walsh has not been overly optimistic about his teams’ chances: “We have to understand that the way ahead is tough and the team has worked hard and I am hopeful that we will do well in the World Cup.”

Lack of experience

Except for captain Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, VR Raghunath and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, all others are playing in their first World Cup. Most of the players, especially the forward line, have less than 40 India caps, while Jasjeet Singh and Lalit Upadhyay, who replaced Ramandeep Singh, are making their international debut.

In the last eight months since Walsh was appointed, India played in only one major tournament: the eight-team World League Final. Other than that they played five matches in a preparatory tour to the Netherlands.

In the World League Final, where almost all top teams brought experimental squads, India finished sixth.

During the tour of Netherlands, India won one match and drew one against Dutch clubs Leiden and HGC, respectively, and lost three — one against Belgium and two against the Netherlands.

While the young team doesn’t have anything to boast about, injuries to Ramandeep and Nikkin Thimmaiah right before the tournament would have dented their morale. “It could affect the morale of the youngsters,” said Sukhbir Singh Gill, former India player. About the inexperience of the team, Gill felt that the team management should have opted for a few more senior players. “The average age of the team would be 22-23 years. They should have gone for more experience.”

However, he added that maybe the lack of form of the senior players, especially in Hockey India League, was a big factor.

Expectations low

“It’s a young team and the coach too hasn’t been around for long, so we can’t expect a lot,” said Shivendra Singh, former India forward. A reason why he felt there hasn’t been much publicity.

Baljit Singh Saini, former India player, though irked by the lack of hype due to ‘the elections and the IPL’, felt that it could prove beneficial for the team. “It could ease the pressure, but I doubt how much. It will be crucial how the coach handles the young players,” Saini said.

Saini, who has trained most of the young players during his stint as the junior team’s coach, said that if India play to their potential, they could finish in the top six.

Realistic but positive

Saini added that the first match against Belgium would be crucial. “A good result will rid the team of the first-match jitters. A draw will be great and a win exceptional. A good start will give them confidence, but they have to be realistic. They can’t play every match to win it. But they have to be positive.”

“They shouldn’t be thinking about beating a team like Australia but playing well against it. But it’s easier said than done. The game has become so tactical and fast that each player has to stay focused for the full 70 minutes for the team to perform well and this mental consistency comes with experience,” he said.

Since taking charge, Walsh has been complaining about his players making too many common mistakes.

How well has Walsh been able to understand the players and how the players have been able to gel with each other in such a short time could soon be evident as the tournament begins.

The Tribune

We are ready for Belgium, says Sardar

The Hague - 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 have not qualified for the semi-finals for nearly four decades since the title triumph of 1975 in Kuala Lumpur.

European Cup runners-up 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 two-goal 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 quarter-finals 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.

"We're ready for the big moment," says 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."

A good start against Belgium could prove to be a boon for India, whose 4-1 victory in the 2010 World Cup opener against Pakistan paved the way for India's eighth-place finish — the best in recent times.

The Tribune

1975 World Cup heroes take a trip down memory lane

Rachna Khaira

JALANDHAR - Aslam Sher Khan, who scored a vital goal against Malaysia in the 1975 World Cup semifinal, has vivid memories of the final against Pakistan. "The Malaysian government, following its team's defeat to us, had banned Indian flags inside the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur," he says. "But the moment we became champions, thousands of flags appeared! Enthusiastic fans surrounded our dressing room, crying and shouting in excitement! Some were beaten up by the police for entering the restricted area, but nothing could deter them. It's then I realised the emotions of our fans after a long-awaited win."

Ashok Kumar, who scored the winner in the final, mentions the training camp in Chandigarh. The camp came about when the then Punjab chief minister, Giani Zail Singh, sanctioned a sum of Rs 5 lakh to train the team. The camp was held in the Punjab University campus, and the team was lodged at a new hostel, located opposite the girls' hostel. "I think it was a deliberate plan to boost our determination and motivation!" Ashok says. "We used to practise extra time even at nights just to impress the girls flocking the balconies and roofs of their hostel. But our top aim, of course, was to win the World Cup." He says that they were not allowed to go even close to the girls' hostel, but were taken inside to meet them after their win.

The win over Pakistan, who beat India in the 1971 World Cup semifinals, led to a national celebration. "It was a fantastic experience to be recognised in public," says Ajit Pal Singh, captain in 1975.

However, the win didn't change too many things for the players. Ashok, for instance, remained a flight purser with Indian Airlines, with just two increments in his salary, Rs 50 each. "It used to hurt many passengers to see me serving them tea and snacks even after the win, I did not feel bad as it was my job. No regrets!" quips Ashok.

Harcharan Singh, who also scored in the semifinal against Malaysia, recalls how the players relaxed. "We didn't have much money in those days. Our idea of an exciting evening was to have beer, away from the hawk's (coach G.S. Bodhi) eyes, and singing movie songs like 'Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna' and 'Mera Rang De Basanti Chola'!" says Harcharan. Due to Bodhi's strictness, they couldn't carry bottle-openers, so they devised a way to open beer bottles with the blades of their hockey sticks. Harcharan's teammates recall that he had the maximum female fan following.

Virender Singh remembers how two Jalandhar colleges, the Lyallpur Khalsa and DAV, vied to win over players from the winning team. "I, Onkar Singh and Ajit Pal were studying in Khalsa College," he says. "After the win, DAV College offered us free accommodation, education and even pocket money to join them, but we turned down the offer without giving it a thought."

The controversial goal

The 1975 win was marred by a controversy over the goal scored by Ashok Kumar in the 67th minute of the game, with echoes going back to the 1973 World Cup. In the 1973 final between India and Holland, India led 2-0, and Surjit Singh "scored". The Indians said it was a clear goal, but it was disallowed by Malaysian umpire Datuk G. Vijayanathan. Holland equalised 2-2, and won in the tie-breaker. The umpire was criticised for disallowing the "goal" that could have put India decisively ahead at 3-0.

In 1975, when Ashok scored the winning goal, Vijayanathan took some time before declaring it a goal. Pakistani players accused that because of his guilt of disallowing Surjit's goal in 1973, Vijayanathan "gifted" India this goal.

The Tribune

Ties Kruize: I have belief in Terry Walsh

K. Arumugam

“Australian coach Terry Walsh is a great coach, he will deliver, but India have to give him sufficient time to deliver”.

Thus spake Ties Kruize in a quick chat with this writer on the eve of opening ceremony of the The Hague World Cup, organized in World Forum amidst a high profile gathering of about 1500 plus.

Ties Kruize does not need any introduction. The legendary Dutch player, who holds the unique record of playing in half a dozen World Cups, with many incidental records to his cap, was the focus today, as he accompanied King of Holland in the opening ceremony at World Forum.

Even as he was surrounded by many, with the constant company of the King in a closed circuit enclosure after the Opening Ceremony was over, he took time away to share his thoughts on hockey and especially the one that has just declared open by FIH President Leodro Negre.

“India perhaps expects quick results. They have to be patient to come up, and I am sure with such great coach as Terry Walsh, who is also my good friend, results will start coming”, he asserted.

“Terry works hard, will deliver”.

“Don’t take my view negatively, but it is better wait for results rather than expecting within months (after appointing coaches)”.

Ties Kruize, now an Insurance Broker, doesn’t hide his views on contemporary hockey, and is forthright.

For him the new change in the playing time is something whose result or impact can be assessed only after experiment.

“The first reaction from players are why is this needed?”. Perhaps the thinking is that hockey sport has to remain in the Olympics sphere, and need to bring more and more people into to it”.

One good thing about the 4-quarter format is that substitution was not there in the past, players have to perforce take rest during the match, now they can do that after each quarter, game’s actual playing time will increase”

Ties was the manager of the Dutch team that won the bronze at the last World Cup in India.

“I like India and Pakistan hockey. They are needed for the world hockey. Its sad to see Pakistan is not here.

“Whatever I said of India is equally applicable to Pakistan too, they too need coaches but results won’t come in months”.

“It’s a big pity Pakistan is not here”

“I will be personally happy, and the world will stand to benefit if both India and Pak bounce back to centre stage”.

“I learnt a lot from these two countries, as I entered international hockey at my age of 17”.


Stephan Veen: This world cup is big

As The Hague extends ‘Welkom’ to the world’s best, Dutch legend Stephan Veen, who has played vital role in his team reaching World Cup medal everytime in the90s and 20s, feels the present number is bigger than the World Cup he figured in his home soils, Utrecht.

Legendary Veen played his third World Cup at Utrecht, where he won the gold under the training of present Performance director of India, Roelant Oltmans.

When asked to compare and specify the significant difference between the both the World Cups that The Netherlands hosted on its soils – one commonality is both time men and women’s were held -- he simply said, “this is big”.

Besides, Utrecht and The Hague, Holland also hosted one at Amsterdam, which it won too. On asked to explain the ‘big’ thing, he termed publicity, number of participants, television coverage, extent of reach are far more as per the demands of the times, than what was at Utrecht.

“World Cups are significant tournament in the hockey calendar, specific to the sport. Unlike Olympics, where every other sports are present, and the atmosphere it entails, is different.” “World Cup achievement is among the fraternity you know, who follow you, and appreciate everything you long for”.

Other speciality of this World Cup, “you are here”, wound up the discussion in a hurry and he was the company of none other than the Country’s King when broke for a while to share his views with www.stick2hockey.com


Masters hoping for a medal at World Cup

Scotland men and women masters travel to Rotterdam this weekend to compete in the FIH Masters Hockey World Cup.

Scotland will be taking four mens teams and one women team to Holland, where Rotterdam boasts over 7 hockey pitches.

Stephan Springthorpe from the mens over 55s is looking forward to the prospect of World Cup after training hard over the past year.

‘We just need to be in the right frame of mind on the day. I believe all sides are capable of making the quarterfinals and at least one side medalling.

‘Our biggest rivals are England as they have a great club master’s programme, of which many of our players play in. I myself play for a London team, down south they play a very high level of hockey.’

This is the fifth World Cup Scotland have competed in, with the over 40s being knocked out in the semi-finals at the last World Cup by Australia.

The Over 50s will be looking to better their European silver medal from last year and the over 45 also gaining silver in 2011 in Europe.

Best of luck to all the sides competing in Holland and hopefully one of the teams can bring home some silver ware home.

If this is something that you fancy being involved in they hold trials September/October time, more information will be added on the website in due time.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Absence in hockey World Cup still hurts, says Imran

By Nabil Tahir

According to Imran, the team is now striving hard to defend its title successfully at the Asian Games and simultaneously qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: National hockey team captain Mohammad Imran, one of the participants of the 2010 World Cup, reiterated his disappointment over the greenshirts not being able to qualify for this year’s mega event for the first time in history.

The 2014 World Cup will be held from May 31 to June 15 in the Netherlands.

“We had two chances, once in the Asia Cup and again in the World Hockey League, to qualify for the World Cup,” said Imran while talking to The Express Tribune. “It still hurts to realise that we blew both opportunities.

“We missed a couple of chances in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup, which led us to lose the game as well as qualifying for the World Cup, and this time we will have to watch it on television, which, for me, is really disappointing.”

The captain has not ceased his efforts to ensure that the Asian Games defending champions qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“We are surely not going to miss the chance to win the 2014 Asian Games and to qualify for the Olympics,” said Imran. “Our coach and players are training hard to overcome our weaknesses.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has announced a new list of 26 probables for the Games.

PHF President Akhtar Rasool, Secretary Rana Mujahid and head coach Shahnaz Sheikh witnessed the trials for the short-listing.

“We have shortlisted the players who will remain in the camp for the preparation of Asian Games, while the remaining players will be trained for other events,” said Sheikh.

“The final squad for the Asian Games will be announced in mid-August. The players have been selected on the basis of pure merit, which is physical fitness and game play.

“The top 16 players, whose names we sent to the Pakistan Olympic Association, remain in the list.”

The list includes Imran, Shafqat Rasool, Mohammad Tausiq, Abdul Haseem, Mohammad Rizwan Sr and Shakeel Abbasi, who had appeared in the last Asian Games in which Pakistan won the gold medal.

The Express Tribune

World Cup disqualification a new low for Pakistan hockey

The Hague (Netherlands): Dutch Robbert Kemperman (R) vies for the ball with Wade Paton of South Africa during their warm-up match on Friday.—AFP

LAHORE: Just as the world’s top hockey teams converge at The Hague in Holland to contest the game’s showpiece event, the 13th edition of the World Cup which commences on Saturday, Pakistan hockey presents a gloomy picture after having failed to qualify for the mega event for the first time ever in the country’s 60-year history of the game.

The four-time winners of the title who introduced the event more than four decades ago, fell from grace after failing to attain a position among top three teams in last year’s Champions League which served as qualifier for the World Cup.

They also squandered other such opportunities which would have brighten up their chances of competing at the mega event. In the last World Cup held in New Dehli, Pakistan finished at the bottom with 12th position and hence lost all hopes to get a place in the World Cup. The green-shirts then failed to win the last Asia Cup which could have guaranteed them a place in the World Cup.

Interestingly, Pakistan who are the winners of the Asian Games and Asian Champions Trophy could not qualify for this World Cup whereas three other Asian countries like India, Malaysia and South Korea made the grade.

One feels that not just the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) but the entire hockey fraternity of Pakistan is responsible for the ignominy borne by the country today. Almost every prominent hockey Olympian has been involved in the hockey affairs during the last two decades but no one could succeed in bringing back the glory days for Pakistan which had dominated the game from 1960 till the World Cup in 1994.

The incumbent PHF president Akhtar Rasool was the head coach of the Pakistan team which had badly flopped in the Champions League qualifiers and the Asia Cup. He was appointed head coach in place of Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel who was sacked by then PHF chief Qasim Zia in March 2012 despite the fact that the Dutchman had coached Pakistan to Asian Game victory after almost two decades.

It is extremely unfortunate that rather than learning any lessons from the past, both the government and the hockey stalwarts refuse to take the situation seriously and are doing nothing at all to put the game on path to recovery. In fact, the officials attached with the game today are only looking to safeguard their own interests and save their jobs and skin.

Despite the shambolic state of the game in Pakistan, the government remains totally oblivious of the situation and is not ready to take any concrete steps either for the accountability of the people responsible or for the betterment of the game.

Akhtar has now been elected as the PHF president despite his poor record as head coach and has recently been joined by another set of Olympians including former captain Islahuddin and Shahnaz Sheikh and a few others on key posts in the PHF.

While these very Olympians in the past had constantly held ex-PHF bosses Qasim Zia and secretary Asif Bajwa responsible for the hockey debacle until last year, they are now themselves toeing their line by harping on the same old tune that the youth is not being provided incentives to take up hockey and that no player among the ones attending the ongoing national training camp in Islamabad has a regular job.

In a recent interview, Shahnaz said some 13 to 15 departments had disbanded their hockey teams and the future of the sport and its players did not look too rosy, an argument which was repeatedly offered by Qasim’s regime earlier.

One feels that if these Olympians continue to play the same blame-game and focus only on their own well-being, Pakistan hockey is unlikely to experience any revival of any sort in the future.

The government is also not ready to take initiative to help out the players by providing them with incentives or allowing them necessary exposure which could help them get better with time. Instead of focusing on providing sports infrastructure and other incentives to the players, the governments during the last five years have been wasting their energy on a needless conflict with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over a trivial issue like the National Sports Policy.

That conflict with the IOC has now brought Pakistan on the brink of suspension from international sports community. If one carefully looks at the National Sports Policy, the government has 90 per cent responsibility to bring improvement in sports and just 10 per cent clauses relate to the policy.

But it has failed to realise the same despite repeated setbacks. This ridiculous approach of the government is earning lot of shame for the country and has almost completely ruined the sports including cricket, hockey, squash, snookerc etc which were once dominated by Pakistan around the world.


'Keep your cool on the hockey pitch'

By Aftar Singh

KANGAR: Penang's hockey skipper Mohd Khairul Naim Johari wants his team-mates to keep their tempers in check if they hope to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s Sukma competition.

Khairul is annoyed with his team-mate and midfielder Mohd Azwar Abdul Rahman, who got a red card and a one-match suspension for using foul language against the umpire in the match against Malacca, which ended in a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

Azwar, a former Project 2013 squad player, did not feature in the tie against Selangor on Thursday.

“I don’t want my team-mates to lose their temper and use foul language against umpires as this could affect our performance and results,” said Khairul.

“We also don’t want to be labelled as a team that lacks discipline. We are in Perlis to play our best to lift our first ever men’s hockey title.

“I advise my team-mates to stay focused and win our last group match against Kelantan tomorrow to seal a place in the semi-finals,” said Khairul.

He believes Penang have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals after snatching a 2-2 draw against favourites Federal Territories in a Group B match at the State Sports Complex Turf on Friday.

Penang have 11 points from three wins and two draws and need a win over Kelantan today to seal a place in the last four.

On Friday, FT took the lead through Mohd Syafiq Zulzairin in the ninth minute but Azwar equalised four minutes later off a penalty corner drag flick.

FT regained the lead in the 21st minute off a field goal by Norsyafiq Sumantri, only to have Khairul equalise through another penalty corner in the 33rd minute.

The Star of Malaysia

End of the road for poorly prepared FT

FEDERAL Territories' campaign in the Malaysia Games hockey competition came to a premature end after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Penang in their final Group B match yesterday.

FT coach K. Embaraj said a lack of fitness, concentration and urgency throughout the preliminaries had cost them a place in the knockout stage of the competition

“Penang are a strong team and we could not find a way past them today (yesterday),” said Embaraj.

“I think in today’s match against Penang and as well as earlier in the group stage, our boys waited until too late to push themselves and as a result this is as far as it gets for us.

“We only had two weeks to prepare together and the players were lacking in terms of stamina.

“As a result (of lacking fitness) they could not concentrate as well and could not execute as well as we would have liked.”

The team placed third in Group B as of yesterday with 11 points from six games but could drop to fourth today should fourth placed Malacca (10 points) beat top-ranked Negri Sembilan (12 points) in what is both team’s last group game.

Second-placed Penang, who are equal on points with FT but have a goal difference advantage, will play Kelantan today.

In other Group B matches yesterday, Malacca thrashed Sarawak 8-0 while Selangor downed Kelantan 3-0.

New Straits Times

Dilip Tirkey undergoes ankle surgery in Australia

NEW DELHI: Former India hockey captain and Rajya Sabha member Dilip Tirkey has undergone ankle surgery at Sportsmed SA, a premier sports medicine institute in Adelaide, Australia.

Tirkey, the highest capped (412 international matches) Indian player, was forced to retire from the game prematurely due to ankle problems.

He underwent the bilateral surgery on May 28 but will stay in Adelaide for rehabilitation for two more weeks.

"I was in severe pain and there was constant swelling in my ankles. I was unable to participate even in minor sporting activities. My doctor Vaibhav Bagaria from Care Hospital, Nagpur reviewed my condition and advised surgery at priority basis to prevent further damage," Tirkey said.

"Then we took the decision to get my ankles operated in Sportsmed in Adelaide as it is a famous orthopaedic and sports injury centre," he said.

Tirkey recently contested Lok Sahha election on a BJD ticket from Sundargarh, Odisha but lost to Jual Oram of BJP.

The Times of India

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