All the news for Friday 26 September 2014
Asian Games results Day 7
Kazakhstan 0 Japan 8 (W)
China 5 Thailand 0 (W)
Malaysia 1 India 6 (W)
Korea 8 Hong Kong 0 (W)
17th Asian Games, Incheon 2014 Official site
Pakistan & Korea men storm into semi-finals at Asian Games
Japan and Oman also win on Day 4 of men’s competition in Incheon
India (blue) fell to a 2-1 defeat against Pakistan at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. (Photo: Asian Hockey Federation)
On the fourth day of the men’s Asian Games competition, Pakistan defeated India and Korea moved past Malaysia, thus both securing places in the semi-finals. Japan thrashed Singapore, and Oman achieved an important win against Sri Lanka.
The big match of the day was the latest instance of a classical rivalry, as India and Pakistan locked horns. In a passionate and exciting match, the two teams neutralized each other in the first half, and it wasn’t until halfway through the third quarter that the first goal was scored. India briefly pulled even in the fourth quarter, but within a minute of the Indian goal having been scored Pakistan pulled ahead again, and soon after, the final whistle confirmed Pakistan’s win.
It was a high class match played in front of a good crowd, and even India’s coach Terry Walsh commented on how much he had enjoyed the encounter, “I always enjoy watching the liveliness of the Pakistani forward line, they played very well, and in a “finals’ mood” already. I don’t think we played with the same level of passion and excitement as Pakistan today, but we will see whether they can repeat this in the final.” Pakistan’s coach Sheikh Shahnaz was equally complimentary of today’s performance, saying, “We must appreciate both teams. It was classical hockey, and everyone in the stadium enjoyed it. I think it was the best match in the tournament so far.”
In the clash between Malaysia and Korea, the home team was the favorite, but it was not a clear or easy win. Malaysia played very well, and with even shares in possession and play in the field, what set Korea apart was the danger they were able to create in the circle. They used their penalty corners wisely, and Nam Hyunwoo’s two goals were enough to take the win and confirm a place in the semi-finals today.
The match between Sri Lanka and Oman was also fiercely contested. Both teams scored their first goals of the tournament, but in the end, it was the team from Oman that was more dangerous and more effective in front of the goal. “You have to remember we haven’t played in Asian Games in 36 years”, said Sri Lankan coach Nadeem Ahmed after the game, “the domestic level is low, and when we play internationally, we usually play much lower ranked teams. We need more time to adapt, to get used to playing these matches against these opponents.”
Prior to the clash between Sri Lanka and Oman, in the first match of the day, Japan had inflicted a heavy defeat on Singapore, with the 13-0 final scoreline including hat-tricks from Kenta Tanaka and Toshiro Tachibana. Japan dominated the match from start to finish, and created 28 scoring opportunities while not allowing Singapore a single shot on goal.
The 2014 Asian Games, officially known as the XVII Asiad, is the biggest sporting event held in Asia and is widely recognised as the second largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. The event is held every four years, with Hockey being one of 36 different sports set to feature in the Games. The Hockey competition in Incheon will be the biggest in the history of the Games, with ten men’s and eight women’s teams all battling it out for glory and Olympic qualification at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium.
The tournament - which offers a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic games to the men’s and women’s Gold medallists - is the first major international hockey competition to feature the groundbreaking 60 minute format, with the sport moving from two halves of 35 minutes to four 15-minute quarters with 40-second time-outs when a penalty corner is awarded and after a goal is scored.
The additional time-outs for penalty corners and after goals ensures that the new 60-minute format is actual playing time, eliminating the dead time associated with penalty corner set up while also allowing for teams to enjoy their goal celebrations. To learn more about the rule changes, click here.
Thursday, 25 September 2014 – Men
Singapore – Japan 0-13 (0-4)
Sri Lanka – Oman 1-3 (0-1)
India – Pakistan 1-2 (0-0)
Malaysia – Korea 1-2 (0-1)
Pakistan deals a blow to India’s hopes
INCHEON: The element of romance usually associated of an India-Pakistan hockey contest was inconspicuous. Yet the intensity of it was there for all to see as Pakistan, defending the gold here picked up full points beating India by the odd goal in three in a pulsating Pool B contest to make the semi-final here to-day. Even admitting that it was an even match in terms of exchanges, chances created and the closeness of it , in the final analysis it will only mirror the edge Pakistan over its formidable rival.
There was noticeable vibrancy in the Pakistani attack even in the beginning with Shafquat Rasool breaking repeatedly stressing the Indian defenders. This phalanx for India was handicapped to a great extent because of the absence of Rupinderpal Singh who is nursing a groin injury sustained in the match against Oman. Coach Terry Walsh was unable confirm whether he would be brought in before the competition gets over.
However, Birendra Lakra was valiant enough to cut short quite a few moves. The mid-field, the strong point for India, was palpably inconsistent. Barring Gurbaj, who put across many incisive forward passes, none including Sardar Singh, played to full to potential. However, it was Sardar’s crisp cross to Kothjit that paved the way for Nikhin Thimmiah net the equalizer in the final quarter after Pakistan had hoisted the lead in the third quarter.
India’s goalkeeper Sreejesh was a bit bewildered by the sequence of a sparkling surge by Omar Butta while conceding the lead. He padded the shot rather tentatively and but Shakeel Butt followed up quickly with a reverse flick. That unsettled Sreejesh, and as the ball rebounded again Oman Butta showed excellent opportunism to slot the ball home.
But there were definite indications of a draw but the equalizer India gained proved evanescent. A combined attack by Pakistan fashioned from the right resulted in a goalmouth scrimmage that culminated in Waqas Muhammad scoring the all important goal of the day with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Predictably, the effort sent the goodly number of Pakistani supporters into raptures.
Terry Walsh conceded that Pakistan’s show needed to be acknowledged for the fervour and flourish as the better outfit but regretted that India frittered away a few goal-bearing moves. If Akashdeep and Chandi, and for that matter Sunil, been little more effective then it could have been a different script.
The tally of nine points gives Pakistan an assured spot in the semi-final, with a match remaining against Oman. India faces the much sharper China in the last encounter on September 27 to finish possibly as the second team from the pool.
Doubtless to say, it is an embarrassing situation for a squad that came here targeting the gold. India has six points in two matches.
Men: Pool A: Japan 13 (Toshiro Tachibana 3, Kanta Tanaka 3, Koji Kayukawa, Lippi Fujimoto 2, Kanji Kitasato, Katsuyoshi Nagasawa , Hiroki Sakamoto, Ono Tomomori) beat Singapore 0;
Pool B: Oman 3 ( Muhammad Ashoor, Muhammad Hoobais, Muha Nasser Ali) beat Sri Lanka 1 (Ishanka Kumara).
Pakistan 2 ( Omar Butta, Waqas Muhammad) beat India 1 ( Nikkin Thimmiah)
Friday’s matches: Women: Pool B: Japan v Kazakhstan (9-30 a.m); Korea v Hong Kong (3-30 p.m.)
Pool A: China v Thailand (11-30 a.m.); India v Malaysia (1-30 p.m.)
Pakistan send India into precarious position.
By Shahid Khan
Pakistani players Mohammad Rizwan and Umar Bhutta celebrate their goal against India.
Defending champions Pakistan defeated their highly fancied arch rivals India 2-1 in the crunch match of Pool B match at the 17th Asian games in Incheong, Korea.
The match which was billed as one which would bring India to a halt for 60 minutes lived up to the expectations with both former hockey giants producing end to end hockey in front of large number of Pakistani supporters in the ground.
In the new set up of four quarters, the first 2 quarters remained goal less, despite both sides forcing a penalty corner each. India were hampered at set pieces due to the absence of their injured drag flicker, Rupinderpal Singh, however with the added responsibility on V R Raghunath but the burly striker continued to misfire as in the earlier games.
It was the under dogs Pakistan that broke the deadlock in the 38th minute through Umar Bhutta as he pounced on rebound after Waqas's shot had been saved by the Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh. Bhutta’s goal also made him leading field goal-scorer of the tournament with three goals to his name.
India were stirred into greater urgency in the final quarter and they finally managed to draw level in the 53rd minute when Nikkin Thimmaiah tapped home left flank cross from Kothajit Singh.
But India's joy was short lived since a minute later Greenshirts restored the lead through Mohamed Waqas's reverse hit as the Indian defence was caught napping by the pace of the Pakistani forwards.
The win virtually assured Greenshirts top position in their Pool, while making life difficult for the Indians as at best they can now only finish second in the pool and face the highest world ranked team in the competition Korea (8th) in the semi final.
Although the event is only at midway, Pakistan's victory will provide them with great psychological advantage in the tournament given that they only started preparations for the event only six months ago with the appointment of their coach Shahnaz Sheikh, whereas India have the advantage of having two FIH master coaches on duty for a considerable time.
However, coach Shahnaz Sheikh was quick to play down the rivalry with India, saying it was more important to gain full points from the match. The former Olympian added: “I think we played our best game in the tournament so far. Every match counts in an event like this and we are capable of doing well against any team.”
Pakistan will play the Oman in their final Pool match on Saturday when their semi- final opponents will be decided after the Japan and Malaysia match.
Exclusive for Fieldhockey.com
Pakistan teach hockey lesson to India
Defending champions defeat arch-rivals 2-1 | Head coach vows to retain Asian Games hockey title
MOHSIN ALI/AZHAR KHAN
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - Thanks to a superb goal by Waqas, Asian Games defending hockey champions Pakistan beat arch-rivals India 2-1 in the group-B match to book berth in the semifinals even before playing the fourth and last match of the group against Oman.
Pakistan head coach Shahnaz Shiekh had predicted green shirts’ victory even before the start of the high-pressure encounter. As per expectations, the started at a very high pace, as Pakistani forwards right from the beginning started dictating things and put pressure on the opponents’ goal, but poor finishing and superb goalkeeping by Sreejesh denied Pakistan from taking early lead. Indian strikers did miss some golden opportunities to take the lead, as the first quarter ended with both teams locked at 0-0.
In the second quarter, Pakistani forwards once again played well and created a number of chances, but once again it was poor finishing, which denied them from breaking the deadlock. Indians also had great chances to take the lead in the 23rd minute, when only Pakistani goalie was left to beat, but Ramandeep Singh missed a sitter. With regular short corner specialist Rupinderpal Singh ruled out of the match, it was left on Raghunath to deliver with penalty corners but the lanky figure continued to misfire in the tournament as he wasted two set pieces. Ramandeep's trapping inside the Pakistan circle was hard to believe as he wasted three golden chances while his striking partner Akashdeep Singh shot straight to goalkeeper Imran Butt from close range in the second quarter.
The deadlock finally broken by time-tested M Umar Bhutta in the 38th minute, when he lashed out to put the ball in the Indian net, as Waqas initial strike was blocked by diving Indian goalie. Pakistan could have doubled their advantage soon after but Waqas once again failed to take the advantage. The third quarter ended with Pakistan leading 1-0.
In desperate search of an equalizer, Indians played attacking game and their tactics paid off in the 53rd minute, when Nikkin Thimmaiak finally managed to score a goal to make things square. But Indians joy was short lived as Waqas scored the second and winning goal in the very next minute to restore Pakistan advantage. Imran Butt was the hero for Pakistan, as he made strings of quality saves to ensure a well-deserving victory for the holders.
Now Indians have made life difficult for themselves, now the only realistic chance for them to book a place in the semifinals is to beat dangerous China in the last group match on September 27. By doing so, they will face hosts South Korea in the semifinals. Pakistan is likely to finish the pool unbeaten as they take on Oman in the last match of the group on September 27.
Talking to The Nation from Korea, hockey team head coach and manager Shahnaz Shiekh attributed victory to the people of Pakistan and said the victory was made possible by the prayers of the entire nation. “Thanks to Almighty, my boys played superbly. I have already predicted this victory seeing my boys’ potential and they did it. The first task of reaching semifinals is achieved, and now we will not relax and take Oman seriously. The boys are in great spirits after the crunch match and now we have set our sights on the main target and that is to take title back home,” Shahnaz concluded.
Pakistan humble India 2-1 in thriller to qualify for semifinals
By Muhammad Ali
INCHEON: Pakistan humbled India 2-1 in a thrilling league tie to qualify for the semifinals of the 17th Asian Games Men’s Hockey Tournament at Seonhak Hockey Stadium here on Thursday. Forwards Muhammad Umar Bhutta (8th minute of third quarter) and Muhammad Waqas (9th minute of fourth quarter) scored field goals to hand the greenshirts their third consecutive victory in the competition. Earlier, Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka by 14-0 and China by 2-0. It was touted as the match to watch out for in the competition and as per expectations it turned out to be an exhilarating contest between the sub-continental rivals. It was a duel of technical superiority as both the teams showed great skills on the turf while playing fast-paced hockey.
The crucial encounter also decided the fate of the Pool B as the win lifted Pakistan to the top of the pool. Pakistan will be meeting Oman in their last league contest on Saturday (tomorrow). Last Asiad’s runners up Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and Singapore complete Pool A. In other matches of the day, Japan routed Singapore by 13-0, Oman outplayed Sri Lanka by 3-1 while hosts South Korea downed Malaysia by 2-1. The Asian Games hold great significance for the hockey nations of the continent as the winners of both the men and women’s section will directly qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The victory was a surprise for many as India went into the competition with a significant advantage over Pakistan in terms of training and international exposure: World Cup and Glasgow Commonwealth Games. While Pakistan started training for the Asian Games six months back with their new coach Shahnaz Sheikh, a former Olympian, and had not played international hockey. In a keenly contested encounter, Bhutta put Pakistan ahead in the third quarter before Nikkin Thimmaiah drew level at the start of the fourth quarter. Waqas took advantage of a defensive lapse to hit the winner that gave unbeaten Pakistan a place in the semi-finals even before their last league match against Oman. Though Pakistan forwards dominated the match with their superb stick-work, speed and dribble, the Indian team offered their opponents great challenge in the first three quarters. Apart from brilliant play by the forwards, Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt was superb under the bars. The winner between India and China on Saturday (tomorrow)
will determine the other semi-finalists from the pool. Both teams are level on six points from three matches.
Pakistan coach Shahnaz, in his post match comments, said both teams played good hockey to the delight of the crowd present in the stadium. “I was optimistic while my boys were confident of beating India. The win has given a big happiness to our country after a long time,” he added. Shahnaz said his planning against India paid off. “From the very beginning I was planning to top our pool, and after beating India, my team were successful in passing the first hurdle,” he maintained. To a question, Shahnaz admitted that there were missing and he was expecting beating India by 3 to 4 goals margin. “We missed two sure goals but it was part of the game.”
The field hockey at the 17th Asian Games is being held under a new format introduced in a bid to make the game faster. Four 15-minute quarters have replace the previous format of two 35-minute halves, bringing coaches and game management more into focus. The new system has been tested in friendly matches and tournaments, but the blue turf at the Seonhok Stadium is seeing it for the first time in the international arena. And it seems that the new format has suited Pakistan well. Shahnaz said in Incheon Pakistan were looking for an automatic berth for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. “If we retain the gold, Pakistan will directly make the cut for Rio 2016 and will not have to take part in the tough Olympic Qualifiers. The greenshirts certainly know the importance of securing a direct berth in a major event like the Olympics, after having missed out on World Cup 2014 in Holland.”
Indian coach Terry Walsh was all praise for Pakistan. “Pakistan played a better game than India and won,” said Walsh. He said no single player can be blamed for the defeat. “No one should be singled out and the blame should be on the entire team.” He said it was a pressure game and if India wanted to take the gold then they should be winning more. “Pakistan should be given credit for giving such a good performance.” To a question, he replied match against Pakistan was not a crunch game. “For me, crunch games are always semifinals and finals. And we should be trying to reach there and winning them,” he concluded.
The Daily Times
Dreams of gold alive as hockey team reaches semis
INTO THE SEMIS: Pakistan's Muhammad Imran attempts a goal against India in the men's hockey Pool B match. Pakistan are through to the semis after a 2-1 win over their arch-rivals. Photo: AFP
KARACHI: Defending champions Pakistan qualified for the hockey semi-finals after defeating arch-rivals India 2-1 in their third Pool B match of the 17th Asian Games at the Munhak Hockey Stadium in Incheon on Thursday.
Captain Muhammad Imran felt that good team play and the presence of supporters at the ground helped his side win.
“The large number of Pakistani supporters present increased our desire to win the game and the team played as one; each and every player played their part on the field,” said Imran while talking to The Express Tribune after the match.
Meanwhile, coach Shahnaz Sheikh was quick to play down the rivalry with India, saying it was more important to gain full points from the match. The former international added: “I think we played our best game in the tournament so far. Every match counts in an event like this and we are capable of doing well against any team.”
Forwards Muhammad Waqas and Muhammad Umer Bhutta scored to hand Pakistan their third consecutive win of the competition. Bhutta is now the leading field goal-scorer of the tournament with three goals to his name.
Pakistan, India and South Korea have qualified for the semi-finals that will be held on September 30. India will face South Korea, while Pakistan’s opponents will be decided after Japan and Malaysia’s match on September 27.
Pakistan, however, still need to face Oman in their final group match on Saturday.
The Express Tribune
India lose 1-2 to Pakistan in key Asiad clash
Biju Babu Cyriac
INCHEON: Deflating all the hype in the build-up to the clash of neighbours, India came up with a below-par performance against a spirited Pakistan side and crashed to a 1-2 defeat in a Pool B fixture at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium on Thursday.
The defeat puts India in a must-win situation against China on Saturday and if they clear that test they would play against hosts South Korea in the semifinals. Korea defeated Malaysia 2-1 in Pool A for their third straight win. Pakistan too made the last-four grade with their third victory in the group.
The high-voltage support from the stands - where the Pakistanis easily outnumbered and drowned the cheering of the Indians - spurred the team on as they snatched the winner through Muhammad Waqas a minute after conceding the equalizer in the 53rd minute to Nikkin Thimmaiah. Earlier, Pakistan had drawn first blood in the 38th minute through Muhammad Umar Bhutta.
After a sedate first quarter, India forced a penalty corner two minutes after the restart but VR Raghunath only managed to slam it straight to Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt, younger brother of former Pakistan skipper and forward Rehan Butt.
Pakistan responded with a brisk counter, a ploy which they used effectively throughout, and Waqas weaved in dangerously before Raghunath came back to avert the danger.
The Indians struggled to strike any rhythm and looked up to skipper Sardar Singh to lift the tempo while the forwards failed to latch on to their chances. At the other end, Pakistan cut into the Indian area at will using the flanks and sometimes right through the middle.
The opening goal came after Bhutta, Waqas and Muhammed Tousiq moved in through the left. Bhutta's first attempt was blocked by goalkeeper Sreejesh but the ball rolled back to Bhutta which he tapped in from close.
India fought hard for the equalizer which came when Nikkin connected a cross from Kothajit but seconds later, Waqas and Mohammed Dilber drove in through the middle to deliver for Pakistan. Sreejesh stopped the first attempt but couldn't block the second one from Waqas.
"Our defence made crucial mistakes and we paid for it. Overall, we turned out bit flat against a Pakistan team that played as if they were playing a final. For us we had three points at stake and now we have got a bit of work to do to reach the same level. Our focus is now on making the semifinals by beating China in two days' time," India coach Terry Walsh told reporters.
India were also hampered by the absence of Rupinder Pal Singh who is nursing an injury. That forced Gurbaj Singh to work in the defence without much success.
The Times of India
Pak wear India down
Stun archrivals 2-1 in tight contest; Indians guilty of wasting chances
Rohit Mahajan in Incheon
Captain Sardar Singh collides with a Pakistani player during their Pool B match on Thursday. PTI
The Korean cops went on high alert today at the hockey stadium — they sealed off parts of the stands with yellow tape, formed a human wall between sections of supporters, and looked with suspicion at brown faces, as if violence was going to ensue any second.
What happened was nothing criminal — it was only India playing Pakistan in a Pool B encounter today. The Korean police, seeing evidence of passion among supporters, didn’t realise that it was quite friendly, harmless.
India lost the match 2-1, though it was not a huge loss. The repercussion of the defeat is that India’s likely opponent in the semifinal would be South Korea, and it would be very tough to beat them at their own venue, before overwhelmingly partisan home crowd.
India don’t want to play Korea in Korea — they, thus, desperately wanted to win today. “Drawing or losing 1-2 doesn’t make a difference, we had to win this game to finish on top in the pool, so we took some risks,” Roelant Oltmans, India’s high performance director, later told The Tribune. “We lost a game, we didn’t lose the tournament.”
Pakistan played a surprisingly tight, efficient game. The plan was to shut out the Indian forwards, blunt the Indian attacks, and then hit them on the counter. They were efficient in their defence and once they had the ball, their forwards managed to create chances. India were favourites, and they wanted the win to top the group — they seemed nervous, under pressure, even jittery.
The Indians made basic errors, including mis-passes and failure to trap the ball. India kept the ball more, but the forwards missed chances, while the defence could not cope with pressure and made fatal errors. VR Raghunath, the penalty-corner specialist, failed to fire, missing two chances. The first two quarters didn’t produce a goal; Pakistan scored in the 38th minute when Muhammad Umar Bhutta scored off a rebound, after the goalkeeper Sreejesh had made a clearance saved off a Muhammad Waqas attempt.
India attacked more in the fourth quarter, and Danish Mujtaba could have equalised in the 49th minute, but Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt made a stunning save. Finally, Nikkin Thimmaiah scored, in the 53rd minute, when a Kothajit cross from the left found him, and he sent the ball in.
Pakistan hit back the next minute, when Waqas, chancing upon a loose ball in the D, cleverly lobbed it over the Indians, into the net.
“They (Pakistan) played like it was a final,” India coach Terry Welsh later said. “We missed a lot of chances. We did not take our opportunities, and that cost us the match!”
“I don’t think there was much of a difference,” Oltmans said. “It was quite a close game. In the first half, India was a bit better but wasn’t able to score off the chances we got. Suddenly, more or less out of the blue,”
“We were too eager to win the game, and then opened space for Pakistan, and the goal came,” Oltmans said.
India wanted to top the group, but the defeat has opened up a nasty possibility — the next game, on Saturday, is against China. China are no pushovers, as Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh gleefully said. India must play with greater assurance on Saturday.
Defensive lapses cost India dear against Pakistan
Chander Shekhar Luthra
Pakistan players tackle India’s Gurbaj Singh during their Pool B hockey match in Incheon Thursday PTI
Be it hockey, cricket or any other sport, an Indo-Pak encounter brings out the emotions.
However, Thursday was one of those rare days. Believe it or not, there was not even a single foul committed in the group stage clash. For the record, Pakistan eventually won 2-1. That said, the umpires and organisers must have heaved a sigh of relief as players went about shaking hands after the hooter went off.
Former Pakistan skipper Tahir Zaman praised both teams for playing a clean game of hockey. "Both side players are emotional when it comes to playing against each other," said Zaman, who was part of the 1994 World Cup-winning side. "This victory is very important for our side because Pakistan hockey is struggling to get international games. This victory will certainly raise the confidence level of our players and help them overcome this bad phase," he added.
Pakistani women cricketers were seen sitting alongside a group of Indian players from different disciplines to witness this special game. Such was the camaraderie even while shouting slogans that neither group crossed the 'border' of decency.
As Muhammad Bhutta put Pakistan ahead in the third quarter in the Pool 'B' encounter, there was big celebrations by a sizeable group of Pakistani expatriates. Clearly, they outnumbered the Indians.
And when Nikkin Thimmaiah drew level a few seconds later, things got interesting. It didn't, however, stop the Pakistani supporters from distributing biryani in the stands.
Muhammad Waqas scored the winner six minutes from time and the defending Asian Games champions booked a place in the semifinal. Waqas took advantage of a defensive lapse to hit the winner. Pakistan will now take on Oman in their last league game on Saturday. On the contrary, India will meet China. Nothing but victory will do.
India coach Terry Walsh described the loss as "terribly frustrating". "But the good thing is that it was just a three-point match, not a semifinal or the final," the Australian said. So does he still think his boys can win the gold medal? "We played our worst game and Pakistan played their best. I hope our players will go back and think about the mistakes they committed. They are mentally and physically strong and should be able to come back as a different team," Walsh said.
Stopwatch: India 1 (N Thimmaiah 53) lost to Pakistan 2 (M Umar Bhutta 38, M Waqas 54)
Emotions run high but Pakistan vs India fails to deliver
Muhammad Waqas fires the ball wide of India's goal. AFP
When the final whistle blew, the Pakistan goalie was on his knees and crying. Pakistan had just beaten India 2-1 in men’s hockey and his emotions came tumbling out. The goalie, Imran Butt, had literally put his body on the line for victory, with Raghunath striking him flush on the chest with a penalty corner in the second quarter.
Across the field, the India team looked despondent and listless. They had lost to their arch-rivals and second-place finish in the group most likely means a date with favourites Korea in the semi-finals.
But the stakes and emotions only served to camouflage what was a largely boring encounter between two sides ranked 9th and 11th in the world.
Former India coach Michael Nobbs wrote in his match preview that goals are typically at a premium when India plays Pakistan because the stakes are so high and the match is emotionally charged. But in this game, skill and creativity were at a premium too.
Pakistan might be the defending champions and they do possess a fair turn of speed on the counter, but they lack ruthlessness in front of goal, embodied by the miss of the day courtesy of Muhammad Waqas. Pakistan’s No. 1 had slipped behind the Indian defence and collected the ball deep in the D with nary a defender in sight. With plenty of time and only the goalkeeper to beat, he slapped his reverse shot well wide.
Their two goals came amid goalmouth scrambles and both had an element of luck as India’s defenders lost sight of the ball and it broke kindly to Muhammad Bhutta to score the first and for Waqas to redeem himself with the match-winner six minutes from time.
India was largely anonymous, save for the equaliser scored by C.A.N. Thimmaiah. Much slower than Pakistan across the deep blue artificial turf at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium, there was also a marked lack of skill in the final third of the field.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Ramandeep Singh found himself unmarked in the center of Pakistan circle. The ball was swept in to him but with no defender within 10 feet of, he failed to control it.
India captain Sardar Singh was often slow to bring the ball out of defence and frequently telegraphed his intent. In one instance, he rotated so slowly while inside the Pakistan half, everyone in the stadium knew where the ball was going before he passed it. Naturally, it was intercepted.
And when India one a long corner with the minutes ticking down and chasing an equaliser, the ball was scooped out of play on the other side of the field.
On this evidence, those hoping India can win gold at these Games and end a drought that goes back to 1998, might have to wait another four years.
Malaysia pay the penalty against Koreans
Malaysia's Meor Muhamed Azuan stretches to halt South Korea's Yoon Sung-hoon during the match at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium on Thursday. Malaysia lost 2-1.- By Kamarul Ariffin/TheStar
INCHEON: South Korea’s prowess in penalty corners proved too much for Malaysia at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium.
Malaysia put up a much-improved performance, but it was still not enough as they went down 2-1 in a Group A match. With the win, the hosts have qualified for the semi-finals.
South Korea, on maximum nine points, are likely to top the group as they play fourth-placed Bangladesh in their last group match tomorrow.
Malaysia’s final group fixture is against Japan tomorrow and they need a win to reach the last four. Both Malaysia and Japan have six points after three matches, but the Japanese are second with a better goal difference.
Yesterday, the Koreans used their speed to good use and were also more mobile along the flanks.
Malaysia earned their first penalty corner after 13 minutes, but failed to convert.
The Koreans made them pay for it by scoring from their first penalty corner in the 24th minute through Nam Hyun-woo’s drag flick.
Hyun-woo was on target again in the 45th minute off their third penalty corner.
Malaysia managed to reduce the deficit in the 56th minute through Mohd Marhan Jalil’s field goal. It was the first goal conceded by the Koreans at these Games.
National interim coach A. Arulselvaraj said he cannot fault his players for the loss.
“I’m very pleased with the way we played today. We had better possession than the Koreans. It was just two silly mistakes that gifted them the goals.
But this performance has shown me that we are on the right track,” he said.
Korean coach Shin Seok-kyu was glad to secure a place in the semi-finals.
He also gave the Malaysians credit for giving them a run for their money.
Winning the three points was crucial. “We have reached the semi-finals, but will not take any teams for granted,” said Seok-kyu.
The Star of Malaysia
Malaysia go down fighting
Shukri Mutalib surrounded by a sea of Korean players yesterday. Malaysia lost 2-1. — Picture by www.asiana.my
INCHEON — South Korea's penalty corner specialist Nam Hyun-woo scored a brace as a determined Malaysia went down 2-1 in a men's hockey Group A clash yesterday.
The Koreans, with this hard-earned win, qualified to the last four after beating Singapore 12-0 and Japan 4-0 in their earlier matches. The hosts' last match is against Bangladesh tomorrow.
The Malaysians must now beat Japan in their match tomorrow (2pm) to make sure of a semifinal berth.
It was a closely contested match yesterday as South Korea and Malaysia tried to outwit each other for the three points.
And Malaysia, led by forwards Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil, Fitri Saari and Firhan Ashaari, managed to penetrate the tight and disciplined Korean defence a few times and had chances to score.
The speedy South Koreans were always dangerous though whenever they approached the semi-circle.
And they took the lead in the 24th minute when Hyun-woo struck from a penalty corner giving goalkeeper S. Kumar no chance after his attempt deflected off defender Razie Rahim's stick. Hyun-woo made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute also via a penalty corner.
Despite the setback, Malaysia battled on and were rewarded in the 59th minute with a field goal by Marhan Jalil.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Waqas scored the winner six minutes from time as defending champions Pakistan downed India 2-1 to reach the semifinals.
In a keenly contested Group B encounter, Muhammad Bhutta put Pakistan ahead in the third quarter before Nikkin Thimmaiah drew level at the start of the fourth.
Waqas took advantage of a defensive lapse to hit the winner that gave unbeaten Pakistan a place in the semifinals even before their last group match against Oman tomorrow.
The winner between India and China tomorrow will determine the other semifinalist from the group. Both teams are level on six points from three matches.
Six decades on, Koreans return the favour
Chander Shekhar Luthra
Korean fans support the Indian hockey team during its match against Pakistan in Incheon on Thursday PTI
A group of octogenarian war veterans cheer for Indian hockey team to say 'thank you' for the thousands of lives our army's 60 Parachute Field Ambulance and Surgical Unit saved during the Korean War of 1950
Talk about being grateful. That's the virtue a group of South Korean war veterans displayed at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium on Thursday.
An Indo-Pak clash is a money-spinner, replete with thrills, spills and chills. And so it was on Thursday. Many thousand spectators poured in, but a large majority of these were Pakistani expatriates. Younger, noisier and energetic, they easily outnumbered their Indian counterparts.
But standing out starkly amid this frenzy was an unlikely group of India supporters, the largest there was of staid 80-something gentlemen, clad in white T-shirts, enthusiastically waving the Tricolour to register their support for the Men in Blue. They neither screamed, nor cheered. But their very presence spoke volumes.
Times washes over many memories, but for these South Korean war veterans memories of the civil war of 1950 are as fresh as ever. It was during the raging battle that India sent the 60 Parachute Field Ambulance and Surgical Unit as a humanitarian gesture to relieve the wounded and the dying. Many have lived to tell the tale of those horrific days and remain grateful to India for its humanitarian gesture. Most of these veterans are over 80, frail in body and in declining health, not given to shouting and cheering loudly. However, they are always in good spirits.
And a hockey match was a good enough reason for them to come out in large numbers to rally for the Indian team. They are of the firm belief that it is their bounden duty to do so — show solidarity with India at the stadium, because India once ruled the world in hockey.
"They wanted to attend India's match against Pakistan," said Kil Eun Young, a young group leader at the stadium, trying to assist the veterans.
The war veterans know only the Korean language but a young volunteer played translator. "We have good memories of the Indian doctors," said an elderly man who identified himself as only 'Park'.
Park still remembers the winter of 1950 when 346 men and 17 officers from India landed in Korea with medical supplies. Lt Col AG Rangaraj had six months' worth of medical supplies, and he desperately needed help from the Americans to transport them on the military train out of Pyongyang.
The Americans, with an explanation that there were no engines available to pull the train, ordered Rangaraj to destroy the medical supplies. But Rangaraj didn't obey the orders and somehow managed to find a working engine. The Indians drove the train out of Pyongyang, now North Korea's capital city, just before the last bridge over a river was destroyed.
The Indians used these medicines into the combat zone to treat the wounded soldiers. The Indians performed more than 2000 operations and treated more than two lakh patients. That's why Indians are admired by Koreans.
On Thursday, the war veterans sat there quietly, waving Indian flags and enjoying biryani. And whenever India conceded a goal, they looked sad.
With the communist invasion of South Korea in 1950, the United Nations called out for assistance. India, which had become independent in 1947, decided not to get involved militarily. The government, however, chose to contribute a medical unit. The 60 Parachute Field Ambulance served in Korea for four years. It was involved in providing medical cover to the forces of the UN Command as well as the Republic of Korea Army and local civilians, and earned the title, 'The Maroon Angels'. The unit also looked after the North Korean prisoners of war. Thanking India for their role, former South Korea president Lee Myung-Bak said in 2010, "Korea was fortunate to have India, the source of an ancient and noble civilisation, as a friend during the war. The medical unit headed by Col AG Rangaraj valiantly rushed to the aid of wounded soldiers in the face of a fierce crossfire. For its distinguished service, the unit received citations of merit from the Korean government on a number of occasions. Had it not been for the devoted services and sacrifices of the Indian people, Korea would not have become what it is today," Lee added. "We have always remembered their sacrifices and pledged they would not go in vain. Koreans are proud of the achievements of the Republic over the years and hope that Indian people are equally proud," he said.
South Korean veterans’ war cry: Chak De! India
Korean war veterans supporting the Indian hockey team during the India-Pakistan match in Incheon on Thursday. Rohit Mahajan
Incheon - In 1950, when civil war raged in Korea, India sent the 60th Field Ambulance and Surgical Unit as a humanitarian gesture to relieve the wounded and the dying.
Sixty-four years on, not too many people remember this.
But the memories of the Korean war veterans have not faded. They’ve not forgotten. They remain grateful to India, so they came to support India against Pakistan at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium.
India’s expatriate supporters were hugely outnumbered by the Pakistani fans. Pakistan’s expat fans — largely working class — were younger, rowdier, noisier. India’s supporters were older and quieter — more likely to be office-goers. In terms of the decibels raised, it was a huge mismatch. The Indians needed someone to crank up the volume for them.
The largest group of India supporters, however, remained quiet. Clad in white T-shirts, waving India flags, they rarely made a noise or raised a cheer — but it was not due to lack of spirit. They’re all in their 80s, and in declining health and very unlikely to jump to their feet and shout. Despite this, they performed what they believe was their duty — India was very good in hockey in their time, and they wanted to show solidarity with India at the hockey stadium.
“They wanted to attend India’s match against Pakistan,” said Kil Eun Young, a young group leader at the stadium, there to assist the veterans. The war veterans know only the Korean language, apart from a few English words, but a young volunteer translated for one of them. “We have good memories of the Indian doctors,” said an elderly man who identified himself as only ‘Park’.
Help from India
He’s not been able to forget the winter of 1950. That year, 346 men and 17 officers from India landed in Korea with medical supplies. Lt Col AG Rangaraj had six months’ worth of medical supplies, and he desperately needed help from the Americans to transport them on the military train out of Pyongyang. The Americans, claiming that there were no engines available to pull the train, ordered Rangaraj to destroy the medical supplies. Rangaraj didn’t want to destroy a precious commodity — his men found a working engine, and also collected enough wood for fuel to run the train. The Indians drove the train out of Pyongyang, crossing a river just before the last bridge over it was destroyed.
This is recorded in the ‘Korean War: An Encyclopaedia’, edited by Stanley Sandler. The Indians went into the combat zone to treat the wounded, they evacuated the casualties, and trained the Koreans to work in hospitals. One of their ambulances was blown up by mines in 1951. The Indians performed about 2,324 operations, treated around 1,95,000 outpatients and 20,000 inpatients.
The Indians were respected and revered by the Koreans.
Today, as the war veterans sat there quietly, waving the Indian flags, Kil Eun Young tried to raise a cheer. She raised a sign that said “India, Chak De!” in Korean. She shouted “India” and the war veterans shouted “Chak De”. They couldn’t continue for long, though — they soon went silent and preferred to watch the match quietly.
Indian women eye win over Malaysia to seal semifinal berth
Indian and Chinese players during their pool match in Incheon on Wednesday.
After clumping to a close 1-2 defeat at the hands of China, Indian women’s hockey team will be eyeing an outright win against Malaysia in their final Pool A match to seal a semifinal berth at the 17th Asian Games, in Incheon.
Even though a draw against Malaysia would be enough for the Indians eves to progress to the semifinals as the second best team from Pool A, the Ritu Rani-led side would definitely want to end their pool engagements on a high at the Soenhak Hockey Stadium.
With two wins from as many games, China is leading the pool and expected to beat lowly Thailand in their last encounter.
India and Malaysia, on the other hand, have equal points having managed a win and a loss each in as many games.
But India has slight edge over the Malaysians as they have better goal difference. India have a goal difference of plus two over Malaysia (0) and a draw on Friday would definitely secure their last four place.
On Friday, the Indians eves would fancy their chances and would definitely start as favourites against Malaysia.
The head-to-head record, too, favour India as they have defeated Malaysia on both the occasions the two teams had faced each other in the Asian Games.
In the 2006 Doha Asian Games, India defeated Malaysia 4-2 and then four years later in Guangzhou the Indians spanked the same opponents 4-0.
Most recently, India whitewashed Malaysia in their own backyard in a six-Test series, organised earlier this year as part of preparation for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the ongoing Asian Games.
India’s chief coach Neil Hawgood said the impressive performance against China have boosted the confidence of his wards but warned his side against complacency.
“The girls fought really well in the last match. Losing the match in the dying minutes was a matter of bad luck for us. This is like a quarterfinal match, where we have to win.
The performance against sixth ranked China gave us confidence and the group now knows where it is in this contest,” Hawgood said.
Argentina captain Luciana Aymar, the Maradona of hockey, to retire after Champions Trophy
Argentina's greatest field hockey player will play one last tournament for Las Leonas in November's Champions Trophy in Mendoza
By Rod Gilmour
Argentina will give their greatest ever hockey player a week-long fiesta to remember after Luciana Aymar, dubbed the Maradona of hockey, announced that she would retire after November’s Champions Trophy in Mendoza.
The only player to be awarded world player of the year eight times, Aymar will play her last set of matches for Argentina in the eight-team event from Nov 29 - Dec 7, a tournament which will also see Danny Kerry take charge as England women’s head coach for the first time.
"I decided over time and after many discussions with coaches and managers,” Aymar told reporters. "I never thought I would reach this point because one imagines that I have many tournaments ahead.
“It's going to be very emotional because I know it will be the last. There will be moments of joy, but also sadness.
“Beyond my performance, I have decided to have fun, enjoy the people and that people enjoy me and my game. I want it to be a party in every way.”
Over a 15-year period, the 38-year-old won two World Cups in 2002 and 2010 and five Champions Trophy gold, while only the Olympic title eluded Aymar. In all she collected two silver and two bronze, spanning four Olympic Games.
“On the pitch I will give it my best,” added Aymar, whose World Cup this summer was blighted by a hamstring injury as Argentina finished third.
“My priority will be to enjoy the affection of the people, my teammates, coaches, family and friends."
Aymar will not travel with Las Leonas for their tour of Belgium later this month and she will instead prepare herself for a final tilt in front of her home supporters.
The Champions Trophy – the road to qualification
(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)
Billed the best of the best, Argentina and India play host to the glittering finale of a fabulous year of hockey
This year has proven a veritable hockey fest for lovers of the game across the globe, and 2014 is exiting with a bang as the start of the Champions Trophy tournaments kicks off in just 10 weeks’ time. The women's competition takes place in Mendoza, Argentina from 29 November - 7 December, while the men will be doing battle in Bhubaneswar, on the eastern side of India from 6 - 14 December.
The Champions Trophy really is a battle between the best of the best. Eight of the top nations in both the men's and women's game compete to claim the trophy. The question on the lips of hockey aficionados this year is whether anyone can break the dominance of the Australians in the men's edition and can the Netherlands women make it a double alongside their stunning performance in the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup?
Australia are the most successful men's team with 13 titles to their name. The Kookaburras have dominated the competition for the past decade, not only are they the defending champions, having won the event in 2012 on home turf at Melbourne, they also won the previous four tournaments. Four titles behind them are Germany who have won the tournament nine times, with the Dutch winning eight times. Along with Pakistan three times, and Spain once in 2004, these are the only teams to have been crowned Champions Trophy winners.
There has been a similar dominance by three teams in the women's version, with the Netherlands and Australia both holding six titles apiece, defending champions Argentina winning five times and Germany, China and Korea all winning once.
Qualification for this year's edition was as follows. Men: India qualified as host nation and their fourth place in the 2012 Champions Trophy; Australia are the defending champions; the Netherlands were runners-up in the 2012 Champions Trophy; Pakistan and Belgium qualify by virtue of their third and fifth respective placings in the 2012 Champions Trophy; Argentina were winners of the 2012 Champions Challenge 1, while England and Germany were given invitational places.
The women's qualification follows a similar pattern: Argentina qualified as defending champions and hosts; Great Britain were runners up in the 2012 edition, enabling England to qualify this time; the Netherlands, Germany and Japan qualify by virtue of their placings in the same tournament, third, fourth and fifth respectively; and Australia were winners of the 2012 Champions Challenge 1. In addition New Zealand and China were given invitational places.
From 2016, the qualification criteria as set out by FIH will be slightly modified to accommodate the Hockey World League results. Qualifying teams will comprise: the host, the 2012 Olympic Champions, the 2014 World Cup winners, 2015 World League champions, the winners of the 2014 Champions Challenge and a team nominated by FIH Executive Board. If any team qualifies twice under the criteria, then FIH Executive Board will invite a further team. The format of the competition will also revert to a six team round robin followed by classification matches.
The fabulous atmosphere and fantastic hockey of the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup was a tremendous showpiece for the game, and Mendoza and Bhubaneswar both promise to provide wonderful platforms for this glittering finale to 2014.
Australia - Champions Trophy defending champions
Smith Selects 18 for Belgium
Electric Ireland’s national women’s team will play two test matches against the higher ranked Belgium team, on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th October, as they continue their preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers, World League 2 taking place in Ireland in March 2015.
Smith who has selected 18 for this series commented earlier "Belgium are a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for and admire their performances in recent years. It will be fantastic to play them in two matches to continue our progress toward World League 2"
"We have a National Squad of 25 who has been working hard over the summer and who have been involved in 27 test matches from April-August. We have 5 more matches planned before we break for a physical block over December and it is important that all 25 play in these matches. Although 18 have been selected for Belgium the remainder will be playing in the next series in November” he continued.
Ireland v Belgium – 18th & 19th October (Oudergem, Belgium)
Ayeisha McFerran - Randalstown
Emma Gray - Hermes
Shirley McCay – Ulster Elks
Cliodhna Sargent – Cork Harlequins
Hannah Matthews - Loreto
Audrey O'Flynn - Hermes
Ali Meeke - Loreto
Yvonne O'Byrne – Cork Harlequins
Megan Frazer – Captain – Ulster Elks
Gillian Pinder - UCD
Chloe Watkins - UCD
Nicci Daly - Loreto
Emily Beatty - UCD
Chloe Brown - Ards
Deirdre Duke - UCD
Nikki Evans - UCD
Katie Mullan - UCD
Anna O'Flanagan – UCD
Ireland v Belgium (Belgium – Local Times)
Tuesday 14th October 6pm (Local Time) Ireland v Belgium (Oudergem Brussels)
Wednesday 15th October 3pm (Local Time) Ireland v Belgium (Oudergem Brussels)
Irish Hockey Association media release
U.S. Women’s National Team Journeys to New Zealand for Capped Series
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The U.S. Women’s National Team will be traveling to New Zealand for a six-match, capped series against the Black Sticks from October 18-26. The matches will take place in Stratford, Palmerston North and Wairarapa. New Zealand currently holds the 4th place FIH World Ranking position and will prove to be good competition for the USA. Although the particular series will not be streamed live, behind-the-scenes match reports will be written by USA National Team athletes while abroad.
The red, white and blue made global headlines at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup in Holland by achieving a place in the semifinals. This is Team USA's first appearance in the World Cup's final four since 1994, when it finished with the bronze medal at the tournament. Prior to this, the USWNT battled through international matches in Scotland at the 2014 Champions Challenge to bring home gold and glory. This tremendous growth and success has jumped the United States two spots forward on the FIH World Ranking Scale to 8th . New Zealand will be another stop on the journey to prepare the squad for 2015’s full schedule including World League Round 3 and an 8 Nations Competition.
USA vs NZL schedule
Date / Time (EST) / Stadium
Friday, Oct. 17 / 9:00 PM EST / Stratford
Saturday, Oct. 18 / 9:00 PM EST / Stratford
Tuesday, Oct. 21 / 1:00 AM EST / Palmerston North
Thursday, Oct. 23 / 1:00 AM EST / Palmerston North
Friday, Oct. 24 / 9:00 PM EST / Masterton
Saturday, Oct. 25 / 9:00 PM EST / Masterton
USFHA media release
Unbeaten two face off in Premier Division
Chris Grassick of Surbiton v Southgate, Sept 20 2014, credit Tim Reder
Both unbeaten after two matches, Surbiton host reigning champions and current leaders Beeston in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Premier Division on Saturday afternoon.
Four teams have 100 per cent records at this early stage, but that will change following the match at Sugden Road (2.30pm start).
Surbiton should prove tough opponents, having beaten Reading and Southgate in their first two matches, while Beeston’s wins were against Canterbury and Wimbledon.
“We’ve made a steady start and we’re in a good place, but we’re still trying to change some things about the way we play,” said Surbiton Manager James Lloyd. “We’ve got several new faces in the team, but we’re happy with the direction we’re travelling.
“We know Beeston are the champions, but it’s just another game. We have to treat every opponent with the same degree of respect in this league, because there are no weak teams.”
The game is part of a double-header of action at Surbiton, with the women’s side also taking on Beeston at midday in the Investec Premier Division.
Elsewhere, Hampstead and Westminster entertain Cannock as they bid to make it three wins from three, while East Grinstead, the other team with two wins under their belt, go to Brooklands Manchester University.
At Snakes Lane, Southgate play host to a Wimbledon side who led against Beeston last weekend, before succumbing to three unanswered goals.
Both Loughborough Students and Bowdon are targeting the top of the NOW: Pensions Conference North when they meet on Saturday, while leaders Sheffield Hallam head to the University of Durham.
Newcomers Chichester Priory Park will want to maintain their unbeaten start to the season in the NOW: Pensions Conference East when they go to Teddington. Meanwhile, leaders Holcombe play host to Cambridge City.
And in the NOW: Pensions Conference West, leaders Cardiff and Met host the University of Birmingham, while Team Bath Buccaneers entertain Whitchurch.
NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League
Saturday, September 27 2014
NOW: Pensions Premier Division
Brooklands Manchester Univ v East Grinstead 13:30
Hampstead and Westminster v Cannock 14:00
Reading v Canterbury 18:30
Southgate v Wimbledon 14:30
Surbiton v Beeston 14:30
NOW: Pensions Conference West
Cardiff and Met v Univ of Birmingham 13:00
Cheltenham v Barford Tigers 12:30
Fareham v Indian Gymkhana 13:30
Team Bath Buccaneers v Whitchurch 13:00
Univ of Exeter v Guildford 12:30
NOW: Pensions Conference North
Belper v Olton & West Warwicks 12:30
Bowdon v Loughborough Students 13:45
Doncaster v Wakefield 14:00
Leek v Deeside Ramblers 14:00
Univ of Durham v Sheffield Hallam 12:00
NOW: Pensions Conference East
Holcombe v Cambridge City 18:00
Old Loughtonians v Bromley & Beckenham 16:30
Richmond v Brighton and Hove 12:00
Teddington v Chichester Priory Park 13:45
West Herts v Oxted 14:00
England Hockey Board Media release
Nur Insafi pull out of Premier Division
By Aftar Singh
Olak-PKT's Marwadi Hamirin (left) takes control of the ball from Nur Insafi's Mohamad Faridul Izwan during the Malaysia Junior Hockey League at the Bukti Jalil Stadium. - Filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: The standard of the Malaysian national hockey team has dropped this year with some poor results.
And the slide continues in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division which begins on Oct 29.
Last year, seven teams featured in the Premier Division but this year the number has been reduced by one.
Nur Insafi of Penang, who have been featuring in the MHL since 2006, will not be competing.
Teams that have confirmed their entry are double champions KL Hockey Club (KLHC), Tenaga Nasional, Sapura, Maybank, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and Terengganu Hockey Club.
Yesterday was the last day for teams to submit their entry.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHF) executive competition secretary Hashim Mohd Yusoff said he is not sure why Nur Insafi have stayed away.
“I tried to contact them today but to no avail. Looks like they are not interested any more,” said Hashim.
“Except for Tenaga Nasional, the other teams have hired foreign players and the competition is expected to be much more competitive than last year,” added Hashim.
Terengganu Hockey Club, trained by former international Sarjit Singh, are expected to mount a serious challenge as they have roped in six foreigners.
The team to beat are KLHC, who have won the league and overall titles four times in a row since 2011. They will open their campaign against Tenaga in the Charity Shield on Oct 29.
Hashim said that the matches will be played under the home and away format and the total prize money is RM370,000.
The overall Cup final is slated on Dec 14.
The Star of Malaysia