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News for 11 January 2015

All the news for Sunday 11 January 2015

Hockey old hand Baljit gets second bite of the cherry

By S. Ramaguru

Malaysian hockey defender Baljit Singh dribbles the ball during the friendly match with Poland at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil last week. - Filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: Experience matters.

And that’s what defender C. Baljit Singh will bring with him as he makes a return to the national team for their World Hockey League Round Two campaign in Singapore next week.

Malaysia can now boast an experienced set of defenders, with the likes of Baljit, Azlan Misron, Mohd Sukri Mutalib, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Faiz Helmi Jali and skipper Mohd Razie Rahim in the fray.

Baljit was left out in the cold last year, having been dropped from the first three assignments – the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Champions Challenge I and World Cup.

He made the team for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games but was axed from the Asian Games team.

Disillusioned, Baljit contemplated quitting the national team. Luckily, he decided to carry on for a few more months.

A good performance for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in the Malaysia Hockey League last month saw him being recalled to the training squad.

And now, he’s in the final 18 of the World League Round Two campaign – on merit.

“The players I’ve chosen have earned it. They’ve shown, in recent months, their passion for the game and also their determination in training,” said national coach Tai Beng Hai.

“Baljit did well for his club in the MHL and that is why he’s in my team.

“I expect the national players to perform admirably and stand out for their club sides.”

Obviously Baljit must have done just that.

Beng Hai also admitted that there is more experience in the team with the inclusion of Baljit.

“Yes, he will give us more options at the back and he is also very good as a first runner in penalty corner setpieces,” said Beng Hai.

Baljit, meanwhile, has vowed to keep his place in the team for this year.

“I’m ready to play for the country again and give my best to take them to the next level. I missed the World Cup, so my next dream is to play in the Rio Olympics,” he said.

In 2013, Baljit played in the first World Hockey League (semi-final stage in Johor Baru). The team finished fifth and qualified for the World Cup in The Hague, Holland.

But Baljit failed to get a place in the World Cup team.

The 29-year-old is now determined not to suffer the same fate when it comes to the Olympics.

The Star of Malaysia

National hockey goalie Kumar is one busy man

By Sftar Singh

National hockey goalkeeper S. Kumar has collected 244 caps for Malaysia since 1999. - AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: National goalkeeper S. Kumar is one busy man.

The Tampin-born player will be featuring in two tournaments in the next few weeks.

He will play in the Hockey India League (HIL) for Uttar Pradesh Wizards (UP Wizards) for a third consecutive year and for the national team in the World Hockey League Round Two in Singapore.

The third edition of the HIL – the most lucrative league in the world – will have six teams and begins on Jan 22.

But since the Singapore tournament is from Jan 17-25, the 35-year-old Kumar will only leave for India on Jan 27. Kumar will miss the first two HIL matches against defending champions Delhi Wave Riders (Jan 23) and losing finalists Jaypee Punjab Warriors (Jan 26).

In his absence, PR Sreejesh, a member of the Indian national team who won the Incheon Asian Games gold medal last September, will hold the fort for UP Wizards.

Kumar, who is the only Malaysian player to feature in the HIL this year and who was named the best player in Asia in 2010, said that national duty comes first for him.

“My heart and soul is with the national team. I’m proud of representing Malaysia in tournaments.”

The World Hockey League is a qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

And Kumar intends to do his part in helping Malaysia secure a place in Rio.

“My mission is to help Malaysia qualify for next year’s Olympics ... the national team have not played in the Olympics since Sydney in 2000,” said Kumar, who has been capped 244 times since 1999.

“I want to feature in next year’s Olympics before I retire,” said the Tenaga Nasional employee.

Kumar knows that their job to qualify for the Olympics won’t end in Singapore.

Malaysia must finish in the top three in Singapore and qualify for the World League Semi-Finals, to be played in Belgium and Argentina in June.

And the ambitious Kumar is ready to help Malaysia reach the final in Singapore, where Malaysia are in Group A with Ukraine, Oman and the hosts.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Ukraine on Jan 17. This will be followed by matches against Oman (Jan 19) and Singapore (Jan 20),

Group B comprises Japan, Poland, Bangladesh and Mexico.

As for his India assignment, Kumar explained that he has to play for UP Wizards “because I signed a three-year contract with them”.

“I’m expected to play my first match against Kalinga Lancers on Jan 29,” he said.

“When I return from India at end of next month, I’ll continue training with the national team to prepare for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in March.”

The Star of Malaysia

And the next national hockey coach is…

By S. Ramaguru

Not quite... There is speculation that ex-India hockey coach Terry Walsh of Australia is one of the names bandied about as the new head coach of Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) are on the verge of naming a foreign coach for the national hockey team.

And everything points to it being an Australian.

MHC senior vice-president Datuk Nur Azmie Ahmad, who is also chairman of the team management, had indicated that it was important to name the coach early so that he can start preparing his programme for the next stage of the Olympic qualification process.

Nur Azmie even clarified that they’ve held a meeting with the NSC and also got the blessings from the Sports Ministry.

But on Saturday Nur Azmie was non-committal about the candidate, other than saying they’ve already contacted the coach.

In the past two months, several names have been bandied about, including that of retired World Cup-winning coach Ric Charlesworth.

With talk that the coach is likely to be an Australian, two names come to mind. And it so happens that the two coaches have also recently resigned from their posts in India.

They are the Indian national men’s team coach Terry Walsh and their women’s coach Neil Hawgood.

Walsh is no stranger to Malaysian hockey as he was the national coach from 1990-1993.

Hawgood is a former national player with the Auatralian team and had coach in several countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, before taking up the job in India.

Not many will remember that Hawgood was actually hired to take over the Malaysian team in 2012 after they failed to make the cut for the London Olympics.

But that deal fell through at the last minute and South African Paul Revington was hired instead.

Of course, Revington left in controversial circumstances in late 2013, citing outside interference in team matters, and his place was taken over by K. Dharmaraj in January last year.

Dharmaraj was in charge of the team for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Champions Challenge, World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.

But poor results in the World Cup and Commonwealth Games saw him being replaced by National Juniors coach A. Arulselvaraj for the Incheon Asian Games last September.

In another twist, Arulselvaraj was relieved of his duties to concentrate on his junior assignment and in came Tai Beng Hai, who will take the team to the World Hockey League Round Two in Singapore next week.

Hopefully, all these hiring-and-firing will come to an end now that MHC have finally got their man. Let’s hope MHC will give the new coach at least two years to do his job properly.

Hawgood seems the most likely candidate but, then again, the MHC have been known to make last-minute changes.

Watch this space.

The Star of Malaysia

PIA, WAPDA to face-off in final on Sunday

Wapda scored the last two goals in a span of three minutes of the last quarter with Umar Bhutta and Muhammad Ijaz scoring in the 54th and 57th minute respectively to make their place in the final.PHOTO: APP

KARACHI: PIA and Wapda will contest the final of the 61st PSO National Hockey Championship at the Nawaz Sharif Hockey Stadium, Sialkot on Sunday.

The first semi-final between PIA and NBP was a thrilling affair as the match went into the sudden death stage of the penalty shootouts after scores were levelled 2-2 but PIA won 7-6 after shootout.

Neither team was able to score in the first two quarters, but after changing their strategy in the third quarter, a fine move between Olympian Akhtar Ali and Ali Shan helped Bankers’ to earn a penalty corner for the team in the 34th minute, which Akhtar converted successfully.

Eight minutes later, Shan Irshad scored a field goal in the 42nd minute to take their lead to 2-0.

PIA’s Olympian Ammad Butt then struck in the 44th minute to reduce the margin and in the very next minute, they earned a penalty corner through Muhmmad Zubair, which Amir Shehzad converted successfully to level the scores.

In the shootout, PIA’s Shafqat Rasool netted the ball while Bankers’ Tauseeq Ahmed missed to lose the game 7-6.

In the second semi-final, Wapda outshone Army 3-1 as the latter took the lead in the fifth minute of the match through Rizwan Sr’s goal, after which Wapda’s Muhammed Aleem levelled the scores in the 15th minute through a penalty corner.

Wapda scored two more goals in a span of three minutes of the last quarter with Umar Bhutta and Muhammad Ijaz scoring in the 54th and 57th minute respectively to make their place in the final.

The Express Tribune

PIA, Wapda face off in national hockey decider

SIALKOT: A view of the semi-final between Wapda and Army in the 61th National Hockey Championship at the Nawaz Sharif Hockey Stadium.—APP

LAHORE: PIA and Wapda reached the PSO 61st National Hockey Championship final after recording contrasting wins in the semi-finals at Sialkot’s Nawaz Sharif Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

PIA fought hard to overcome the challenge from National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on penalty shoot-out on sudden death 7-6.

Wapda, however, earned a 3-1 win against Army in the other semi-final. The final will be held on Sunday.

The first semi-final between PIA and NBP ended in sudden death stage of the penalty shootout. PIA’s Shafqat Rasool netted the ball while NBP’s Tauseeq Ahmed missed.

No team could score in the first two quarters. PIA made a number of good moves but the bankers’ sturdy defence thwarted those attempts. In the third quarter, a fine move featuring NBP players Akhtar Ali and Ali Shan helped them reach the circle where they created a penalty corner for their team. Akhtar Ali successfully converted it in the 34th minute.

Eight minutes later, NBP forwards launched another attack through Akhtar and Tauseeq and created a chance for Shan Irshad who scored a beautiful field goal in the 42nd minute to make it 2-0.

However, in the next three minutes, the scoreline read 2-2 as PIA staged a brilliant comeback.

In the 44th minute Ammad Butt scored a beautiful field goal to reduce the margin to 1-2. In the 45th, PIA forwards Shafqat Rasool and Mohammed Zubair pierced deep into the circle and got the only penalty corner, which was converted by Amir Shehzad to make it 2-2, the scoreline which remained intact till the end of regulation time and the match extended to penalty shootout.

In the other semi-final, Wapda overcame Army 3-1.

Army took lead in the fifth minute when Rizwan Sr scored a beautiful goal. Mohammad Aleem scored the equaliser in the 15th minute capitalising on a penalty corner.

In the fourth quarter, Wapda scored two more goals in a span of three minutes of the last quarter. In the 54th minute, Umar Bhutta converted a penalty-corner and in the 57th Mohammed Ijaz scored a field goal to confirm his team’s victory.

Meanwhile, a five-day National Coaching Clinic organised by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) concluded in Sialkot.

The clinic was a part of PHF’s Development Plan aimed at enhancing the competence of the coaches associated with national teams.

The clinic was conducted by Olympians Shahnaz Sheikh, Tahir Zaman and retired Col Nadeem Bhatti while Asif Bajwa acted as the coordinator.

They evaluated the performance of the national coaches associated with teams participating in the 61st National Hockey Championship.

According to PHF secretary Rana Mujahid, the next clinic will be held during the forthcoming Chief of the Army Staff Gold Hockey Cup in Rawalpindi later this month.

The participants were former Olympians Qamar Ibrahim, Mohammed Shafqat, Danish Kaleem, Anjum Saeed, Zeeshan Ashraf, Kamran Ashraf, Sameer Hussain, Tariq Sheikh, Waseem Ahmed, Dr Atif Bashir and Mohammad Afzal Mujahid.


Bowdon and East Grinstead in Hockey 5s Finals

East Grinstead captain JoJo Davis congratulates scorer Sophie Bray, credit www.hockeyimages.co.uk

Bowdon Hightown and East Grinstead booked their places in the final of the Hockey 5s Championship Women’s Premier Division at Wembley in two weeks, with thrilling semi final victories on Saturday.

First to secure a spot in the final was Bowdon Hightown when they beat Canterbury 5-4 after battling back from an early deficit.

Sally Walton had given them the lead after nine minutes, but Canterbury hit back through Susie Townsend and Dirkie Chamberlain on 10 and 16 minutes.

Bowdon hit back either side of half time through Tina Cullen and Kayleigh Humphries to take a 3-2 lead, but Canterbury equalised through Sarah Kerly two minutes later.

Walton’s second goal edged Bowdon ahead on 27 minutes and Cullen also bagged a second with ten minutes remaining. Canterbury pulled one back through Jen Wilson on 34 minutes, but Bowdon held firm to take the win.

And East Grinstead followed Bowdon Hightown into the Finals at Wembley after edging to a nail-biting 1-0 win over Slough.

Slough had more possession, more circle entries and more shots, but East Grinstead held firm and clinched their place in the last two thanks to Sophie Bray’s goal four minutes from the end.

East Grinstead had lost 2-4 to Slough in the group stages, but they managed to shut out their rivals, and book a place in the final against Bowdon at the SSE Arena in Wembley on Sunday, 25 January 2015.

After their victory, Bowdon Hightown’s Tina Cullen said: “Semi finals are always tough as there’s so much to gain but also so much to lose. I’m really pleased with the team and we’re made up to make the final.

“Amy Tennant was superb. She saved at least three certain goals and kept us in it. She was brilliant in the league phase and tonight was her best performance this season. We’re really pleased to get to the final and hope we can give a good account of ourselves this year.”

And East Grinstead captain JoJo Davis said: “Pleased is an understatement. We’re ecstatic to get to Wembley.

“We’ve been a bit up and down in the competition but we’ve beaten the likes of Canterbury and Reading which shows how far we’ve come.

“Games like that are hard. You never know where the decisive goal is coming from. One moment can make or break the game. We focused and were determined and hung in there to get the job done.”

England Hockey Board Media release

Surbiton lead in Women's Hockey 5s

Hockey 5s arena in all its glory

Surbiton are top of the early Women’s Division One table in the Hockey 5s Championship after making a 100 per cent start to their competition on Saturday.

They looked in irresistible form in their first game, beating Bristol Firebrands 11-2 and in the final game of the day, they faced Ipswich and were comprehensive 7-1 victors.

But they have competition at the top with Buckingham and Leicester also winning both of their matches.

At the bottom of the table, Bristol Firebrands have yet to record a point and have conceded 13 goals.

Women’s Division Two North

Stourport made a flying start to the first day of their Hockey 5s Women’s Division Two North by beating Exeter 6-1.

They followed it up with an even more impressive 15-3 defeat of Army to make themselves early league leaders. Loughborough Students also made a perfect start, beating Ben Rhydding 4-2 and Oxford Hawks 4-3.

Women’s Division Two South

Holcombe are the early leaders of the Hockey 5s Women’s Division Two South table after recording back-to-back wins on the opening day.

After beating Old Loughtonians 5-2, they went on to win their second game against Trojans 8-0. Sevenoaks also won both their games and are second on goal difference.

England Hockey Board Media release

Loughborough clear at top of table

Indoor Hockey

FIFTEEN goals in their opening two games helped Loughborough Students top the table after the first day of competition in the Hockey 5s Championship Men’s Division One at the University of West England.

They are the only the win both their matches, having won 10-3 against Harleston Magpies and then battled to a 5-4 victory over Southgate, who are second following a 7-4 win over Cannock.

Wimbledon also enjoyed a big win, beating Brooklands Manchester University 10-6, but had already lost 6-3 to Cannock in the day’s opening match.

Men’s Division Two North

Havering are the early leaders of the Hockey 5s Championship Men’s Division Two North after winning both of their opening-day games and scoring 12 goals in the process.

They beat Preston 7-3 in their first game before going on to beat Isca 5-3.

Barford Tigers also made a strong start and are the only other team to keep a 100 per cent record, beating Cheltenham 6-4 and Preston 6-4. They are second only on goal difference. Preston and Isca lost both of their games.

Men’s Division Two South

West Herts made a good start to their Hockey 5s Championship Men’s Division Two South campaign as they won two games and scored a staggering 23 goals.

After beating Fareham 11-9, they went on to brush St Albans aside with a 12-2 scoreline. Indian Gymkhana are just behind them on goal difference with a 8-2 defeat of St Albans and a 11-5 win over Trojans.

England Hockey Board Media release

HIL: Dabang Mumbai hope for crowd seeding

Sudheendra Tripathi

MUMBAI: Any sporting extravaganza cannot be complete without the spectacle of raucous spectators. But the Mumbai hockey franchise, Dabang Mumbai, which had earlier participated in the World Series Hockey, has always been found wanting when it HIL comes to solid home support.

Adding to the misery is that the Mumbai teams have always fared poorly. So, when Dabang Mumbai players take the field in the Hockey India League from January 22, team owners will be keen to get rid of the anomaly.

"Performance is in our hands and we have a competitive team this time so I am confident that we will do well in this edition," Viren Rasquinha, the team's mentor, told TOI on Friday.

"But, attracting crowd is a major concern for us. And we are working religiously towards that. We have chalked out a major outreach program for schools, colleges and local clubs. Furthermore, 19 colleges from across the city, three schools from South Mumbai and NGOs have been kept in the loop as well," said Rasquinha.

"Basically the whole idea is to reach out to every stakeholder in this city and Dabang Mumbai believes that this is the only way we can contribute to the growth of hockey as a city team, and create a fan following for us," said Rasquinha.

Rasquinha's former India teammate and goalkeeper of great repute, Adrian D'Souza, felt that to have a strong crowd presence and attract them to games is huge task but it can be done with the help of local players.

"Unless the team has a good balance of local and outstation players, attracting crowds will always be tough. But Dabang Mumbai has a good sprinkling of Mumbai players. So I am hoping that will inspire the crowds to come and support us in large numbers," D'Souza said.

The Times of India

Delhi Waveriders' Gurbaj bullish ahead of HIL

NEW DELHI: Seasoned midfielder Gurbaj Singh aims to replicate his performance that had helped Delhi Waveriders emerge the 2014 Hockey India League (HIL) champions.

Playing for the Delhi franchise for the third straight time, the 26-year-old looks all set to give his best in the upcoming season which starts Jan 22.

"The league is going to be very challenging as all the teams are equipped with the best players from around the world. With players like Sardar Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Tim Drummond in our team, I endeavour to retain the title this year too," he said in a release Saturday.

"I am aiming to encounter a tough fight in this season. The team is fully prepared to face the challenge without building up any pressure," he said.

"Playing for the Delhi-based franchisee is surely one of the best opportunities as we get to learn a lot and that is what holds significance for us."

In the inaugural session of the HIL, Gurbaj was the Man-of-the-Match in Waveriders' 5-2 win against the now defunct Ranchi Rhinos and was twice adjudged the man of the match in the second edition of the tournament where he displayed clinical defensive skills.

Under the proficient captaincy of Sardar Singh, the 186-capped international excelled as a midfielder. He is looking forward to rub shoulders with Sardar again and grab his share of scoring opportunities.

With a promise to play high quality hockey in the upcoming league, Gurbaj appears confident of restricting the opponents' scoring chances.

The opening match of the third edition of the league will see Kalinga Lancers taking on Ranchi Rays at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

The Times of India

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