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News for 28 December 2017

All the news for Thursday 28 December 2017

Queen’s end 84-year wait for Ulster Shield glory

The long wait is finally over for Queen’s University, who defeated the holders Lurgan 2-1 in a thrilling Denman Ulster Shield final at Stormont on St Stephen’s Day to lift the trophy for the first time since 1933, writes John Flack.

Irish international Jessica McMaster scored both goals for the students, who had another star in defender Erin Getty as Simon Bell’s team held off a spirited fightback late in both halves from Lurgan, who had pulled one back after going into the break 2-0 down.

Queen’s celebrate their first Ulster Shield title since 1933. Pic: Billy Pollock

Getty’s contribution prevented Lurgan, who had beaten Queen’s in last year’s final, from being their normal potent selves in front of goal.

She made some crucial tackles and interceptions, especially after the holders mounted a second-half riposte and her reading of the game was outstanding throughout.

“I’m especially happy for the girls who were playing in their third final and for those who will be leaving the club with something to show for their efforts.” Getty said

One of the latter category is Queen’s captain, Robyn McKee who was in emotional mood when she spoke at the trophy presentation.

“It’s really special for me to have won the Shield as this is my last season at the club.” she said. “It’s been a real privilege and honour to captain this team of brilliant girls but all credit to Lurgan, who, as we had expected, gave us a really tough match.”

McMaster’s predatory instincts, allied to Getty’s defensive prowess and creativity going forward, proved to be the difference between the teams

“I managed to get a touch to Erin’s shot for the first goal and then I suppose I was in the right place at the right time for the second after the ball fell kindly for me,” McMaster said.

McMaster broke the deadlock from the opening penalty-corner of the game in the 11th minute when she deflected the ball home from Getty’s initial strike which had been going wide.

Queen’s had a let-off in the 27th minute when a poor pass across the back created havoc but keeper Sarah McCabe, who also had a fine game, came to the rescue from Jo-Anne Wilson’s shot.

Two minutes later McMaster got her second, firing home a superb backhand shot low into the net as she pounced on a loose ball in the circle following a free.

McCabe then produced an excellent double-save from Wilson after great work by Lurgan captain Sarah McClure, who had to go off with a shoulder injury immediately afterwards only to return early in the second-half although clearly not fully fit.

Lurgan pulled one back in the 50th minute when Olivia Gibson struck home a rebound on her reverse after Chloe McCann’s shot had been saved.

The holders pressed hard for an equaliser as Queen’s wilted slightly in the final quarter.

Queen’s Jessica McMaster on the attack. Pic: Billy Pollock

Lurgan coach Robbie McMinn withdrew his goalkeeper Susie Taylor in the final three minutes to have an extra outfield player and the move almost paid dividends as his team finished the game on top.

“Losing McClure from the midfield after her injury affected us adversely as we had to move her up front but we had our chances, especially at 1-0 down, although all credit to Queen’s, for whom I also thought Emma Kernohan played extremely well,” McMinn said.

“I think if the game had gone on for even a few more seconds we might have scored again because they were really stretched at the end when we were totally on top.”

Lurgan: Susie Taylor; Abbie McCullough, Charlene Stewart, Phoebe Preston, Emma Lindsay, Sarah McClure, Carly Johnston, Jo-Anne Wilson, Chloe McCann, Lauren Wright, Hannah Magowan; subs: Olivia Gibson, Poppy Smith, Amy Edwards, Kate Hamill, Sarah Patterson, Lydia McNeill.

Queen’s: Sarah McCabe; Paige Brown, Erin Getty, Rachael Henderson, Megan McKenna, Robyn McKee, Emma Kernohan, Katy Aston, Tori Hastings, Jessica McMaster, Emily McStea; subs: Ellen Hood, Claire Whiteside, Rebecca Quinn, Jodie Kee, Beccy Anderson, Anna Hutchinson, Sarah McGucken.

Umpires: Lyn Morrow, Adare Brady.

The Hook

Never-say-die Kilkeel win first ever Kirk Cup title

Kilkeel celebrate their first ever Kirk Cup final success. Pic: Billy Pollock

Kilkeel lifted the Kirk Cup for the first time in the club’s history when they defeated Mossley 3-2 on penalties after the sides had been locked together at 1-1 following a hugely entertaining final at Stormont on St Stephen’s Day, writes John Flack.

Mossley were bidding to claim the trophy for the first time since 1983 but their long wait continues after they had also been on the wrong end of the result in four previous finals.

The Newtownabbey side were able to field 231-times capped Irish international John Jackson in their side as he returned to the club where he learned his hockey.

However, Kilkeel’s famed never-say-attitude was again the fore when they trailed in the shoot-out, after they had come back from 2-0 down in their semi-final win over Instonians.

The Co Down side had scored twice in the last eight minutes in the semi but, yesterday, they went in front in the second half only to be pegged back within a minute.

In the semi-final, Kilkeel won the game on penalties and it was the same on Tuesday in front of a big holiday crowd, who were kept on tenterhooks throughout the 70 minutes and the subsequent shoot-out.

In the penalty-decider, Mossley had a chance to go 3-1 ahead and surely put the game to bed and end their long drought since they last won the famous trophy.

But Jackson missed his one-on-one with the keeper and, ultimately, it was left to Mark Stevenson to step up and score the winner after both teams had been unable to convert their fourth attempt.

It proved to be a double celebration for Stevenson, who had got engaged to his girlfriend and now fiancee, Alison, on Christmas Eve.

Both keepers stole the show in normal time as they produced a series of outstanding saves to keep the game scoreless until the final few minutes of the second-half.

However, Mossley’s Owen Doole was beaten in the first-half only to breathe a sigh of relief when John Finlay’s effort struck the post.

At the other end, it was a similar reaction from Kilkeel’s custodian, Sam Morris, with Aaron Boyd the unfortunate Mossley player to see his effort hit the upright.

Both keepers continued to perform heroics in the second-half as neither team was able to break the deadlock until late on just when it seemed that the game would go straight to penalties without a goal in the regulation 70 minutes.

However, with five minutes remaining and play continuing to swing from end to end, Ryan Cunningham broke the deadlock when he put Kilkeel ahead.

After running on to an overhead pass, his first shot was saved by Doole, but he was able to beat the Mossley keeper at the second attempt when he scored from the rebound.

Ryan Cunningham scoring Kilkeel’s goal. Pic: Billy Pollock

However, just over a minute later, Mossley were back on level terms when they were awarded a penalty-stroke after Joel Cathcart’s shot had been stopped on the line a by a defender’s foot and Jordan Robinson converted from the spot for the equaliser.

Then it was down to penalties to decide the outcome and Kilkeel celebrating their first triumph in the competition’s long history following Stevenson’s cool-headed winner as Mossley’s 34-year wait continues.

KILKEEL: Sam Morris, Andrew Niblock, Gary Niblock, Richard Fraser, Gareth Russell, Neil Stevenson, Mark Stevenson, Jonathan Aiken, David Finlay, Eddie Agnew, David Rae, Ryan Cunningham, William Annett, Luke Russell, Andrew Johnston, Mark Henning, John Finlay, Chris McKee

MOSSLEY: Owen Doole, Harry Dow, Stephen Clarke, Matthew Anderson, Ross McIvor, Tim Moreland, Joel Cathcart, Phil Kane, Matthew Sullivan, Ryan Lyall, Jordan Robinson, Aaron Boyd, Mark Moreland, Will Aston, David Glenny, Simon Todd, Adam Monahan, John Jackson, Matthew Steele, Gordon McAllister

Umpires: Les Allen, Kieran McGoldrick

The Hook

UCC win Peard Cup for second time at sodden Garryduff

UCC’s Sam Grace during the Peard Cup final

UCC eventually pulled clear of Cork C of I B to land their second Peard Cup title in three seasons as Glenn Healy’s 56th minute deflection finally put them out of range.

They did so at a sleet-addled Garryduff with the wet and sleety conditions requiring a hasty change of pitch from the water-logged main pitch to the upper sand-based.

The slower surface, perhaps, acted as something of a levelling agent and UCC found the tie far tougher than their league meeting which they won at a canter 5-1 earlier in the campaign.

This time, with the ballast of Richie Dorman and Ken Twomey in midfield, C of I got off to a flyer with Mark Gallagher breaking the deadlock in the eighth minute from a penalty corner.

Stephen Jermyn equalised quickly with some sharp reactions to clean up off Peter Coulter’s pads following Shrew Power’s slap at goal.

Gallagher restored the C of I lead from a second corner in the 24th minute – two from two for him – before Sam Grace, UCC’s key player, fired home via the same method to make it 2-2 at half-time.

Eoin Finnegan, a Kilkenny native like Grace, restored UCC’s lead early in the second half with an excellent turn at the top of the D, coupled with a shot to the bottom corner. Plenty of sin-binnings followed with Cork C of I bearing the brunt of them for the most part as they spent much of the half on the back foot.

And there was no chance of a recovery when Power produced some brilliant work on the right wing to pump into the circle. Healy’s out-stretched stick put daylight between the sides for the first time with 14 minutes to go.

From there, UCC were reasonably in control barring Shane Webster’s last ditch consolation goal. It continued the students productive campaign to date, adding to their intervarsities Mauritius Plate success.

Peard Cup final
UCC 4 (S Jermyn, S Grace, E Finnegan, G Healy) Cork C of I 3 (M Gallagher 2, S Webster)

** This article originally appeared in the Irish Examiner

The Hook

Mannheim’s Halkett gets South African award

Rhett Halkett (L) won SA's Male Hockey Player of the Year ©: World Sport Pics

Mannheimer HC’s Rhett Halkett was named South Africa’s best male hockey player for 2016 which was announced by SA Hockey in Johannesburg just before Christmas in 2017.

Halkett (above, left) – and Celia Evans on the women’s side – emerged as the standout players during the annual Cape Town Private Property Summer Series from January to March 2016, as well as the men’s series against Spain, Belgium, Canada and Germany and the women’s against India, Germany and Scotland.

“It’s a huge honour to receive this award,” said Halkett. “Thank you to the players who have been instrumental in providing a platform for personal growth and performance. It is, and always will be, a privilege to represent South Africa in this sport we love. Congratulations to all the award winners,” he added.

Evans added: “This award is a symbol of hard work, dedication and commitment. I definitely don’t think I’m the only player who is committed to the process, but it is a true honour to receive this award.

“Being part of the national team means more than just receiving a test cap, more than just being a ‘good’ hockey player, more than having fans or Instagram followers. I’m not about that. It means that every day I am committed to being better,” she added.

Recently retired international umpire John Wright was named the joint winner of the Malik Umpire of the Year award with Michelle Joubert. Both umpired at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Euro Hockey League media release

Continental giants India struggle for global success in 2017

Indian hockey team - File Photo, PTI

The age-old malady of inconsistency remained unaddressed but Indian hockey did take baby steps towards global success in 2017, a year which reaffirmed the nation's continental supremacy in the sport.

The Asia Cup crown after a decade and the bronze at the Hockey World League Finals were the high points for India's men's hockey team in the year gone by, where successes at the global stage were few and far between.

For the women's team, however, it was a year to remember. The girls won only their second Asia Cup title in October- November and by virtue of the title entered the top-10 of the FIH rankings for the first time.

Awe-inspiring at times and ordinary on occasions, that precisely sums up the Indian men's team in 2017. They started the year with a bronze at the Azlan Shah Cup and ended it in the same fashion -- with a bronze in the season-ending HWL Final in Bhubaneswar.

In between, it was a roller-coaster ride as Manpreet Singh and Co. continued to grapple for world supremacy. Having proved their upper-hand in Asia for quite sometime now, India were out to prove their might at the world stage in 2017 but results weren't on expected lines when the teams travelled to other continents.

The men's team started its international calender with the Azlan Shah Cup, where it found a new nemesis in Malaysia against whom they lost to crash out of the final. In the tournament, India also suffered an early setback when captain and goalkeeper P R Sreejesh suffered an ACL injury and was ruled out for the rest of the year.

But by beating New Zealand to finish third, following the setbacks, came as a relief for the then coach Roelant Oltmans, who began the year under pressure after India made a quarter- final exit at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Then came the three-nation invitational tournament in Dusseldorf, where India carved out a draw against Germany and a win over world No.3 Belgium.

India also had mixed results during the tour of Europe, where they won a couple of Test matches against World No.4 Netherlands and Austria.

Those results were looked upon as good practice for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals up next, but their campaign in London was a disaster as they slumped to defeats against lower-ranked Malaysia and Canada to finish a disappointing sixth.

As expected, the defeats against lower-ranked sides cost Oltmans his job and the under-performing senior players their places in the national team. The 63-year-old Oltmans was replaced by his Dutch compatriot Sjoerd Marijne, who shifted base from the women's team to the men's side.

Indian hockey entered a new era with Marijne's entry and the Dutchman struck gold in his first assignment -- the Asia Cup in Dhaka -- where the team won a gold after a hiatus of 10 years. In between, Manpreet Singh took over as captain of the side and slowly became the epicentre of Indian midfield, replacing experienced Sardar Singh, who had a troubled year.

With age not on his side and troubled by the questioning by British police in London during the HWL Semi-Final over a complaint by his former girlfriend, Sardar lost his mojo on the turf and was slowly shown the door in favour of younger players in the HWL Final.

India also defeated Pakistan twice in 2017 and by doing so, recorded their seventh successive win against the arch- rivals.

Marijne might have tasted success in his maiden test, but the real challenge awaited the Dutchman at the HWL Final in Bhubaneswar. India started their HWL Final campaign with a spirited 1 -1 draw against world champions and eventual winners Australia. But as has been the case, inconsistency came back to haunt the Indians as they slumped to defeats against England and Germany.

In the quarterfinals, India faced Belgium and the hosts came up with their best performance of the year, beating the World No.3 side in the shoot-out. India, however, lost 0-1 to Olympic champions Argentina on a rain-drenched Kalinga Stadium turf in the semis before getting the better of a depleted German side in the bronze- medal match. The result made Marijne the first foreign hockey coach to finish on the podium in his first two assignments.

For the women, the Asia Cup crown enabled them to qualify for the 2018 World Cup on merit. The Asia Cup title also gave the junior World Cup-winning coach Harendra Singh his first triumph as in charge of the women's team.

In between, the Indian girls won a gold at the HWL Round 2, but finished eighth in the HWL Semi-Final in Johannesburg, thereby failing to qualify for the HWL Final in Auckland, New Zealand, unlike their male counterparts who were lucky to steal a place by virtue of being the hosts.

But as curtains slowly drew on 2017, a ray of hope shone brightly for a packed 2018, a big year for Indian hockey with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Cup lined-up.

Daily News & Analysis

Pakistan hockey keeps on sinking even in the year 2017

Muhammad Ali

Pakistan hockey’s consolations in the dismal year 2017 was that they won a bronze medal at the Asia Cup after defeating South Korea in a classification match for third position at Dhaka, Bangladesh in October, and qualified for the World Cup 2018 after finishing poor seventh at World Hockey League in London in June. That was the sum of our ‘achievements’ in a sport in which once we were the top dogs in the world. After remaining at top of the hockey world for more than three decades, it is lamentable that a country who won Olympic gold thrice, World Cup four times, Asia Cup thrice, Asian Games gold record eight times, Asian Champions Trophy gold twice, FIH Champions Trophy gold thrice and remained unbeatable at regional level for many years are now a lowly team. Due to country’s obsession with cricket these days, Pakistan hockey has been relegated to the background due to the Pakistan government’s indifferent attitude towards the national sport.

In Asia Cup 2017, Pakistan rode on a hat-trick by Ajaz Ahmad to demolish South Korea 6-3 and clinch the third spot. Ahmad scored in the 10th, 30th and 36th minutes while Rashid Mehmood (26th) and Abu Mahmood (32nd) also sounded the board for Pakistan. Suk Hoon Cho (20th), Namyong Lee (43rd) and Inwoo Seo (55th) scored for South Korea. The Koreans, unlike their previous Super 4s matches, were not at their usual defensive best and Pakistan took complete advantage of that as they attacked from hooter to hooter, showcasing exemplary skill to make space in the Korean circle and score goals with ease. Pakistan started their campaign in style by defeating hosts Bangladesh 7-0 in their opener but could not show the same performance in the remaining matches: drew with Japan 2-2, lost to India 3-1 and 4-0, drew with South Korea 1-1 and lost to Malaysia 3-2.

Qualification for World Cup 2018: Pakistan became the 13th team to qualify for 2018’s World Cup, slated to be held in India from November 28 to December 16. Four times world champions Pakistan qualified for the mega event despite the poor show in Hockey World League – thanks to the results of the European Hockey Championships. The Greenshirts were defeated by teams like Argentina and Canada, and they even struggled against minnows like Scotland and China who finished last: at eighth position. For the next year’s global showpiece, Pakistan joined for the next year’s global showpiece hosts India, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, Spain, and New Zealand. This was a welcome return to World Cup action for the famous hockey playing nation, following their failure to qualify for the World Cup 2014 that was played in The Hague, Netherlands.

No participation in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Due to incompetent management of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), Pakistan hockey suffered big setback when the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) did not invite the country, for the first time, in the traditional Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held in April. Since its inception in 1983, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup had featured Pakistan almost regularly. The Greenshirts had won the title thrice (1999, 2000, 2003) while remaining runners-up six times, the last occasion being 2011. After the PHF failed to send its team to the Junior World Cup held in India in December 2016 – mainly due to not applying for visas to meet the FIH deadline to confirm participation – not participating in the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was a big blow for the national sport of the country.

PHF names Hassan Sardar as new chief selector: In July, the PHF named a new team management and also formed a new selection committee in the wake of team’s dismal performance in the World Hockey League in England. Former Olympian Hassan Sardar was named as new chief selector whose other members were Ayaz Mahmood and Syed Musaddiq Hussain. Former Olympian Farhat Hassan Khan was named as head coach and manager of the team with Malik Mohammad Shafqat and Mohammad Sarwar as coaches. By forming new team management the PHF shown exit to the previous team management, headed by former Olympian Khawaja Junaid Ahmed, as it did not take the responsibility of the team’s debacle in London and did not resign. On the occasion, outgoing head coach Khawaja Junaid said the task assigned to him was to inspire the team to qualify for the next year’s World Cup which he accomplished. Khawaja Junaid tried his best to convince the PHF to give him a chance to continue till the Asia Cup but in vain

Former Pakistan hockey captain announces retirement: In the last week of October, former Pakistan hockey skipper Abdul Haseem Khan announced his retirement, holding the PHF responsible for the dismal situation of the game as well as his retirement. During a press conference at his residence in Karachi, he levelled allegations of biases and presence of syndicates within the selection committee of the PHF. The former captain accused the selection committee of mistreating him. “I have been bearing the attitude of the selection committee for long and now it is the time that I speak the truth and reveal that a lobby was active within the selection committee,” he said. “The current selection committee headed by former Olympian Hassan Sardar has been biased and unfair to the players who have been performing since long,” he maintained.

Dismal performance Down Under: Pakistan finished poor last in a four-national hockey tournament held Down Under: Melbourne, Australia in November. Japan thumped Pakistan 2-1 at the Four-Nation International Festival of Hockey at Melbourne’s State Netball and Hockey Centre. With their second consecutive loss against Japan, the Greenshirts finished the tournament at the fourth spot. In the first match, Pakistan received their worst-ever defeat in hockey against Australia when they lost 1-9 to the hosts. Later, New Zealand downed Pakistan 3-2 in what was the latter’s third successive defeat.

Former Olympian Afzal Manna passes away: In the third week of November, decorated hockey player Afzal Manna breathed his last in Lahore. An inside-left of repute, Manna represented Pakistan in the 1964 Olympics (silver medal) and the Asian Games in 1958 (gold medal) and 1962 (gold medal). He also served as an international umpire and as coach of Pakistan’s national team. Inside left was his preferred position but he also played as the centre forward when the team required. He was born in Amritsar before Pakistan gained independence. He started his hockey with the Brothers Hockey Club which practised at a ground adjacent to the Punjab University old campus. His was a precocious talent; he was only 16 when he appeared in the maiden national championships in 1954. In those days, Railways were the biggest patron of sports among all the departments in Pakistan. The Railways’ hockey team were one of the strongest. Manna made such an impact at the 1954 nationals that he was immediately picked up by the Railways; it turned out to be a lifelong association.

Very next year, he won the national championships with them. Manna never looked back; he was called to the Pakistan camp for the 1956 Olympics. And he gained the coveted national selection for the 1958 Asian Games. After missing the selection for the 1960 Olympics, Manna made a comeback in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta where Pakistan defeated India 2-0 in the final to retain the title. He finally won an Olympic selection in 1964. Pakistan’s regular spearhead Abdul Waheed Khan got injured at the Olympic training camp in Abbottabad. Manna played as the centre forward in Tokyo. Pakistan lost the final against India and returned with the silver medal. With three goals, Manna was the joint top scorer among Pakistani forwards. That was also his last international appearance. According to his contemporaries, Manna had wonderful stick work and unique dribbling skills. He was tall and his long strides made it difficult for the opponents to check him. On his day, he was almost unstoppable. A jovial and witty person, he was very popular among his teammates and friends.

If one analyses carefully the periods of poor performance in Pakistan hockey, they are invariably linked with poor management. At present there is much chaos and lack of vision in the PHF, and the chances of the national team to sparkle in forthcoming events seem remote

Head coach Farhat resigns due to ‘personal reasons’: In December, Pakistan hockey team’s head coach Farhat Khan stepped down after less than six months in the position following the team’s debacles in the Asia Cup and the four-nation invitational event in Australia. However, the former Olympian said he had resigned due to personal reasons. His resignation came after it was revealed that the PHF was looking at hiring a foreign coach with former German captain and Olympic gold medalist, Christian Blunck, the prime candidate under consideration for the job. Blunck a versatile midfielder spearheaded Germany to a gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. However, he has never coached any team from any country.

Through out the year it seemed as if was is not about winning anymore, it was all about losing gracefully and coming up with excuses. Whether or not they are ready to participate in the upcoming tough assignments of 2018, the PHF has surely accumulated a nice list of excuses for face-saving, should the nation question them when they fail at the international assignments. Throughout the year, more often the results had been embarrassing to say the least with the Greenshirts struggling to win against the second tier teams. A multitude of sins in management, selection and coaching always got covered up through one cliché or the other. Ignored were the slips in the selection and the secretive manipulation that go behind the scenes for personal gains and self-aggrandisment, with constructive criticism always a poor second to the waving of the flag. The statements given by the PHF top officials in the national media after the team’s insipid performances were aimed at to make people believe that the national outfit were doing well, and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. The fact was that the way things were being conducted, the days ahead were anything but that.

No doubt, in the national sphere and the sporting arena the root of our dilemma is the notorious system of patronage and imposed cronies, to the exclusion of merit and professionalism. Under the powerful patron’s benevolent gaze, the pick and choose appointees can survive scandals and failures that would crush an ordinary mortal. Pakistan’s brilliant track record in international hockey since independence has owed much to the dynamic administrative skills of individuals like AIS Dara, Air Marshal Noor Khan, and Air Vice Marshal Farooq Umar. If one analyses carefully the periods of poor performance in Pakistan hockey, they are invariably linked with poor management. At present there is much chaos and lack of vision in the PHF, and the chances of the national team to sparkle in forthcoming events seem remote.

Not much hope in 2018: No sporting federation is a bed of roses, especially one that carries the aspirations of the nation. In Pakistan hockey, one is witnessing that whenever the Greenshirts lose a tournament, an unwarranted overhaul takes place and merit runs poor second to personal whims. One is surprised to observe that the PHF ignores the fact that the change of command in no way promises success, planning does. But we are not a nation of sage souls. Rather we indulge in thoughtless decisions. If changing a manager or a coach after every defeat or bad performance had been the best remedy, Pakistan would have been champions. Unfortunately, the technical understanding of issues is always ignored, and it triggers a rot.

Despite all the available resources and hefty funds in the last one year, the PHF failed to put hockey back on track and get the desired results. Pakistanis have an emotional connection with hockey; the older generation still talks and recall with great delight the spellbinding achievements of the past. While the present generation only has tales of the past to live on, their love or connection with hockey is only going to be strengthened when they actually see the return of the lost glory.

The need of the hour is to bring Pakistan hockey into line with the rest, best and the latest aspects of modern hockey as the game has changed a lot in recent years. Even the best of players cannot win without strategic strength as all team games need to have excellent preemptive and offensive strategies worked out scientifically. And for that we need those persons at the helm of affairs who are thorough professionals with solution to the predicament. Only then the elusive triumphs will replace the current tragedies that demean the team once basking in Olympic golds and world crowns. But with the game of musical chairs in the national federation, the future looks not that bright. The year 2017 was a most forgetful year for Pakistan hockey. What is worse, it seems to be on an irrevocable downward slide. And realistically speaking, one should not harbour any hopes of the national team doing any better or revive themselves to their former glory in 2018.

The Daily Times

PHF names 27 women players for camp

LAHORE - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Wednesday named 27 female players for training camp to buildup them for the Asian Games qualifier to be held from January 12 in Thailand.

“The camp will commence from December 30 here at National Hockey Stadium,” said PHF spokesman.

The players included five goalkeepers, five full backs, six half backs and 11 forwards. Rizwana Yasmeen, Rushna Khan, Sana Amanat, Joyan Thomas, Areeba Sarwar (goalkeepers); Ishra, Abbas, Taskeen Kausar, Amna Ghaffar, Marina Anwar, Adeeba (full backs); Ibra, Sheikh, Zakia Nawaz, Zaib-un-Nisa, Nida Asghar, Nafeesa Anwar, Rimsha Ilyas (half backs) and Sahrish Waheed, Hina Pervaiz, Maria Sabir, Hamra Latif, Latif, Ambreen Arshad, Kalsoom Shehzadi, Saira Ashraf, Ayesha Rafiq, Sidra Hakim, Sahil Malik and Nazia Rehmat (forwards).

The Nation

World XI visit: PHF finalises itinerary

By Nabil Tahir

READY, SET, RARING TO GO: Arrangements are being put in place for the team to play two matches, one in Karachi on January 19 and the other in Lahore on January 21, in Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has announced the itinerary of a World XI hockey team visit to the country, with the squad set to arrive on January 18 next year.

Arrangements are being put in place for the team to play two matches, one in Karachi on January 19 and the other in Lahore on January 21, in Pakistan.

Legendary penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas will be captaining the World XI side, which will include players from Holland, Spain, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and South Korea, in the two matches against Pakistan’s national hockey team.

On the sidelines of World XI team’s visit, a Hall of Fame event will also be organized to honour former greats of the game from Pakistan, Australia and the Netherlands.

“They’re arriving on 18th of January to play the first match in Karachi on January 19 and second in Lahore on January 21,” a PHF official told The Express Tribune. “We are trying to give both cities an equal opportunity to witness historic matches and see international stars playing in front of them.”

The World XI includes Rob Reckers, Roderick Weusthof, Philip Meulenbroek, Hidde Turksta from Netherlands. Santi Freixa, Juan Escarre, Roc Oliva and David Alegre from Spain, Grant Schubert from Australia, Benni Wess and Justus Scharowsky from Germany, Emmanuel Stockbroekx from Belgium, Augustin Bugallo, Deigo Paz and Nahuel Salis from Argentina will travel to Pakistan.

Dutch player Reckers is a three-time Champions Trophy gold medallist. He was also part of a silver-medal winning team at the Athens Olympics. Weusthof won a silver medal in 2012 London Olympics. He also won a gold medal in 2006 Champions Trophy with the Dutch team. The 29-year-old Turksta is among players who are currently in action with the team and he also represented the Dutch team in the 2016 Olympics.

Spanish Freixa, Alegre and Escarre were members of Spain’s team that won the Champions Trophy gold medal in Lahore in 2004. Freixa and Alegre, along with Oliva, won a silver medal at Beijing Olympics 2008 for Spain.

Australian Schubert, who was named FIH young player of the year in 2003, has six gold medals in his tally with the Kangaroos. He was a member of the Australian team that won Champions Trophy in 2005, 2008 and 2009. He also won a gold medal in 2004 Athens Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth Games and 2010 World Cup.

Germany’s Wess won two consecutive Olympic gold medals with his team, first at Beijing in 2008 and then at London in 2012. The 37-year-old Scharowsky was a member of the 2007 Champions Trophy team for Germany. Stockbroekx was a member of Belgian Hockey team that won the Silver medal in 2016 Rio Olympics.

Paul Litjens, Floris Jan Bovelander and Rob Lathouwers from Netherlands and Don Prior and Ric Charlsworth from Australia are the players who will be visiting Pakistan to receive their Hall of Fame award in the ceremony before the matches.

“We are hopeful that the arrival of hockey stars from around the world will not only open the doors of international hockey in Pakistan, but it will also provide a much-needed boost to the national sport in the country,” added the official.

The Express Tribune

Malaysian Women’s hockey team prepare for hectic schedule

KUALA LUMPUR: It sounds like a routine for Wonder Woman. But no super powers are needed – just lots of stamina and mental strength.

And the national women’s hockey team better make sure they’re equipped with that as they face a hectic schedule in the first half of 2018.

First up is the National Women’s League, which begins next month and will go on until the end of February.

Next, the players have to focus on the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4-15.

Barely a month later, it’s on to the 5th women’s Asian Champions Trophy in Donghae, South Korea, from May 13-20.

Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) chief executive officer Datuk Tayab Ikram said they have to organise the tournament early because the women’s World Cup in London will start from July 21-Aug 5.

“This will give the Asian teams who are featuring in the World Cup a chance to fine tune their preparations,” said Tayab.

In the Commonwealth Games, Malaysia – ranked world No. 22 – are drawn in Group A with England, India, South Africa and Wales. Group B com-prises Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and Ghana.

Four Asian teams will feature in the women’s World Cup in London – China, Japan, South Korea and India.

The Star of Malaysia

Go for tour de four-ce

By Aftar Singh

Seasoned campaigner: Penalty corner specialist Muhd Razie Rahim (centre) will lead the line for Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the Malaysia Hockey League next season.

KUALA LUMPUR: Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) are out to make history in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) and have what it takes to stick to their plan come what may.

The Premier Division winners want to be the first side to sweep all four titles at stake – the Charity Shield, league, Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup and TNB Cup.

KLHC have roped in seven national players and six foreigners to help them accomplish that mission.

National penalty corner specialist Muhd Razie Abdul Rahim leads the local cast who also comprise defenders Mohd Izad Hakmi Jamaluddin and Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib, midfielders Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor and Meor Muhd Azuan Hasan, and forwards Mohd Haziq Samsul and Azri Hassan.

Three Australians, Matthew Willis, Josh Pollard and Nick Burgeon, two South Koreans – Jang Jung-hyun and Lee Nam-yong – and a Briton Tom Carson make up the foreign line-up. All six are also internationals.

Carson featured in the 2014 World Cup in Holland. Jung-hyun, another penalty corner specialist, was the MHL’s top scorer last year with 16 goals.

KLHC team manager Ahmad Anuar Sham Kamar said they have depth in every department to help them win all four titles.

“We hope to start the season by lifting the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup, which was introduced two years ago,” said Ahmad, an ex-international.

“We expect a strong challenge from Terengganu and Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) as they also have quality foreign players,” said the former international.

He added KLHC’s two penalty corner specialists, Razie and Jung-hyun, will give them an edge.

“They have what it takes to deliver.”

KLHC won both the Charity Shield and Premier Division title this year. They reached the semi-finals of the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup, a knockout tournament.

In the TNB Cup, KLHC finished runners-up after losing a penalty shootout to Terengganu.

KLHC open their knockout campaign against Division One’s Kedah at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Jan 3.

The quarter-finals will be on Jan 4 while the semi-finals is slated for Jan 6, with the final on Jan 7.

KLHC are one of six teams featuring in the Premier Division, along with Terengganu, UniKL, Tenaga Nasional, Maybank and TNB-Thunderbolt.

KLHC train under former national assistant coach Lim Chiow Chuan and ex-international S. Shankar.

The Star of Malaysia

Hockey for Haxton Heats up Milton Elementary

Photo: Dan Cook

The 12th annual Hockey for Haxton Indoor Hockey Tournament was held December 16-17 at Milton Elementary School. The weekend of indoor hockey honors 2005 graduate Amanda Haxton, who was a standout player at Cape and Delaware Shore Field Hockey. She passed away in 2008 as a result of injuries suffered in a car accident.

The tournament is directed by Haxton’s best friend Danielle Renken and former Cape coach and Delaware Shore Executive Director Mike Eisenhour. The tournament has taken place since 2007. Proceeds benefit the Amanda Haxton Scholarship and Easterseals of Georgetown.

“It was a good tournament this year,” said Eisenhour, who has been an integral part of the ongoing fundraiser.

Seventeen teams ranging from ages 12 and under through adult played four 20-minute games using a six-versus-six format. The scores didn’t really matter, as the players dribbled, passed, shot and saved memories of Amanda “Hax” Haxton, who always had a smile and a kind word for everyone she met.

“I grew up with the Haxtons,” said Kelly Smith, Cape graduate. “Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to play with Amanda. Seeing how many of her friends come together every single year to celebrate her spirit of her life through a sport that she loved is truly inspiring.”

This year’s scholarship winner was Elizabeth “Lizzie” Soucy, who is a senior at Mount Pleasant High School.

“Lizzie has been a member of Delaware Shore Hockey since 2015,” said Eisenhour. “She will graduate from Mount Pleasant High School in May 2018, and she is still investigating colleges and universities, and intending on playing field hockey and possibly lacrosse.”

Content Courtesy of the Cape Gazette

USFHA media release

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