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News for 24 April 2019

All the news for Wednesday 24 April 2019

Malaysia overcome gritty Wales

By Jugjet Singh

Malaysia’s Faizal Saari

KUALA LUMPUR: Wales, ranked 24th in the world, gave Malaysia a tough time today in a friendly leading to the FIH Series Finals starting on Friday.

It looked like both sides did not hold back any punches as Malaysia edged Wales 2-0.

Wales, who are in Group A with Canada, Austria and Belarus, displayed some super defending to hold Malaysia at bay until the second quarter.

Malaysia won their first penalty corner in the 20th mninute, and Faizal Saari scored with ease.

Meor Azuan Hassan scored the second off a reverse stick.

But that were the only two brilliant moments showed by World No 13 Malaysia who will open accounts against Brazil on Friday, followed by China on April 28 and Italy on April 29.

The top two teams in each group qualify for the semi-finals, while the second and third placed teams in each group play for the other two semis slots.

Malaysia, ranked second behind Canada in the tournament, must finish tops in their group to avoid any embarrassment as Brazil (27th), China (14th) and Italy (32nd) are all ranked below the hosts.

Today’s friendly showed that rankings can't be taken for granted in this pre-Olympic qualifer.

Entrance is free on tournament days, and there will be lucky draws as well as a chance to win five scholarship worth a total of RM100,000 at Unitar International University.

New Straits Times

Tengku Ahmad is determined to make it to the Olympics

By T. Avineshwaran

PETALING JAYA: Tengku Ahmad Tajud­din Tengku Abdul Jalil will definitely go “four” it in maybe his final attempt to play in the Olympic Games.

After three futile bids, the experienced forward hopes to kick-start Malaysia’s road to the Games by winning the FIH Series Finals at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil which starts on Friday.

The 32-year-old, who has 273 caps, said it has always been his dream to compete in the Olympics and with age catching up, he would do whatever it takes to get there.

“Winning the Series Finals is really important as it will take us to the next stage of qualification,” said Tengku Ahmad who made his international debut in 2006.

“We must not stumble especially when we are playing at home. Not qualifying for three Olympics is hard to swallow but I believe the rest of my teammates are also bent on making the cut. It’s been too long.

“We have to stay focused on our goal. The coach was right when he warned us not to underestimate our opponents.”

Tengku Ahmad also hoped the crowd would throng the stadium as they need every help they can get to win the title.

“We must make sure we perform well in our opener against Brazil. Once that happens, more fans will cobeing sidelined for six months due to a knee injury.

“I want to show that I’m still capable despite the long layoff. For three weeks, I’ve trained hard under Taeke Taekama (former Holland penalty corner specialist), and I can see a marked improvement.

“For now, Razie (Abd Rahim) and Faizal (Saari) are the main flickers. If I’m given the role, I am more than prepared.

“At the end of the day, I want Malaysia in the Olympics.”

Malaysia, ranked 13th in the world, will play Brazil (27th) in their Group B match on Friday.

The other teams in the group are China (14th) and Italy (32nd) while Group A comprise Canada (10th), Wales (24th), Austria (19th) and Belarus (31st).

The Star of Malaysia

2019 FIH Pro League - Upcoming fixtures

2019 FIH Pro League (Men)

25 Apr 2019 16:30 (GMT +12)     NZL v AUS (RR)     North Harbour Hockey Stadium, Auckland
26 Apr 2019 20:45 (GMT +2)    GER v NED (RR)     Hockeypark, Moenchenglabach
28 Apr 2019 14:30 (GMT+2)     GER v GBR (RR)     Hockeypark, Moenchenglabach

Live streaming and full game replay on https://fih.live (Geo blocked if there is TV coverage)

2019 FIH Pro League (Women)

24 Apr 2019 19:30 (GMT +2)    GER v GBR (RR)     Hockeypark, Moenchenglabach
25 Apr 2019 14:30 (GMT +12)    NZL v AUS (RR)     North Harbour Hockey Stadium, Auckland
26 Apr 2019 18:15 GMT +2)     GER v NED (RR)     Hockeypark, Moenchenglabach
27 Apr 2019 14:00 (GMT +1)    GBR v USA (RR)     Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London
28 Apr 2019 12:00 (GMT +2)    GER v CHN (RR)     Hockeypark, Moenchenglabach

Live streaming and full game replay on https://fih.live (Geo blocked if there is TV coverage)

FIH Match Centre

Hunter excited for big week in FIH Pro League

Jo Hunter

Great Britain’s women return to FIH Pro League action on Wednesday when they face Germany at 6:30pm BST, live on BT Sport, before hosting the USA on Saturday 27 April in the first home game of the competition.

Despite putting in a battling performance, GB fell to a 4-2 away loss against Argentina last time out and will be looking for a positive response when facing a German side that have only lost one of their four FIH Pro League games.

Jo Hunter, who was part of the England team that defeated Germany 2-0 to finish third at the 2017 EuroHockey Championship, is looking forward to their next clash in the FIH Pro League:

“It’s always a tough game against Germany, I’ve played them a few times now and it’s always been very tight with one goal often edging it.

“They are a great hockey nation and can be hard to break down, but we’ll obviously do our best. We have come out on top in the past so we’re hoping to replicate that. It will be a good game but by no means easy at all.”

Jo Hunter

The FIH Pro League comes to Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre for the first time on Saturday 27 April for the visit of the USA, and Hunter is looking forward to the opening home fixture:

“I can’t wait for the first home game! We’ve had quite a few away games in other countries which has been a great experience, but to be able to play in-front of a home crowd is really exciting.

“Some of us got to play in-front of the England crowd at the World Cup last year so if that’s anything to go by it will be an amazing experience.

“To be able to play at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre is absolutely brilliant, it’s a great stadium and it would be good to get as many people there as possible.”

Great Britain women team

It’s a short turn-around for Great Britain after Wednesday’s match against Germany to facing the USA on Saturday, however, Hunter revealed how much she is enjoying the new competition and the regular, high stakes hockey that comes with it:

“We’re used to playing in tournaments where you have a series of games, the FIH Pro League is a different experience as it’s all or nothing on that one match. It’s exciting as each individual game means so much more with it being a league.

“There’s been lots of goals going in and it’s brilliant to be able to see the sport on TV more regularly.”

Great Britain’s men come up against Germany away from home on Sunday 28 April, and Hunter discussed how she’s been keeping an eye on their FIH Pro League campaign so far:

“I have been watching the men’s team too, they’ve had some really exciting games. We’ve had a couple of matches in the same place with New Zealand and Australia, the games I’ve been able to see have been good and it’s been nice to be able to cheer them on.”

Great Britain Hockey media release

Anzac Day matches to make history

The two Vantage Black Sticks teams will make history on Thursday when they play their home Pro League internationals against Australia at North Harbour.

The games are being played on Anzac Day, a first for the sport, in a double header. They are the return legs of the matches in Sydney late in March, when the sixth-ranked women’s Black Sticks grabbed an impressive 3-1 win, while the eighth-ranked men were well beaten, 5-1 by the world No 1  Australians.

There will also be curtain raisers involving the Defence Force women's and men's teams of both countries.

It will be a chance for hockey to acknowledge the sacrifices made by men and women on both sides of the Tasman in times of war.

Within the New Zealand teams, there are players who have special family reason for paying special homage to their relatives on Thursday.

Take Black Sticks’ men’s pair Shea McAleese and Harry Miskimmin. Both have relatives who had a significant part to play in the conflicts and who lost family members to war.

In the case of McAleese, his father was named Daniel Patrick, after his two uncles, who died in the Second World War.

McAleese, who had relatives who fought in Gallipoli and Palestine and in the First World War, and had four great uncles who fought in the Second World War, two of whom died at war.

Patrick Walsh, a tank commander in the 19th Regiment New Zealand Armoured Corps, was killed at Castelfrentano, Italy in January 1944. He was 22.

Daniel McAleese who was in the Pacific Fleet, flying Grumman Avengers when he was shot down attacking Kiirun Harbour, Taiwan, and died, along with his entire crew, in April 1945. He was 25.

‘’We didn’t hear any of the details about it until later on in life and were able to understand the ramifications of everything that happened and what they went through,’’ McAleese, who has won 284 caps said.

One fascinating, if non-Anzac, war story, concerns McAleese’s maternal grandparents.

Both born in Oslo, his grandfather Jens was a Norwegian resistance fighter. Injured and on the run from German forces, he sought shelter in a house.

The family hid him for a fortnight until the Germans had moved on.

While there, Jens met Else, who was a member of that family, and they later married. They moved to New Zealand and while Jens died several years ago, McAleese’s grandmother still lives in New Zealand, at a sprightly 90.

‘’Grandma has never spoken a word about the war. She hated it,’’ McAleese said.

‘’I don’t think we will ever appreciate how tough it was for everyone involved back then. It was just a horrible time, but something they had to do to protect everyone.’’

In Miskimmin’s case, his great grandfather Havilah Down fought in the first World War in France. One of the outstanding servants of New Zealand hockey, he served as secretary of the national association from 1924-59.

His son, Selwyn Down, was in the air force in the Second World War and was shot down over the Pacific. His body was never found.

In turn, Miskimmin’s grandfather, Brian Gapes, fought at El Alamein in 1942 and Monte Cassino two years later. He played hockey for Wellington for many years. His brother Jim also did time in the second World War as an air force pilot.

Harry Miskimmin, whose father Brent and uncle Peter are both former Black Sticks representatives, is up to 54 International caps. Both McAleese and Miskimmin are in the Vantage Black Sticks squad for the Anzac Day clash.

‘’I do always think about the young kids going off to war,’’ Miskimmin’s mother Robyn said of the time Anzac Day arrives each year.

‘’I think of them at my boys’ age going off to war.

‘’I’d love Dad to be here seeing Harry playing in an Anzac match. That would be incredibly special. It is  a big day. ‘Lest we forget’ is huge and to have this hockey on Anzac Day is fantastic.’’

Official events marking the significance of the day start at 2.10pm on Thursday. The Ode of Remembrance will be at 2.26pm, followed by the playing of the Last Post.

The women’s international will start at 2.30pm, with the men to follow at 4.30pm.

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Poppy holds special place for veteran Black Sticks goalkeeper Sally Rutherford

Suzanne McFadden

A digital rendering of what the poppies will look like on the Black Sticks' playing kit for the Anzac Day test. HOCKEY NZ

This story was originally published on Locker Room and is republished with permission.

For the first time, the Black Sticks will wear the Anzac poppy emblazoned on their chests when they play Australia tomorrow.

It won't be a first, though, for veteran goalkeeper Sally Rutherford – but it will still hold a special significance for her.

It's not often New Zealand sports teams have worn the poppy on their uniforms. The All Blacks played with the floral symbol of war remembrance on their sleeves in the 2017 Armistice Day test against France; the Warriors will wear a special Anzac jersey in their NRL match with the Melbourne Storm tomorrow.

No-one can recall the Silver Ferns ever wearing the poppy, because they rarely play internationals at this time of year.

In 1914, New Zealand and Australia were preparing for their first ever men's lacrosse test, when World War I broke out. While the game survived in Australia after the war, lacrosse wasn't resurrected in New Zealand until 2000.

After playing at three World Cups for New Zealand, Rutherford's lacrosse career has now wound down to the odd club match. As New Zealand's most capped hockey goalie, her international focus is purely on the Black Sticks – in this year's inaugural Pro League, and next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Wearing the red poppy on her blue goalie shirt, Rutherford holds its significance close to her heart. Both of her grandfathers fought in World War II, and her "adopted" grandfather was a prisoner of war survivor.

Her biological grandfathers, Laurence Grieves and James Rutherford, were both captains in the New Zealand army, who fought in the Pacific. "One was in logistics and the other in intelligence. They both passed away before I was born," 37-year-old Rutherford says.

But the man she "looked up to" as her grandfather, close family friend Arthur Cowan, was a sergeant who fought in Europe, but was captured after being injured in battle in Libya. Held in two prisoner of war camps, in Italy and Germany, he was then forced to march 600km west across Europe in the midst of the freezing 1945 winter, before finally being liberated by American troops.

Black Sticks goalkeeper Sally Rutherford thrives on Anzac clashes – here she is stopping Australian striker Savannah Fitzpatrick's shot at goal during last year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. MICHAEL DODGE/GETTY IMAGES

Cowan returned home to his farm, and become one of New Zealand's great conservationists. A co-founder of the Native Forest Restoration Trust, Cowan saved forests and rivers throughout the country. He died five years ago at the grand age of 98.

"As I didn't have a grandfather of my own growing up, the whole Cowan family adopted me, and I was just one of the grandchildren. I was so lucky to grow up in that environment," Rutherford says.

"We always knew what happened to [Cowan] during the war, although he hardly ever talked about it. But it was always known that his love of the land was reinforced by that war experience."

In remembrance of brave Kiwis like Cowan, the Black Ferns will gather in a circle with their Australian counterparts on the North Harbour Stadium field tomorrow, while a bugler plays the Last Post, before they observe a minute's silence.

The New Zealand Defence Force women's and men's hockey teams will play the curtain-raisers to the Black Sticks women's and men's tests.

Rutherford hopes wearing the poppy will give the Black Ferns a "little extra oomph" for their second Pro League clash with Australia.

"There's always that little edge when you come up against the Aussies, and we play even better when we have that something special, like the poppy," she says.

The last time the two teams met – on March 17 in Sydney – the Black Sticks won 3-1. It was two days after the Christchurch mosque massacre. "That really brought New Zealand and Australia together, and it gave that game extra meaning," Rutherford says.

This test holds other points of importance for the Black Sticks.

Ten games into the Pro League – which features the world's nine top hockey nations – New Zealand sits in sixth spot, with just four wins. The Australians are well within striking distance in fourth place.

The Black Sticks are desperate to improve on their performances, and play their way into the league semi-finals.

"Our inconsistency is certainly something we have to work on. We'll go out and play extremely well in one game, and really quite poorly in the next," says Rutherford. "That's certainly something we can control, and we need to."

It's also the Black Sticks' last home game before they embark on a tour of the United States and Europe.

"We've come off a couple of losses to China and Argentina, and after this game, we go into a four-week break. It's super-important for the team's morale that we put out a really good performance so we can go into the next block of games with our heads up," Rutherford says.

She also sees tomorrow's match as an opportunity to honour Sean Dancer, who will end his role as the stand-in Black Sticks' head coach with this game.

Dancer has been in charge since fellow Australian Mark Hager quit the Black Sticks in January, after 10 years at the helm, to coach the Great Britain women. The Black Sticks' new coach, former Irish international Graham Shaw, will pick up the clipboard next week, and stand in the dug-out at their next game, against the US in Pennsylvania, on June 1.

"Sean had done a pretty impressive job in a pretty tough situation for the last few months," Rutherford says. "So it's important we play well out there."

She says she knows very little about Shaw, other than seeing him with the Irish women's team at last year's World Cup, where against all odds they made the final. 

"He seems like a nice, friendly guy. It will be great to have fresh ideas come into the team," she says.

Like the Black Sticks side, Rutherford says her own form has been "a bit hit and miss" this season.  "Maintaining performance over a long period is something we need to get better at as a team, and something I need to improve on personally too," the 178-test veteran says.

"The Pro League is taking a bit of getting used to. You have a massive build-up to one game, instead of the same build-up for 10.

"But there are some aspects of it that are really awesome. Getting to play home games against the best teams in the world is something we've rarely had. And it's extremely good hockey."

* The Black Sticks women play Australia at North Harbour at 2.30pm on Anzac Day, followed by the men's international at 4.30pm.

This story was originally published on Locker Room 


Cui Qiuxia: turning defence to attack

China women are now on the road around Europe after hosting five FIH Pro League matches at the Wujin Stadium in Changzhou.

Over the course of their FIH Pro League campaign so far, China, who are ranked 10th in the FIH World Rankings, have won just two matches – against higher ranked Germany (World Ranking:5) and New Zealand (WR:6) – and drawn with Great Britain. But despite losing seven of their 10 matches, the team is gaining admiration for its new style of more attack-minded tactics. Where China used to be renowned for a solid defence and an over-reliance on quick breaks, now they are a team that pours forwards with confidence. China’s 4-3 loss to Australia in their opening match of the Pro League was a warning to the other teams that China was taking a new route under head coach Huang Yongsheng.

Cui Qiuxia is China’s captain and, with nearly 150 caps to her name, is one of the team’s most experienced and influential performers. Whether it is defending with every ounce of her being or forging a path forward to initiate a counter attack, Qiuxia is at the heart of this progressive China team.

For Cui and the rest of her squad, the recent run of matches in front of home fans has been a tremendous experience: “It is such an amazing feeling when you see so many fans come to the venue, watching our games on-site, and supporting us,” says Cui, adding, “I deeply appreciate the fan’s presence and support.”

As the team now embarks on a trip around Europe and then a match in the USA, she is hopeful that Chinese fans will continue to turn out in their numbers to cheer the team on. “If we see our fans supporting us in the away-game venue, that would be fantastic.”

So far, Cui’s favourite game of the new competition was China’s thrilling 5-3 win over New Zealand. She was named Player of the Match – an honour she had also been awarded in the previous match against Germany – after she had led from the front in a match that both teams were desperate to win.

“In the New Zealand game, we did a very good job in defence. We showed that we had made a lot of progress in that area actually. And while we made some errors in the game, we dug deep and got a very good result.”

For Cui herself, the Pro League has been a personal triumph and allowed her to expand her game. She loves the regular matches against tough opposition, feeling that these challenges push her to play better and better. “I feel that I have gained more confidence by playing in the Pro League,” she says. “As a team, I think our key improvement have come in the defence, although we still need to work a lot on that. And of course, there are also lots of things that can be improved when it comes to scoring, we need to learn how to capture and make the most of a goal scoring opportunity.”

Official FIH Pro League Site

Strong Offensive Showing by U-21 USWNT Falls Short to Great Britain in Third Tour Match

MÖNCHENGLADBACH, Germany – The U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team took on the Great Britain Elite Development Program for the second time while on tour at the Warsteiner HockeyPark in Mönchengladbach, Germany. It was a hard fought and thrilling match on both sides but unfortunately USA came up short 0-1.

Although USA had more possession and attacking penalty corners, Great Britain capitalized off of a counter attack in the second quarter. USA generated a lot of offense in the attacking 25 but Great Britain presented a solid defense in the center of the field which made it difficult for the red, white and blue to produce circle entries. USA totaled five penalty corners in the contest but were presented by different defensive penalty corner formations by Great Britain who was able to make good saves in the process.

“We started both halves with a lot of energy and were connecting well in the first, but struggled to generate a circle attack," said Jillian Wolgemuth (Mount Joy, Pa.), U-21 USWNT Captain. "We are excited to regroup tonight and hopefully finish off this series with a win against Germany."

Defensively, USA played solid and minimized Great Britain's goal scoring chances. Great Britain had two penalty corner opportunities that USA stood strong as they quickly figured out a counter defensive structure and proper cover player positioning. Likewise, USA's press transformed and became more effective since their first game of the tournament. The team will present a different challenge to Germany who they will face tomorrow, Wednesday, April 24, in the final match of their international tour. These developments will drastically help enhance the performance of this hard working squad to not only shut down Germany defensively, but also to create more dangerous opportunities on attack.

USFHA media release

Shahbaz briefs Senate committee on state of hockey

KARACHI: A meeting of the sub committee of the standing committee on Inter-Provincial Coordination was held on Tuesday in Islamabad to discuss Pakistan’s decline in hockey.

The meeting was chaired by convener Senator Walid Iqbal. The meeting was attended by Senators Salahuddin Tirmizi and Seemi Ezdi, secretary IPC Akbar Durrani, DG PSB Arif Ibrahim, PSB director Azam Dar, PHF’s Akhlaq Usmani, and some former Olympians.

The participants of the meeting discussed at length the poor performance of Pakistan at international level. PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed briefed the meeting about the situation and said that there was need to work at the grassroots level to find fresh talent.

He said that PHF has planned a comprehensive plan for the promotion of hockey. He said PHF recently organised a domestic tournament in Gojra to identify young talented players. “We did get some talented young players,” he added.

The PHF secretary informed the committee that despite meager resources and non-availability of funds PHF participated in international events, including the World Cup 2018. “Due to non-availability of funds we failed to achieve the desired results,” he said.

He also informed the meeting that despite limited resources the PHF was working on different plans for the promotion of the national game in the country. Senator Walid said only the current management of the federation could not be held responsible for the poor performances. “The previous governments did not pay attention to hockey,” he added.

Walid said that for bringing improvement in the performance of Pakistan’s hockey team there was need to provide resources to PHF. He added that the committee would send suggestions to the federal government for bringing improvement in the national game.

Former Olympians Khalid Bashir, Khwaja Junaid and Manzoor-ul-Hasan accused PHF officials of corruption. Walid said the opponents of PHF should present concrete evidence of the alleged corruption. “The committee will make those proofs in its report to the government,” he said.

The News International

Ex-Olympians failed to prove anything against PHF in Senate body meeting

Mohsin Ali

ISLAMABAD-Senate Standing Committee on Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) met under the chair of Convener Senator Waleed Iqbal on Tuesday.

Senator Salahuddin Tirmazi, Pakistan Hockey Federation Secretary Olympian Shahbaz Senior, Treasurer Akhlaq Usmani, IPC Secretary Akbar Durrnai, Acting Director General Pakistan Sports Board Arif Ibrahim, Olympians Khawaja Juniad, Khalid Basheer, Manzoor Junior and Director PSB Muhamamd Azam Dar was also present on the occasion.

Former Olympians levelled serious allegations against Pakistan Hockey Federation and termed they lack direction and doesn’t have any vision to run hockey affairs in the country. They were of the view that present management neither conducted any grassroots level programmes nor paid any focus on junior development programmes.

But strangely all the past Olympians failed to prove a single allegation in front of the house and were given shut up call by the chair, Waleed Iqbal, who said they wanted accountability of only four years of Brig Khalid Sajjad Khohkar and Olympian Shahbaz Senior while what about the past federations and who was going to answer about the past grave issues.

Waleed said: “Hockey is our national game and we all have to join hands to ensure Pakistan hockey back on right track. Besides government, it is responsibility of former greats to join hands and bring proposals for the betterment of hockey rather than levelling allegations against each other.”

He was of the view that federation under present circumstances was doing good job. “Our players are giving good results, but we have to ensure much better and consistent results must come thick and fast.”

Waleed said the government had to provide sufficient amount of funds to the federation so they could run day-to-day affairs and also ensure players and officials involved with the sports must run their kitchens. Without funds and financial support, no sports could flourish, he said and added: “We will invite suggestions from all the stake holders to improve the standard of hockey and ensure Pakistan hockey team could scale down same old glory days heights.”

While presenting his views Olympian Shahbaz Senior, who is also the secretary of Pakistan Hockey Federation informed the house that federation is working on number of grassroots level programmes and conducted National Junior Championship, Development Squads Championship in Gojra while the federation has also decided to include development squads in the 65th Noor Khan Hockey Championship, which would be held after Eid.

“We have also decided to pit development squad against the visiting Uzbekistan National Hockey team.”

He said all the allegations levelled against federation are childish and those who were very much part of the federation and were enjoying perks and privileges in different roles and when they failed to deliver and were removed, they started to create lot of fuss.

“We have unearthed fresh talent. In the past, we had hardly handful of players in entire country but now we have enhanced fresh pool of players and we have not only senior but junior and development squads teams as well. We had manage to collect funds through personal resources and invested that amount on Pakistan hockey team’s tours abroad and also make sure that national team not to miss a single major tournament. We could bring revolutionary changes and can ensure top class results, if sufficient amount of funds are provided to the federation. We are running from post to pillar and time and requested IPC Minister to spare some time for the sake of the hockey but so far no positive response was witnessed. We had pinned great hopes in PM Imran Khan, who is a great sportsman and a world cup winner himself, that he will spare some time and give us chance to reveal all the details.”

Khalid Basheer also levelled serious financial allegations against the federation. When Waleed asked Khalid to present the proof to the chair, the Olympian failed to bring any proof. In his concluding remarks Waleed said: “It would be highly injustice to held only present federation responsible for the hockey downfall. The past federations were inducted on political basis, which were main reason behind the debacle of hockey. We will soon present our recommendations to government for the betterment of hockey.”

The Nation

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