News for 08 March 2013

All the news for Friday 8 March 2013


Top three in tight race in World League action in Rio

Scotland, Chile and USA battling for two qualification spots

Craig Madden


Brazil  - Chile 1-5

Chile preserved their perfect record with a 5-1 win over Brazil, their third consecutive win and keeps them in line for one of the two qualification places. The highlight was a hat-trick by Camila Caram.Before the contest Chile`s Sofia Walbaum was given a presentation on the occasion of her 100th international cap.

The celebrations continued into the opening minutes of the game when Chile opened the scoring with a direct strike at a penalty corner by Camila Caram. Thereafter it was almost constant Chile pressure on the Brazilian goal, but the shots were off target.   

Brazil managed their first penalty corner of the contest but the strike was stopped by a defender at the left post. Chile had countless chances during the half, but the combination of poor finishing and several saves from Brazilian goalkeeper Lisandra de Souza prevented any addition to the scoreline.

Chile went two up in 48 minutes from a penalty stroke following a stick chop, Carolina Garcia scored from the spot. Brazil retaliated and scored their first goal of the competition with a direct strike at a penalty corner by Thalita Cabral to bring the score back to 2-1.

But then Chile turned on the heat as the Brazilians were confined to their own defensive area, Sofia Walbaum made it 3-1 at a penalty corner switch move, then Caram added another two penalty corner goals in final four minutes to emphasis Chile`s superiority.

Scotland - USA 1-1    (Scotland  2-0 in the penalty shoot-out)

USA perhaps had the better of the possession and chances in their top of the table clash with Scotland, but the match finished 1-1 at the end and it was the Scots who took the bonus point with a 2-0 win in the resulting penalty shoot-out.

The penalty shoot-out was the first of the tournament and started with Scotland`s Nikki Kidd scoring off a post. Katie O`Donnell, Mellissa Gonzalez, Katelyn  Falgowski for the USA along with Scotland`s Sam Judge and Linda Clement then missed the next five attempts. The pressure was on the Americans when Vikki Bunce scored at the second attempt for the Scots, and the additional point was secured when Michelle Kasold failed to find the target, and so the Scots won 2-0 with goalkeeper Amy Gibson not conceding a goal.

In the opening minute a Bunce snap shot forced am early save out of the American keeper. The world number 10 were then defied by a post from taking a deserved lead, Torrie Albine and then Claire Laubach beat Gibson, but not the post.  

The Americans deserved to take the lead midway through the first half, they took a quick free hit on the right and the resulting cross was deflected into the net by Torrie Albini. The Americans should have reached the interval more than one goal ahead, but Scots goalkeeper Gibson was in defiant mood.

The Americans started the second half again the more adventurous team, but in 50 minutes bounced right back into the contest.  At a penalty corner Nikki Kidd`s shot was illegally saved on the line by an American defender, and Kidd herself stepped up to slot the penalty low past the goalkeeper.  

Gibson continued to defy all that the Americans could throw at her, while at the other end the Scots could have stolen the win with two late penalty corners, but the efforts of Bunce and Kidd were dealt with by Jaclun Kintzer in the American goal.

Trinidad & Tobago - Uruguay 6-1

Uruguay showed that they played above their lowly ranking of 50 by convincingly beating Trinidad & Tobago 6-1 to take over fourth place in the pool table.

Uruguay were four up at the interval and the game was effectively over as a contest.   The opening goal came from a penalty corner deflection by Ana Lucia de Maria.

Four minutes later Ana Karina Bisignano doubled the score with a low shot at another set piece.   The third came from a breakaway after a Trinidad penalty corner shot went wide, Uruguay went quickly up the pitch and Soledad Villar was left with an open goal.

Uruguay were by far the most dangerous side and added a fourth through de Maria for her second of the game just before the interval.  Trinidad had couple of late penalty corners but they came to nothing.

Trinidad finally found the net when their player was taken out in the circle and Blair Wynne scored from the spot with a low shot.   Despite the goal Trinidad never really mounted a threat as Uruguay won another four penalty corners, but to no avail. However, the underdogs added two more before the end, Lucia Lamberti slipped the ball under the goalkeeper and then Maria Isobel Olaso deflected a penalty corner shot past the Trinidad goalkeeper for the sixth goal.

Are you a You Tube fan? Check out all the Rio highlights on the FIH You Tube Page

Is Twitter more your thing? Follow the action in Rio live on the World League Twitter feed #World_League1

Finally, don't forget to look for a a more festive take on the tournament on the FIH Facebook Page

FIH site



Gibson the heroine for Scotland in penalty shoot-out win


Amy Gibson vs. USA FIH WHL R2

Scotland goalkeeper Amy Gibson was the heroine after keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 penalty shoot-out win against the USA in the FIH World League Round 2 today.

Nikki Kidd`s shot in off the post opened the scoring for Scotland in the shoot-out but Sam Judge and Linda Clement failed to find the net as did the Americans, and the coup de gras was delivered by Vikki Bunce at the second attempt to put the Scots two up.

When the Americans failed to score in their fourth attempt, the Scots earned a point for the draw and a crucial bonus point for the shoot-out victory.

Although Chile go to the top of the pool competition after beating Brazil 5-1 in an earlier game, that could be regarded as a false position as they have yet to play both USA and Scotland.

But the Scots are now a point ahead of tournament favourites USA, and that could be a crucial advantage when it comes to deciding the top two teams to qualify for the third round.


Nikki Kidd vs. USA FIH WHL R2

The Scots could have opened their account in the first minute, a Bunce snap shot brought the best out of the American goalkeeper. Then Gordon Shepherd`s charges survived a couple of let-offs; Susan McGilveray gave the ball away but Torrie Albini`s shot fortunately cannoned off a post, then a penalty corner strike by Claire Laubach suffered a similar fate much to Amy Gibson`s relief.

Almost inevitably the Americans took the lead in 14 minutes;  they took a quick free hit and this time Albini deflected the ball past Gibson. There followed a period of American domination as the Scots failed to keep up with the pace of their attacks. Gradually the Scots pulled themselves back into the contest and Kidd was unlucky on two occasions to find the target.

Towards half time there were chances for both sides, Gibson had to look lively to prevent the Americans from increasing their lead, while at the other end Bunce had a shot saved by the keeper, to be followed by a brace of penalty corner efforts from Kidd just on the interval that again brought the American keeper into action.

The United States were the more adventurous side at the start of the second half, Gibson again was called on to make some crucial saves while the Rio heat seemed to slow the Scots down. But, under the positive encouragement of coach Gordon Shepherd, the Scots picked it up and drove down the pitch to win a penalty corner. Kidd`s initial direct strike illegally struck the foot of a defender on the line, and up stepped Kidd again to fire a low shot home from the spot for the equaliser a little against the run of play.

The tenth ranked team in the world then retaliated with commitment and not for the first time in the match Gibson in the Scotland goal was the barrier between them and regaining the lead. But in the closing ten minutes the Scots seemed to get a second wind and won a penalty corner through the tenacity of Linda Clement, but Bunce`s resulting shot was blocked. With only two minutes remaining Bunce`s persistence won another set piece and this time Kidd`s powerful drag flick was saved by the goalkeeper, and so the match finished in a share of the spoils.

Scotland are a good position with two games left, Shepherd`s charges should see off Uruguay tomorrow but the final game against Chile on Sunday could be the crucial for a place in the third round of the World League.

Scottish Hockey Union media release



Scotland edges U.S. Women’s Field Hockey Team in shoot-out

Team USA played Scotland to a 1-1 draw in regulation before falling in a penalty shoot-out


RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The U.S. Women’s Field Hockey Team played to a 1-1 draw in regulation today against Scotland at the International Hockey Federation’s World League Round 2 tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Team USA held on to their early one-goal lead until the 48th minute when Scotland evened the match on a penalty stroke. In the end, Scotland prevailed, 2-0, in a penalty shoot-out.

“I thought for 70 minutes of the game we played well,” said head coach Craig Parnham. “We stuck to our game plan pretty much all the way through and controlled large periods of the game. We did not maximize the opportunities we created and sometimes that can come back and hurt you. The good news is we are creating opportunities to score and we just need to be a little more clinical in our finishing.”

The U.S. is overly familiar with Scotland and their strengths, having faced them at the 2011 and 2012 Champions Challenge I in Dublin, Ireland. Previous results would predict today to be a challenging matchup between the two teams.

An energetic effort from the start resulted with a goal in the 14th minute by Torrie Albini (Escondido, Cali.). The U.S. was effective in drawing penalty corner opportunities inside in the circle but struggled to finish with a result. Team USA’s one-goal lead was enough to end the first half ahead of Scotland.

In the 48th minute, Scotland was awarded with a penalty stroke and equalized the match 1-1. Team USA continued to create scoring opportunities but stood unlucky in finding the back of the net. Jackie Kintzer (Robesonia, Pa.) was solid in goal for the U.S. and had numerous saves in the final minutes to lock-in the 1-1 draw and send both teams to a penalty shoot-out.

“We knew what we were up against with Scotland. They are a battle team and they come out strong and hard from start of their anthem through to the very last whistle,” said captain Lauren Crandall. “We missed out on chances in the circle and gave them too many opportunities today.”

In the penalty shoot-out, Kintzer made two saves but four missed scoring opportunities cost Team USA the game. 

Rachel Dawson (Berlin, N.J.), the most capped athlete on the national team roster, competed in her 200th international competition today, a milestone only a handful of field hockey players in the United States have achieved. 

Dawson joined the national team in 2005 and is a two-time Olympian and one of the most recognized field hockey players in the U.S.

“Today was a fantastic day for Rachel,” said Parnham.  “To earn 200 caps is a tremendous achievement. Rachel has been around for many years and teams have admired her from afar for her passion and commitment to the game. She loves what she does with this team and everything she does is for the group. She is absolutely a fantastic role model for USA Field Hockey.”

Team USA’s next opponent is Chile and a win will be important for their placement in the tournament.

“The next game is going to be very important for us,” said Parnham. “We have seen Chile play all week here and know what their threats are. We just need to look at how we set up against them and make sure we are ready to play them in two days. I am absolutely confident the girls will be 100% ready to play.”

Team USA will face Chile on Saturday, March 9 at 11:00 a.m. local time and Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, March 10, the final day of competition.

USFHA media release



Dawson earns 200th cap with national team



Today Rachel Dawson became one of only a handful of U.S. field hockey players to earn 200 caps with the national team. When asked about her career, she sums up the years in one word – a journey.

From her childhood home in Berlin, N.J., Dawson grew a competitive spirit and an everlasting love for field hockey. The two-time Olympian has been a steadfast and versatile midfielder for Team USA since 2005.

Head coach Craig Parnham called Dawson's achievement quite remarkable.

“I think for any player to represent their country is fantastic and for somebody to be able to do it 200 times is really quite remarkable,” Parnham said.  “It requires a lot of dedication, commitment and hard work and Rachel exudes in all those areas. She is a fantastic role model for a lot of young players throughout the country. I give Rachel credit for playing for so many years and producing so many fantastic performances. We are very lucky to have her on the team.”

Teammate Lauren Crandall describes Rachel as passionate and dedicated.

“Rachel and I have been playing together on the senior team since 2005. She is someone who is passionate about everything she does both on and off the field. On the field she is dedicated and committed and one of the hardest workers. Off the field, those characteristics stay the same.”

Humbly, Dawson said playing in her 200th match today was an honor, but it was really just another day. The special affair was marked with a brief pre-game ceremony where Parnham presented Dawson with flowers and posed for a couple photographs. Following the match, Crandall said a few words to her teammate before presenting Dawson with a card signed by all the players and a gift purchased by the team.

While it was not the result Dawson was after on her special day, it was a milestone marked in history for her and Team USA. When asked about her first cap with the national team eight years ago, Dawson recalls the day as if it was yesterday.

“My sister Sarah was part of the team when I got my first cap, we were playing Australia, it was the summer and we were in Virginia Beach,” Dawson said. “I was sitting on the bench ready to go and my adrenaline was pumping. When I finally got in the game, I think I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off – just trying to be perfect and do everything right. I came out five minutes later and was gasping for breath and I thought how am I going to survive. I always look back and I laugh.”

As one of the most recognizable faces in the sport in the United States and an inspiration to many young players, Dawson shared a few words of wisdom and advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps.

“Continue to challenge yourself and not just by doing things differently or going a little beyond your comfort zone but to think differently and think creatively. Push the boundaries of yourself and your team and don’t be afraid to try things. Be disciplined as you carry on and just enjoy the moment,” says Dawson.

What’s next for Rachel? She answers that question simply.

“The match against Chile is next in two days time,” said Dawson. “I am a one day at a time type of gal.”

USFHA media release



Uruguay keeps hockey women winless

Nigel Simon


T&T’s women’s hockey team slipped to a 0-3 record and remained at the bottom of the six-team standings at the Second Round qualifiers of the FIH World Hockey League following a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Uruguay at the Deodoro Field Hockey Centre, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.

Beaten in their first two matches by Scotland (7-0) and Chile (6-0), T&T, ranked 27th in the world, was hoping to avenge a first-round qualification 2-0 loss to the Uruguayans on home soil last November.

But it was not to be as the Uruguayans, ranked 50th in the world, were 4-0 up at the interval to put the game effectively out of T&T’s reach.

The opening goal came from a penalty-corner deflection by Ana Lucia de Maria in the seventh minute and four minutes later Ana Karina Bisignano doubled the score with a low shot from another penalty-corner set piece.

The third came in the 23rd minute from a breakaway after a T&T penalty-corner shot went wide at the other end of the field with Soledad Villar tapping into an open goal in the 29th.

T&T finally found the net when a penalty was called after a player was taken out in the circle and Blair Wynne scored from the spot with a low shot for her team’s first goal of the competition to trail 4-1 in the 46th.

Despite the goal the “Calypso Stickwomen,” led by Alanna Lewis, never really mounted a threat as Uruguay won another four penalty corners, but to no avail.

However, the underdogs added two more before the end, with Lucia Lamberti slipping the ball under goalkeeper Petal Derry and then Maria Isabel Olaso deflecting a penalty corner in.

Today is a rest day, while tomorrow T&T meets Brazil in a clash of bottom-placed teams.

Results

Chile 5 (Camila Caram 3rd, 55th, 70th, Carolina Garcia 48th, Sofia Walbaum 66th) vs Brazil 1 (Thalita Cabral 52nd)
Scotland 1 (Nikki Kidd 50th pen) vs USA 1 (Torrie Albini 14th) - Scotland won 2-0 in a penalty shoot-out
Uruguay 6 (Ana Lucia de Maria 7th, 29th, Ana Karina Bissignano 9th, Soledad Villar 23rd, Lucia Lamberti 64th, Maria Isabel Olaso 66th) vs T&T 1 (Blair Wynne 46th pen)

The Trinidad Guardian



Sultan Azlan Shah Cup team by team preview

The 22nd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup sees six teams participating in the tournament that gets underway on Saturday.

We take a look at all the teams and analyse their chances in the world's longest running invitational tournament.

India

Traditionally a strong hockey nation, India leaves no stones unturned to regain its past glory. Driven emotionally, Indian adminos rightfully and thankfully consider regular participation in the Azlan Shah Cup is a step to accomplish this revival task. With thinking on right way, Indian teams were able to carve a niche for themselves in the world’s oldest invitation tournament that Azlan Shah Cup is. True India finished last at the last Olympics, first ever such ignominy in their chequered history, yet the fact remains, and reminds, that they missed the previous number and are in the Olympic company now; having re-entered it with an all win record in the last year Olympic Qualifier. Having finished fourth in the Melbourne Champions Trophy last year end, and then second in Doha at the second Asian Champions Trophy, India did well to enter the Hockey World League third round to be held in Amsterdam / Kuala Lumpur. Indian team led by Sardar Singh, coached by the Australian import Michael Nobbs accomplished this mission recently in New Delhi. They won all the five matches with thumbing scorelines in the Round 2. They would in all likelihood live upto the newly acquired image of winners rathern than rumbling about the London Olympic nighmare. Vibrant India had played so many events that it is a gainsay that noway they will be weighed down by the recent past mishaps on the turf.Indian hockey players are adored and adulated for their skill and speed, and their ability to surprise their rivals. This year is not going to be different, as it has stars, who gained enormous exposure in the recently held Hockey India League, are expected excel in the 22nd edition of the Azlan Shah Cup. Led by young dasher Danish Mujtaba, with as experienced goalie as Sreejesh as his deputy, India lacks nothing to leave their imprint in the forthcoming Ipoh carnival.

Pakistan

Pakistan, a traditional outfit known for enigmatic energy and boundless enterprise, are the undisputed leaders of Asian hockey, a status they regained with grit and determination in a brief spell of  three years. Pundits did not assign any bright future for Pakistan hockey when they finished last in the last World Cup (2010). But the wounded lions as they are, patronized on a grand scale by their government, propelled by former players of repute at the helm of administrative set up, belied no-hopers’ predictions to rise like phoenix from the ashes. The team braved public outcry, bulldozed pessimists to pave a new path, a path of progress and fecundity. They won the matches when it almost looked impossible, scored quick-silver goals to come out of the time warped chrysalis. Today, Pakistan are the undisputed leaders of Asian Hockey a position the likes of South Korea denied them for the last two decades. Pakistan is the only Asian  team to win a medal (bronze)  at the latest Champions Trophy. It enhanced its reputation again a month later, when they overcame stiff challenge posed by their arch rival India in the finals of the Champions Trophy.  At Doha in the Asian Hockey Federation’s proud new genre of competition, Pakistan defeated fighting India in a tense final.

Pakistan Hockey Federation, alive to the expectations of back home, have announced a strong team for the present Azlan  number. The team led by Md. Imran has in Akhtar Rasool, captain of the gold winning World Cup team, as its chief coach while midfield marvel Hanif Khan will be the coach. Pakistan had to rest fever-struck Waseem Ahmad and injured Shakeel Abbasi, but coaches are confident they have found matching equivalents to fill the vacuum. Its long time since Pakistan left its indelible mark on the Azlan Shah Cup, with Asia Cup which eludes them now, and Hockey World League Semifinals to be held in Malaysia, Pakistan will look forward to refurbish its image in Ipoh.

New Zealand

New Zealand surprised every participating nation last year in the Azlan Shah Cup with a rare display that gave them the crown. A long goal against Argentina in the final got them the coveted title. Chronicler won’t hesitate to describe such is typical of New Zealand. They get at the rivals, catch them unawares and offer no elbow to recover and recuperate. Any peep into their hockey history would vouch safe exactly that. New Zealand was never billed in the top when  12 teams lined up for top honours in the 1976 Olympics, where synthetic turf was introduced. Despite drawing first two matches, it won the last two matches which counted: Semifinal and final against The Netherlands (2-1) and Australia (1-0), respectively.  That one goal of Tony Ineson may be bigger in proportion and heavier in merriment,  compared to Andy Haywards’, whose lone strike ensured first ever Azlan Shah Cup for them last year, but times have changed.  New Zealand does not live on past; its one nation that strives hard to  improvise things, and is getting reward on both men and women fronts. However, Australian import Colin Batch, chief coach of The Kiwis, chose to bring a youthful outfit for this year. He perhaps had no choice as some key players had to be in Europe to fulfill their commitments. New Zealand team is led by experienced Dean Couzins. He has able support in gem of players in Andy Hayward, Stephen Jenness, Arun Panchia, Hugo Iglis and the likes.  Most of the Kiwi players turned out to be stars in India last month when they figured for the successful Ranchi Rhinos (gold) and Delhi Waverirders (silver) in the Hockey India League.  There is hope they will be so in Ipoh too.

Korea

Koreans are self believers. They believe in whatever they do. This attitude helped them achieve lofty heights in the comity of hockey nations. In the 80s, when India and Pakistan rode like a colossus, unchallenged and unquenched, Koreans believed in the unbelievable. They felt they can upset the applecart of both. They did it too. They  stopped these two giants on their track, and with that the golden journey of Koreans commenced. With the first Asian Games gold at Seoul in 1986, and many more to follow as a routine, and then Silver in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Koreans proved how self-belief can create havoc in the established blocks.  Having won all the title in the continents, Korean had their whale of fame all through last three decades. Currently of course Korean face enormous, insurmountable- looking challenge to their painstakingly built prestige. Emerging Malaysia and India, together with entrenched Pakistan, pose challenge to their established suzerneity. With a result, Korea struggle to keep its flag at the top.  Korea gave a bye to recent Asian Champions Trophy after missing out the final in the previous edition, lost the Asian Games crown at Doha. Koreans absence here and there, and their downward trend is felt strongly by connoisseurs of the game. It has robbed some sheen from the otherwise well-competed events. Korean are now back in the business with their entry in Ipoh. They have only Asia Cup title in their kitty, would like to climb back to top position in the continent through a good performance, which they are always capable of, in the 22nd edition. The joint-winners of 2010 in the rain washed final, did not do well in the next two. Their intention to reverse the form will add colour to the competitive environ of the Azlan Shah Cup.

Australia

Two years ago, penalty corner expert Christopher Ciriello posted the golden goal for Australia to annex its sixth Azlan Shah Cup title, their sixth and maximum by any country in the world’s oldest invitational tournament. Australia thus have reputation to live upto when they take on India on the Ipoh turf on the opening day of the 22nd edition. Rob Hammond, the 26-year old, will spearhead Australian challenge against the backdrop of mostly inexperienced squad that chief coach Ric Charlesworth chose to field. The coach in particular will be under scanner. Perhaps for the first time in the illustrious career of the multi-faceted Ric, a question mark raises in the mind of the hockey aficionados. For, his team, Mumbai Magicians in the recent Hockey India League, with as many as seven Australians in the line up, did not live upto the expectations. Braving apart, Ric chose to give exposure to youngsters in the Azlan Shah Cup. He has thus double task of maintaining his personal reputation as coach and also to ensure decent success for the young team he chose. This situation by default adds suspense to the Azlan Shah Cup. The veteran has passed many tests in the past, and it is hoped this time it won’t be an exception. If Australia wins this summer, it will be their seventh Azlan Shah title, a record in the offing which the Kangaroos hope will lap it up.

Malaysia

There has been a revival of Malaysian hockey of late. Having failed to make it for the 2012 London Olympics, Malaysian Hockey went through a revolution of sorts, opting for a foreign coach in South African, Paul Revington.

Malaysian hockey has qualified for ten Olympic Games, although they boycotted Moscow 1980 over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Although they never won a medal, they managed eighth place twice – in 1972 and 1976.

It was a mark of Malaysian hockey’s stature during those halcyon days. That it has fallen in grace and prominence is all too apparent by the fact that Malaysia have failed to qualify for the last three Games.

The 1972 and 1976 Games can be seen as a tale of two eras. The 1972 hockey competition marked the end of the game played on grass while 1976 was the start of the Astroturf (artificial turf) age. And Malaysia’s eighth place finish in both editions ranks as their best in the Olympics.

Revington has done well as he took Malaysia to a fourth place finish in the Champions Challenge 1 and a bronze medal at the AHF Champions Trophy. But it is making the grade at top level that matters to Malaysians and Revington will get an opportunity to do that twice - the World League semi finals in June and Asia Cup in August.

Malaysia steps into this tournament as the lowest ranked team but have big aspirations as they have adapted an approach of winning every time they play a match. With the fans rooting for them, expect Malaysia to trouble all teams and defy the rankings as they go out to win the trophy that has eluded them since the inception of the Azlan Shah Cup in 1983.

Official Sultan Azlan Shah Cup site



A fascinating ethos of Asian Hockey

Memories, vivid and varied, come in a cascade as we indulge in an introspection of the fascinating ebb and flow of the annual Sultan Azlan Shah tournament.

As the latest in the series prepares to unfold at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, it is difficult to ward off the enveloping mood of nostalgia.

Conceived as a tournament to match the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy, this competition is the brainchild of that extraordinary visionary, Sultan Azlan Shah, the patriarch of Malaysian and Asian hockey.

Launched in 1983 amidst speculation over its viability, this invitational event enters its 22nd edition as vibrant as ever ­-continuing to enhance the profile of Asian teams.

The significance of the tournament as a topnotch arena for invaluable jousting was not lost on big boys of the game. Almost all of them continue to highlight the dates on their calendar as one of the premier events in world hockey.

But while the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has more than compensated for the dearth of competitions in the region it has also been witness to the decline of the once dominant Asian teams. 

The better structural and systematic programming of the European nations has left the Asians far behind in the race. Cynically, it can also be said that frequent changes in rules, artificial pitches and their general domination in the FIH administration have all contributed to tightening the hold of European nations on the game.

The administrators in Asia have a lot to answer for the decline. The problem areas related to coaching techniques, poor or inadequate infrastructure and lack of a professional system to scout talent at the grass-root levels have only widened the chasm.

To say that Asian hockey is at the crossroads is an understatement. It almost slipped to the verge of extinction not long ago. Former world champions Pakistan finished last at the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi and India went winless to bite the dust in the London Olympics last year.

The same goes for South Korea, once recognised as the an emerging super power forced. They only just earned a place in the Olympics with a last second goal in the qualifier. Malaysia’s fortunes continue to ebb and flow as they seek to regain a place in the elite but the rest of the world seem to have left Asia in limbo.

Europe’s best, led by Holland, Germany, Spain and Britain rule the roost together with Australia and New Zealand.

Predictably, the churning up process continues with all the ingredients of suspense adding to the complexities. The Asian countries now see the hiring of a foreign coach as the panacea to their ills.

Even as early as 1994, Pakistan brought in Dutchman Hans Jorritsma, who piloted them to triumph in the 1994 World Cup at Sydney. But the team profited little under Holland’s  Roelant Oltmans and Michel van den Heuvel. Under former skipper Akhtar Rasool Pakistan, Pakistan scooped the bronze at Melbourne and the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha. 

India avoided taking the foreign route but finally relented when they recruited the German coach, Gerhard Rech, before the Athens Olympics in 2004. This was followed by the appointment of Jose Brasa from Spain.

Their current coach is Michael Nobbs, the 1984 Olympian from Australia. A recent addition to the squad is the high performance coach from Holland, the tested and tried Oltmans. But success has been limited to the semi-final berth obtained in the last Champions Trophy.

The foreign coaches seem unable to change the mindset of the Asian players whose basic fundamentals are flawed.

They are also handicapped by the small pool of talent available to them.

It goes without saying that unless the Asian countries revitalise their development programmes, the chances of narrowing the gap with the European countries will be a pipe dream.

No write up of the tournament is complete without mention of the man who visualised the whole concept of creating an Asian ethos. It is true that Pakistan was at the vanguard of the movement what with Brig. M. H. Atif and Air Marshal Nur Khan holding the Asian flag at the FIH. But the benign presence of Sultan Azlan Shah in the counselling sessions contributed immensely to giving Asian hockey a sense of purpose, dynamism and direction.

Once at the helm from 1996, Sultan Azlan Shah has played a pivotal role in establishing Malaysia as the hub of Asian hockey activity. The annual tournament, which carries his name, is just one of the major events, like the World Cup, Asian Championships and Champions Trophy, Malaysia has hosted. He is also in the FIH Council, the supreme body for the sport.

Hockey continues to be an irrepressible passion for the Sultan whose understanding of the nuances of the game is incomparable.

Asian hockey is twice blessed for having Sultan Azlan Shah as its guiding light.

Official Sultan Azlan Shah Cup site




Focus on Asian teams

By Jugjet Singh


FOUR Asian giants will be looking to revive their hockey fortunes against Australia and New Zealand in the Azlan Shah Cup which begins in Ipoh tomorrow.

In Asia, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Malaysia have been holding the top four positions for as long as one can remember, but on the world stage, they are known as struggling former giants.

Australia, ranked No 2, have proven themselves to be the sport-loving country's most successful sporting team.

They are the only Australian team in any sport to receive medals at five Olympic Games (1992-2008), and have placed themselves in the top four in every Olympics since 1980.

They also won the World Cup in 1986 and 2010, and finally broke their Olympic gold curse in 2004 in Athens.

They need another trophy cabinet to display their Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games accolades.

New Zealand, who shocked all by beating Argentina 1-0 to the Azlan Shah Cup gold last year, are ranked sixth in the world but do not have a collection of medals like their neighbours.

But the Kiwis are known fighters, and will prove themselves to be the team to beat in Ipoh.

Among the struggling Asian giants, Pakistan are the highest ranked at No 5, South Korea are at eight, India (11) while Malaysia are 13th.

Pakistan and India's days of dominating world hockey are long gone while Korea have struggled to live up to the side who grabbed Olympic silver in 2000.

If anything, Malaysia's slide is the worst as the national team have not qualified for three successive Olympics and two World Cups, with the Asian Games silver in 2010 the only bright spark in recent times.

So it goes without saying that unless the former Asian giants revitalise their development programmes, hope of narrowing the gap with the rest will never materialise.

But with the Azlan Shah Cup at their disposal, the Asian teams must use this chance to prepare for the the World League and Asia Cup -- both of which will be held in Malaysia -- and seal the three 2014 World Cup berths available to kickstart the rise of Asian hockey again.

Tomorrow: New Zealand v Pakistan (4pm), Australia v India (6pm), Malaysia v Korea (8pm) -- Matches at Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh.

New Straits Times



Veteran player Boon Huat going for his 11th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup meet

By S. RAMAGURU



KUALA LUMPUR: At 33-years-old, he is among the rare breed of Malaysian players to have featured in all major hockey events since making his national debut in 1999.

Tomorrow, Chua Boon Huat (pic) will be making history when he steps out for his 11th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The tournament is in its 22nd edition this year.

Boon Huat, who has 321 caps, first played in the 1999 edition and his last was in 2009. He was then dropped from the national team.

He was out for three years until being recalled to the side last October.

For a player who has already graced the World Cup, Olympics, Champions Trophy, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asia Cup, there is nothing much left for him to prove.

But being the fighter that he is, Boon Huat is still excited about playing the game at the highest level.

“I love the sport and want to contribute as much as I can to the national team,” he said yesterday.

“It’ll be good to see Malaysia back on the world stage as we missed out on the last two World Cups and Olympics.

“Helping the team get back into the fold is a challenge by itself.”

The Malacca-born was skipper of the 2001 National Junior team who featured in the Junior World Cup in Hobart.

Except for the position of goalkeeper, Boon Huat has played in all other areas and excelled in every one of them. He now plays as a forward.

Boon Huat is glad to have been given another chance to play for the national team by new coach Paul Revington.

“I didn’t have to think twice about making a comeback. I’ve said before that I’ll continue to play for as long I have the drive and commitment,” said Boon Huat.

Boon Huat has played in two finals in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup — in 2007 and 2009. Malaysia lost both times.

“It’ll be great to be on the winning side for a change. That’ll complete a unique record for me. But right now I’ll settle for a consistent and improved display in each game. There are long term targets for the team and that’s the priority for all of us,” he said.

Malaysia’s opening match will be against South Korea tomorrow. And what’s interesting is that it was South Korean coach Paul Lissek, of Germany, who handed Boon Huat his debut for Malaysia.

The Star of Malaysia



Time for Juniors to claim their rightful place

By B. David


The 22nd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament, starting tomorrow, serves as a strong platform for India, which fielded a development squad in its endeavour to develop and test reliable juniors to prepare for the Junior World Cup to be held in India this year.

Sultan Azlan Shah has always been an event looked eagerly waited for, and the hosts Malaysia provide formidable opponents, along with other usual stalwarts in Australia, Korea and Pakistan; not to mention last year's surprise champions New Zealand. Indian coach Michael Nobbs went on record that there would not be much expectations from this squad. However, the fact may be slightly different from what the coach would like us to believe.

Azlan Shah Cup is very important for the country to fine tune its preparations and to hit the right combination of junior players, who get a valuable experience playing such a reputed and tough tournament.

The Junior World Cup will be held in December with 16 countries fighting for the title. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Spain, Egypt, France, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa will be the participants along with hosts India.

Led by Danish Mujtaba, the team will have the experienced and dependable goalkeeper in Sreejesh. Rupinder Pal provides a strong protective wall, having been to Ipoh since 2010. However, its midfielder Manpreet Singh who can on his day change the course of any match.

But all eyes will be on juniors like Mandeep Singh, who the coach feels will get a wonderful opportunity to develop as a player as he has good raw talent.

Many young players get the first opportunity to be in such a traditional tournament as Azlan Shah.

Hopefully, they grab the opportunity that comes their way so early in their career.

Like Mandeep was shot into the stardom with one tournament – domestic event, Hockey India League – it may be true for someone like Harbir or Satbir.

Schedule:

9th March: 4.05pm: New Zealand vs Pakistan; 6.05pm India vs Australia; 8.05pm: Malaysia vs Korea

10th March: 4.05pm: Australia vs Pakistan; 6.05pm India vs Korea; 8.05pm: Malaysia vs New Zealand

11th March: Rest Day

12th March: 4.05pm: Korea vs New Zealand 6.05pm India vs Pakistan; 8.05pm: Malaysia vs Australia

13th March: Rest Day

14th March: 4.05pm: Australia vs Korea 6.05pm India vs New Zealand; 8.05pm: Malaysia vs Pakistan

15th March: Rest Day

16th March: 4.05pm: Korea vs Pakistan 6.05pm Australia vs New Zealand; 8.05pm: Malaysia vs India

17th March Sunday: 4.05pm: For 5th and 6th placing 6.05pm For 3rd and 4th placing; 8.05pm: Finals for First place Indian team: Forwards: Danish Mujtaba (captain), Nitin Timaiya, Satbir Singh, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Dharamvir Singh and Gurwinder Singh Chandi. Fullbacks: Rupinderpal Singh, Harbir Singh, Gurjinder Singh.
Halfbacks: Amit Rohidas, Gurmaill Singh, M B Aiyyapa.
Goalkeepers: P R Shreejesh and Sushant Tirkey.
Coach: Michael Nobbs.
Manager: Dr. Shailendra Shrivastava.

Note: Junior coach: Baljit Singh Saini will also accompany the team.


Stick2Hockey.com



Mandeep Singh: Baby Rhino now Baby India

Tazeen Qureshy



“I want to become Baby India from baby Rhino”

Here is another Mandeep. He is not Mandeep Antil who often dazzled in the Azlan Shah Cups. He is younger, popular and almost the talk of the town.

We have with us Mandeep Singh, the tiny darling of Hockey India League.

Mandeep Singh is now in Ipoh, where Azlan Shah cup starts in 36 hours, and is all set to establish himself as a force to reckon with, stay put and count, forever.

In a freewheeling talk, he opens up with www.stick2hockey.com

“Azlan Shah Cup comes as a great opportunity for me. I want to utilize it to the fullest. While playing for the Ranchi Rhinos in the inaugural edition of HIL, I was nick-named ‘Baby-Rhino’, now I want to be called as ‘Baby India’.”

Thus spake Mandeep words of wisdom.

A product of Surjit Hockey Academy, based in Jalandhar, Mandeep took up hockey inspired by his cousin Balwinder Singh. “I come from Mithapur, the place which has produced the likes of Pargat Singh. So, the atmosphere for hockey was definitely there, hockey therefore came naturally to me,” the young but brave heart evaluates his early days.

Mandeep made his first junior international debut last year in the Asia Cup, also held in Malaysia at Malacca.

His coach then was Baljit Singh Saini, Asian Games goldie and Junior India coach at present.

Impressive as he was, Mandeep was focused on his game since then, and was waiting for a big break in his career.

It came early this year with the onset of Hockey India League. He was promptly taken in by Ranchi Rhnios.

The 17-year old tasted a fat USD 13,000 from Ranchi Rhinos’ franchise.

“Hockey India League was a good platform for a youngster like me. To be able to play with senior players and international stars instilled a lot of confidence in me. It was a great learning experience,” he asserts.

The young gun played a crucial role in leading the Rhino team for victory. He was the second-highest goal-scorer, only after Sandeep Singh; scoring ten goals in the league. For his spectacular show, he was declared as the ‘Upcoming Player of the Tournament’.

This is really a big feat, as it fetched him Rs.20 lacs booty too.

“As a team, Ranchi played well in the HIL. We had a good crowd support. As far as my performance is concerned, I tried to do my best and I am happy that I could contribute at crucial times for my team. I am thankful to my teammates and the Ranchi crowd for all their support.”

After a successful stint in the HIL, Mandeep got a green signal to make his international debut in the World Hockey League.

“It was always a dream to play for India. Being selected in the national squad was a great news to me. I was nervous initially, but my team mates were very helpful. I kept on taking advises from my seniors. After scoring the first goal against Oman (in the Hockey World League opener), I could relax.”

Now that Azlan Shah is on the cards, what are his expectations?

“We will win,” he says almost immediately. “We will bring home a medal.”

In a short span of time, he shot into the limelight. Its a dream come true for the lad from junior international to Indian star in a year's time. Now he is catapulted to bigger stage where only the die-hard pros survive.

Only time will tell he will emerge mature Mandeep or show signs of burn out.

But as of now he is mellowed and optimistic, and is raring to go full length.

That is good news for India.

Stick2Hockey.com

 



Pakistan aim to try new talent



KUALA LUMPUR: Australia are banking on their veteran players for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament while Pakistan aim to try new talent when they face defending champions New Zealand on Saturday.

The Kiwis aim to retain the trophy they won for the first time last year and enter the fray helmed by new Australian coach Colin Batch, a member of the Aussie squad who won the World Cup in 2010.

Australia, meanwhile, will field a team of veterans, mixed with a few new faces of their own, for the tournament in the Malaysian city of Ipoh, which ends on March 17.

"We have three players from our 2012 Olympic team and we are looking to achieve the high results that this group has been accustomed to over the last five years," coach Ric Charlesworth was quoted as saying on the International Hockey Federation website.

Pakistan, meanwhile, ranked fifth in the world, have dropped four veterans including Shakeel Abbasi, Mohammed Waseem, Mohammed Rizwan Senior and Rashid Mehmood in order to test new players.

Coach Akhtar Rasool said in Ipoh that Pakistan were "in the process of looking at new players for the future". "This is a good opportunity to test the younger ones and we will get quality matches to try out our experiments," he said.

New Zealand won last year's crown with a powerful display of attacking hockey. They are led by veteran Dean Couzins and ably supported by Andy Hayward, Stephen Jenness, Arun Panchia and Hugo Inglis. But they too have several youngsters in the squad, who Batch will want to develop for the future.

The opening match on Saturday will see world number two Australia facing a resurgent India, now ranked 11th.

Pakistan, the 2012 Champions Trophy bronze medallists and Asian Champions Trophy winners, will play sixth-ranked New Zealand. World number eight South Korea will round out opening day play against Malaysia, ranked 13th.

The News International



Successful tour for Project squad in India

By AFTAR SINGH

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Project 2013 hockey squad had a splendid outing in their 10-day playing tour of India.

Not only did they win all the seven friendlies against club sides in Bangalore, but three defenders – Mohd Zulhairi Hashim, G. Kavin Kartik and Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Gaffar – showed vast improvements in their penalty corner drag flicks.

Coach K. Dharmaraj, who returned with the team on Sunday, was impressed with their penalty corner conversion rate during the tour.

“We did well to score in every match ... that’s a good indication of our preparation for the Junior World Cup in Chandigarh, India, in December,” he said.

He also thanked former Indian penalty corner specialist Len Aiyappa for helping the three players improve on their drag flicks.

“Len was instrumental as he spent 10 days teaching Zulhairi, Kavin and Nor Aqmal the right way to execute penalty corner drag flicks.

“Their drag flicks are more powerful and accurate than before,” said Dharmaraj, who guided Malaysia to victory in the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca last May.

He said that they could also rely on midfield Mohd Fitri Saari and forward Mohd Firhan Ashaari to take penalty corners.

The Project squad players will be released to feature in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), which begins on March 21.

Dharmaraj said that his squad would play at least 40 international matches in preparation for the Junior World Cup.

“We’ll be going for a playing tour of South Korea in May and Europe either in June or July.

“We’ll feature in the Sultan of Johor Cup in August and in the pre-Junior World Cup in India in October,” he said.

Sixteen teams, divided into four groups, will feature in the Junior World Cup in December.

The Star of Malaysia