News for 15 January 2012

All the news for Sunday 15 January 2012


Project 2013 show how it is done

By Jugjet Singh


SULTAN of Johor Cup champions Project 2013 taught their seniors how to win matches when they beat China 6-2 in a friendly at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

The Malaysian seniors lost their first two matches 2-1 and 4-1, and were in the stands watching the Project boys make short work of China with deft touches and hard running.

The only senior player who guided them yesterday was  Kelvinder Singh, who had just recovered from injury and was  given extra match practice.

The Project 2013 players, who beat Australia 3-2 in the  Sultan of Johor Cup final last year, are preparing for the Junior Asia Cup on May 3-13 in Malacca, which also doubles up as the Junior World Cup Qualifier.

The seniors are preparing for the Dublin Olympic  Qualifier on March 10-18, where only the gold medallist will  advance to London.

Project 2013's scorers yesterday were Mohamed  Syarin (sixth), Mohamed Nor Faiz (16th, 51st), Kelvinder (18th), Dedy Aryady (39th) and Amir Farid (60th).

The senior team will play their third match against China at  at the National Hockey Stadium today.

The 2012 Junior Hockey League (JHL) received a  boost yesterday when Milo injected RM250,000 into the 17th edition which will start on Thursday.

The money will go towards the total prize money with saw an increase of 80 per cent from the previous season of RM80,500 to RM145,500.

And the JHL also proved that at 17, it still rocks as a record breaking 26 teams registered to play. Nine will be in Division one with nine in Division Two A, and eight in Division Two B.

The top six teams in Division One, as well as the two Division Two champions will play in the knock out quarter-finals. The top four will be seeded, and an open draw will be held for the knock-out stages.

UniKLYoung Guns are the defending league champions, while Thunderbolt the overall title holders.

Division One: Ipoh City Council/Anderson, Tunku Besar Tampin, SS Bukit Jalil, SS Bukit Jalil Juniors, SSTMI Thunderbolts, UniKL Young Guns, MSSPP-USM, Petaling Jaya City Council, Tunku Mahkota Ismail School.

Division Two A: Politeknik KPT, Nur Insafi, KHA-MSNK, MSSP-USM Juniors, Anderson Juniors, Sapura, Kelantan, Kelantan HA Juniors, NSHA Juniors.

Division Two B: Tunas Pahang, SMK Padang Midin, Johor HA, MHS- MSSNM-MSN Melaka, Olak PKT, SMK Dato Taha, Kuala Lumpur Sport School, Padang Midin

New Straits Times



Hockey team’s poor form is due to tough training, says Beng Hai

By S. RAMAGURU



Tai Beng Hai

KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey players will peak at the Olympic qualifier in Dublin in March and they should not be judged by the results of their friendly matches.

That’s the assessment of coach Tai Beng Hai after two embarrassing defeats to China earlier in the week. He said the players may look jaded and tired but they have enough time to get back on form for the qualifier.

He said the players are undergoing a tough training regime and there was no reason to tone down just because they have the friendly matches.

“We realise the performance level will be affected a little but what is our ultimate aim? The qualifier is more important and that is our target. That is where we need the players to perform. I do not think there are reasons to worry over the their poor performance now.

“Do the two wins make China a better team? We let in silly goals in the last game but there’s nothing to worry about,” said Beng Hai.

He added that the tough physical training will taper off now as they head into the final phase and he knows the team can only get better.

“There were reasons why they did not perform to their true ability in the two matches. We agree that the performance was a letdown. But to be honest, the players were involved in tough physical training and some had exams to attend over the last few days. This is not an excuse but the truth.

“There is no reason for us to offer any excuses. We are trying to cope with the preparations and still have a long way to go before the qualifier. They will be ready for it. That is the important thing,” he said.

The team lost 2-1 and 4-1 to China. They will play the third match today before wrapping up the series on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The matches against China will give Malaysia any indication of what to expect when they play South Korea in the qualifier as the Chinese have adopted the Korean style of play.

Korea are Malaysia’s main challengers for a place in the London Olympics. The other teams in the Dublin qualifier are Ireland, Ukraine, Chile and Russia.

After the matches against China, Malaysia head to Perth where six matches have been lined up – four against world champions Australia and two against Holland.

The team will leave for Dublin on Feb 28 and stay in Cardiff before heading to the qualifier which will be held from March 10-18.

The Star of Malaysia



USA battles Australia to a draw, 2-2




CHULA VISTA, CA - Except for a USA victory, authors could not have written a better story highlighting the comeback of Olympian mother of two, Keli Smith-Puzo (Selinsgrove, Pa). Smith-Puzo donned the USA uniform today for the first time since giving birth to her second son, Ian, on August 31, 2011 and sent a message to the hockey world that she is back. Smith-Puzo scored both of USA's goals, as the USA drew with Australia, 2-2, in the first of a four game test series at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.

"It feels good to be back on the field with my Team," said Smith-Puzo. "We weren't at our best today, but we will certainly learn from this and improve throughout the series."

Both teams started the contest evenly, with Australia seeing more of the attack. Australia scored first off of a field goal by Emily Smith in the 14th minute. Smith-Puzo followed by scoring her first of two goals in the 29th minute off of a penalty corner. Australia went into halftime with a one goal lead, after Claire Messent added a field goal in the 30th minute.

"Both teams are here to improve and enhance their Olympic preparations," said Head Coach Lee Bodimeade. "The quality of opposition in Australia is going to take us to a higher level of performance. That is the benefit of having a team like Australia come to Chula Vista to play in a four game test series."

At the start of the second half, USA picked up the pace and maintained most of the possession. Smith-Puzo scored her second goal in the 60th minute after beating the Australian goalkeeper during a one on one, to even the match at 2-2. USA had a last minutue goal taken back, after the umpires reviewed the play and overturned the decision ruled on the field.

The day was also special for Team Captain, Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, Pa), who celebrated her 150th international appearance. Crandall played in her first international match against New Zealand in 2005 and quickly became a core team member. Her career includes captaining Team USA to a gold medal finish at the 2011 Pan American Games and playing a key role in the backfield at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

"I feel privileged to have played 150 matches for my country," said Crandall. "I have such a respect for my teammates who reached this milestone before me, including Kate Kinnear, Keli Smith-Puzo, Rachel Dawson and Carrie Lingo. To now join them is a great honor."

The series will continue tomorrow, Sunday, January 15th, at 1pm at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.

USFHA media release



Plenty of surprises at EuroHockey Indoor Championships

Czech men meet Germany for gold while Belarus face Germany in women's final



Germany were overwhelmed to reach the final. (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Today's semi-finals provided thrilling action when the Czech men wrestled down 2010 European Indoor Champions Austria to make themselves the opponents for gold of Germany. The home team struggled at the beginning of their semi-final against the Netherlands, but displayed their trademark cold-blooded efficiency in the second half, turning a 2-3 half-time lag into a 6-3 victory in which Matthias Witthaus scored two goals to bring his total tally to 9 goals in the tournament.

In the women's event, Belarus - somewhat unexpectedly given their rough start into the tournament - slipped past Poland in the first semi-final to remain in the running for the grand title, while the Dutch women went the opposite way, unable to keep up their strong early performances and giving in to a determined German side in the  second semi, finalizing tomorrow's classification games as Poland taking on the Netherlands for bronze, and Belarus meeting Germany in the women's tournament final.

The first round of the women's relegation pool action pitted Austria against the Czech Republic, with the two teams drawing 2-2, and saw Spain secure three important points in a narrow win over the Ukraine, which puts them in the best position of all teams in Pool C to maintain indoor A status tomorrow.

The battle to avoid relegation on the men's side took its course today with Spain defeating a tired looking Russian side to reach the safe zone, while the Swiss recorded their first victory of the event with a win over England which makes England's bid to stay amongst Europe's top 8 a supremely difficult mission.

The day's earlier round of matches, the last round of pool matches of the EuroHockey Indoor Championships had started with early morning surprises as the Dutch women caved in to the previously struggling Belarussian side, and the Polish women celebrated a well-earned win against the German hosts to win their pool.

The Ukrainian women had defeated Austria, but couldn't escape the relegation pool, courtesy of the Belarussians' victory over the Netherlands, while the Spanish women had drawn with the Czech, a result they took with them into pool C.

The German men had recorded another big number win - and the first double digits in the event - when they cruised past Spain 11-1, while Austria had defeated Switzerland to claim the number 2 spot behind Germany in the men's pool A.

In pool B, Russia and England had produced the last pool round's most dramatic encounter, with Russia pulling ahead 4-0 and later 7-1 before the match took an incredible turn, and England pulled level for an 8:8 final result - mostly thanks to an outstanding performance from Ashley Jackson who singlehandedly scored 6 of England's 8 goals.

Their sensational comeback still wasn't enough to save the English from the relegation pool, taking Russia with them, as the Czech Republic and the Netherlands settled for a strategic 2-2 draw that saw both of them through to the semi-finals.

Semi-finals Men

Austria - Czech Republic 2:3 (1:1)
Germany - Netherlands 6:3 (2:3)

Semi-finals Women

Belarus - Poland 2:1 (1:1)
Netherlands - Germany 1:4 (1:2)

Pool C Men

1. Spain - 6 points - 9:3 goals
2. Switzerland - 3 points - 5:8 goals
3. Russia - 1 point - 10:11 goals
4. England - 1 point - 10:12 goals

Switzerland - England 4:2 (2:0)
Spain - Russia 3:2 (1:1)

Pool C Women

1. Spain - 4 points - 7:6 goals
2. Ukraine - 3 points - 7:6 goals
2. Czech Republic - 2 points - 6:6 goals
4. Austria - 1 point - 5:7 goals

Austria - Czech Republic 2:2 (1:0)
Ukraine - Spain 2:3 (1:3)

Pool A Men

1. Germany - 9 points - 22:4 goals
2. Austria - 6 points - 10:4 goals
3. Spain - 3 points - 8:19 goals
4. Switzerland - 0 points - 4:18 goals

Germany - Spain 11:1 (2:1)
Austria - Switzerland 3:1 (3:0)

Pool B Men

1. Czech Republic - 6 points - 7:6 goals
2. Netherlands - 5 points - 13:12 goals
3. Russia - 5 points - 20:20 goals
4. England - 3 points - 22:24 goals

Russia - England 8:8 (4:1)
Czech Republic - Netherlands 2:2 (0:1)

Pool A Women

1. Netherlands - 6 points - 11:8 goals
2. Belarus - 6 points - 9:8 goals
3. Ukraine - 4 points - 12:14 goals
4. Austria - 3 points - 8:10 goals

Ukraine - Austria 5:3 (4:2)
Belarus - Netherlands 3:1 (2:1)

Pool B Women

1. Poland - 6 points - 14:9 goals
2. Germany - 6 points - 10:9 goals
3. Spain - 4 points - 10:10 goals
4. Czech Republic - 1 points - 8:14 goals

Spain - Czech Republic 4:4 (1:2)
Germany - Poland 3:5 (1:3)

FIH site



Both home teams perform strongly in Leipzig

Dutch women secure semi-final spot on Day 1



Matthias Witthaus scored 4 goals against Switzerland (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

On Day 1 of the EuroHockey Indoor Championships, an exciting 16 matches saw the home teams of the German men and women emerge as favorites for the finals, while the Dutch women have already booked their ticket after defeating Austria and Ukraine. The men's pool B is the only pool in the event in which all teams can still reach the semi-finals, with the Czech Republic meeting the Netherlands, and Russia taking on England in Saturday's defining last round of pool play.

The hosts's men's team started their bid for the title with a difficult encounter with title holders Austria, but were able to wrestle down their small neighbours 2-1 after initially falling behind. Their second match left no open questions however, as the Germans scored nine goals against Switzerland in the last match of the day. After a cautious start, during which the Swiss held their own against the World Champions, the hosts ran away with the match after the break, and left another smaller neighbouring country with their heads in their hands.

The German women had a more difficult opening day, but came out on top twice as well, defeating the Czech Republic 5-3 and booking a difficult but all the more valuable 2-1 win against the fiercely fighting Spanish girls after trailing by a goal after 7 minutes.

The current champions, the Austrian men and Ukrainian women, had differing starts to their campaigns: Austria narrowly lost to big title favorits Germany, but followed the defeat up with a convincing 6-1 win over Spain which put them in second place in the men's pool A, while the Ukraine struggled in their opener against Belarus, salvaging only one point, followed by a 3-7 defeat at the hands of the strong Dutch women's team, which sees the Ukraine carry the red flag in the women' pool A.

Despite Belarus' fair to middling start, Yuliya Mikheichik leads the topscorer list, having scored 5 of Belarus' total 6 goals, two goals ahead of Poland's Aleksandra Bugala, Spain's Nuria Camon, the Netherlands' Karin van Ouden and the Ukraine's illustrious captain Maryna Vynohradova.

On the men's side, Matthias Witthaus leads the pack with four goals - all of the scored in Germany's 9-2 avalanche victory against Switzerland, followed by a group of four players on three goals each: Manuel Grandits from Austria, Ashley Jackson from England, Jorge Rodriguez from Spain and Timmo Kranstauber from the Netherlands.

Pool A Men


1. Germany - 6 points - 11:3 goals
2. Austria - 3 points - 7:3 goals
3. Spain - 3 points - 7:7 goals
4. Switzerland - 0 points - 3:15 goals

Spain - Switzerland 6:1 (3:1)
Austria - Germany 1:2 (1:0)
Austria - Spain 6:1 (3:0)
Netherlands - Russia 2:3 (1:0)

Pool B Men

1. Czech Republic - 4 points - 3:2 goals
2. Netherlands - 3 points - 9:8 goals
3. Russia - 3 points - 4:4 goals
4. England - 1 points - 6:8 goals

Russia - Czech Republic 1:2 (1:2)
England - Netherlands 5:7 (3:3)
Czech Republic - England 1:1 (0:0)
Germany - Switzerland 9:2 (3:2)

Pool A Women

1. Netherlands - 6 points - 10:5 goals
2. Austria - 3 points - 5:5 goals
3. Belarus - 1 point - 6:7 goals
4. Ukraine - 1 point - 7:11 goals

Ukraine - Belarus 4:4 (4:3)
Netherlands - Austria 3:2 (1:2)
Belarus - Austria 2:3 (2:1)
Netherlands - Ukraine 7:3 (3:3)

Pool B Women

1. Germany - 6 points - 7:4 goals
2. Poland - 3 points - 9:6 goals
3. Spain - 3 points - 6:6 goals
4. Czech Republic - 0 points - 4:10 goals

Spain - Poland 5:4 (1:2)
Germany - Czech Republic 5:3 (3:1)
Poland - Czech Republic 5:1 (2:1)
Germany - Spain 2:1 (2:1)

FIH site

 



England Face Relegation Battle

ENGLAND’s hopes of preserving their top-flight status hang by a thread after a frustrating day at the European Indoor Hockey Championships in Leipzig, Germany, on Saturday.

An 8-8 draw with Russia and a 2-4 defeat to Switzerland leave England hoping other results go in their favour - and needing a big win against Spain in their final match tomorrow if they are to avoid relegation.

“At times we’ve played some good hockey, but it’s a tough division and team and individual errors get punished at this level,” said Head Coach Andy Halliday.

“But at least we are the last match in this pool tomorrow, so we will know what we have to do to survive.”

England looked down and out against the Russians and were trailing 4-0 before Ashley Jackson popped up with a goal in the last minute of the first half to give England a glimmer of hope.

Another three unanswered goals from the Russians gave them a 7-1 lead, but England hit back again with Adam Dixon Nick Catlin scoring on 27 and 28 minutes.

Russia added an eighth goal to make it 8-3 with ten minutes remaining but England were not finished yet, and Ashley Jackson left them stunned with five goals in the last ten minutes to salvage a draw for England.

But against the Swiss, England struggled.

Their rivals were 2-0 ahead at half time, and doubled their lead with further strikes to take a 4-0 lead on 26 minutes.

Jonty Clarke and Richard Smith added goals on 34 and 36 minutes, but it was too little too late for England who are still searching for their first win.

Sunday’s clash against Spain is the final Pool C match, and begins at 12.30pm GMT.

* England lost out 5-7 in their opening match against the Netherlands on Friday, but scraped a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic later in the day courtesy of a late goal from Hampstead & Westminster's Dan Fox.

“The result against the Dutch was slightly disappointing,” said coach Andy Halliday. “We had enough chances and possession to win.

“And against the Czechs we left it late to score, but we knew they would sit deep and defend, and their goalkeeper kept them in the game with some very good saves.”

England had led for much of the second half against The Netherlands and looked set for a deserved victory, but three goals in the final four minutes saw the men in orange snatch the win.

Two early goals from the Netherlands put England on the back foot, but they hit back with Adam Dixon scoring a rebound after Ashley Jackson’s flick had been saved on the line after 14 minutes.

Netherlands extended their lead with a third goal on 16 minutes – despite Nick Brothers getting a touch. However, England battled back in style with Jackson scoring on 19 and 20 minutes – from a penalty stroke and open play respectively, his final goal going in with just four seconds remaining.

He completed his hat-trick two minutes after play resumed, and Jonty Clarke made it 5-3 the next minute.

However, the Nertherlands hit back with goals on 30, 36, 37 and 39 minutes to spoil England’s hopes. They had pulled goalkeeper Brothers off and put an extra man up front, but the plan backfired with a Netherlands counter-attack for their final goal.

But the Netherlands were to go on to lose to Russia in their second match, while England secured their first points with a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic.

The match saw lots of chances for both sides, but no goals came until the 30th minute when the Czechs took the lead.

Knowing that they face being shunted to Pool C and a fight against relegation, England pulled off their goalkeeper once again, and this time it worked with Dan Fox scoring on 39 minutes to save the day.

Pool A

Pl

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

Germany

3

3

0

0

22

4

18

9

Austria

3

2

0

1

10

4

6

6

Spain

3

1

0

2

8

18

-10

3

Switzerland

3

0

0

3

4

18

-14

0

Pool B

Pl

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

Czech Rep

3

1

2

0

5

4

1

5

Netherlands

3

1

1

1

11

10

1

4

Russia

3

1

1

1

12

12

0

4

England

3

0

2

1

14

16

-2

2

Pool C

Pl

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

Spain

2

2

0

0

9

3

6

6

Switzerland

2

1

0

1

5

8

-3

3

Russia

2

0

1

1

10

11

-1

1

England

2

0

1

1

10

12

-2

1

England Hockey Board Media release



Relegation looms in Lignano

EUROPEAN INDOOR NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIPS 11 - LIGNANO (ITALY)  -  FRIDAY 13TH - SUNDAY 15TH  JANUARY 2012


Scotland are in danger of dropping down to the third division of the European Indoor Nations Championships for the first time after losing 3-2 to Belarus in a crucial relegation pool match.   However, there is a slim life-line, tomorrow the Scots must beat bottom side Slovakia and hope that Italy lose to Belarus in the final fixtures, and survival on goal difference could be a possibility.

Belarus took an early lead, but the Scots equalised when Gavin Byers found the net at a penalty corner after a switch from Allan Law.   Willie Marshall put Scotland in front from the spot after Gareth Hall`s initial shot was illegally saved on the line by a defender.  But Belarus turned the screw, they equalised before half time and stole the points with a goal three minutes from the end.

Earlier in the final pool match the Scots had to beat Sweden by at least three goals to keep their promotion hopes alive, but instead joined the relegation group by losing 4-3 in a tense contest.

Scotland`s cause was not helped when defensive frailties donated the Swedes two goals in the opening three minutes.   The fight-back was soon underway, Allan Law passed the ball on to Gareth Hall and his cross was slotted home by Menzieshill striker Chris Wilson.  The equaliser came from a goalmouth melee and Hall was on hand to stroke the ball over the line.  When Wilson scored his second to give the Scots a 3-2 lead the dream of promotion looked a real possibility, but within a couple of minutes the Swedes draw the scores level by the interval.

The remainder of the match was a scrappy affair with the Scots creating few chances to advance their cause, and the relegation pool became a reality when Sweden took a 4-3 lead midway through the second half.   The Scots were consequently consigned to a relegation dogfight with Belarus, Slovakia and Italy.

Scottish Hockey Union media release



Leaders St Albans lose opener in Division One



League leaders St Albans got off to the worst possible start in the Maxifuel Super Sixes Men’s Division One when they were trounced 8-0 by Bournville.

The damage was already done by the end of the first half with goals from Harry Rowlands, Edward Stanhope, Stefan Sekula and two from Mike Baddeley.

St Albans were unable to find a way back in the second half as Bournville shut them out and Baddeley managed to complete his hat-trick.

In response to the result, Loughborough University took the opportunity to move ahead of St Albans after the first round of matches by beating Barford Tigers 9-2.

Samuel Ward was their standout player, scoring four of the goals. Barford put up a fight in the first half with goals from Ravi Virdi and Andrew Heslop to make the half time score 4-2.

But whilst Barford failed to pick up the scoring after the restart, Loughborough had no such trouble and within four minutes, they extended their lead through a Ward effort.

St Albans then had a chance to redeem themselves and hopefully catch Loughborough in their second game against Havant who had scored 11 in their previous game against Stourport.

But after a thrilling 12-goal encounter, St Albans had to settle for a draw. Barry Murphy was instrumental in taking the point, scoring three.

Loughborough were again on hand to capitalise with another 9-2 victory. This time the opponents were Stourport and it was that man Samuel Ward again, hitting three goals to take his personal tally for the day to seven.

Chris Griffiths also scored a hat-trick for Loughborough and with the firepower they posses, they are sure to be a handful for any team in the indoor division.

England Hockey Board Media release



Reading & Leicester reach Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals

 


Reading women team photo

Leicester ladies team photo


Reading will play Leicester in the women's final at the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals after both sides won their semi finals in Loughborough.

Reading, runners-up last year, booked their spot at Wembley Arena with a thrilling 3-2 win over Bowdon in their semi final clash at Loughborough on Saturday.

The Berkshire club led comfortably at half time with Emma Thomas scoring twice and Chantel de Bruijn adding another to give them a 3-0 lead.

Bowdon Hightown battled back with Jen Lowe and Nicky O’Donnell scoring on 30 and 35 minutes respectively, but it was not quite enough.

The result means that Reading Hockey Club will have two representatives at Wembley Arena with the women joining the men's team, who have qualified for the men's semi finals.

In the other semi-final, Leicester beat Midlands rivals Sutton Coldfield 7-3 after a close battle.

Drawing 3-3 at half time, Leicester (below) pulled away to victory with four unanswered second half goals.  England and Great Britain international forward Katie Long ended with four goals, while Loren Turner added two.

The winners of the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals will go on to represent England in Europe next season so make sure you’ve got your ticket to cheer the teams on at Wembley Arena on Sunday 29th January. Having won last year’s title, Bowdon Hightown will travel to Prague in late February in this season’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy.

* The pick of today’s Maxifuel Super Sixes Championship Division One matches was a top of the table clash between Wakefield Bradford and University of Birmingham.

The tie didn’t disappoint and proved to be a good measure of just how close the teams are in quality with a 4-4 score line.

Birmingham kept taking the lead only for Wakefield Bradford to rally back with an equaliser every time.

Sarah Haycroft hit a goal from open play in the 28th minute to take the score to 3-4 but then with just two minutes remaining, Molly Rawnsley scored the equaliser.

In other Division One action, Olton and West Warwickshire stepped up to third spot with two victories – beating Chelmsford 8-1 and beating Wakefield Bradford 6-4.

Denise Marston-Smith was their heroine, scoring five in the Chelmsford victory while she added another four against Wakefield Bradford.

Following their draw with Wakefield Bradford, University of Birmingham did just enough to hold on to the top spot in the table with a 5-4 win over second-bottom Ipswich, who were unlucky not to take something from the match.

Birmingham led 4-1 at half time, before Ipswich hit back with a second goal from Faye Curran and others from Christabel McWhirter and Annabel Driver.

And Firebrands were also celebrating a double winning day. They beat Sevenoaks 6-1 with Sian French scoring a hat-trick, while they won 4-1 over Ipswich.

England Hockey Board Media release



India-South Africa in historical perspective

K. Arumugam



SA team in Chennai in 1996.

When South Africa will engage Indian men on Monday, it would mark the third test series between the two continental powers.

The last series was played 13 years ago when present Assistant Coach Md. Riaz led India in a 4-match series in the run up to Sydney Olympics.

However, the India-Africa contact started brightly on the back of sound history.


Alistar Frederics, the first non-white international hockey player, was part of SA team that visited India in 1994,95 and 1996.

It happened 18 winters ago. It was in the fitness of things that India, South Africa’s staunch ally in its fight against Apartheid, was the first hockey nation to tour them just couple of months after the Apartheid was lifted, and the world sports was allowed to embrace Nelson Mandela’s new nation.

Africans too returned the gesture in good measure, visiting India once in next three years.

In 1993 when India visited Africa first, the Indian hockey was in turmoil, having fared poorly in the Barcelona Olympics, and the Indian Hockey Federation has decided to suspend the likes of Pargat Singhs on disciplinary ground.

After much dithering, a novice Zafar Iqbal – till then he was not even coach of any domestic team -- was asked to coach our national team, and in the absence of seniors, Shakeel Ahmad Khan was catapulted to the captaincy.

So, when cricket made headlines what with apartheid free South Africa making its first international matches against Indian on the Indian soils, hockey made its own history being the first hockey country to visit South Africa.

Expectedly, India romped home the 5-match test series 4-1. The point of note was the home side’s win at Port of Elizabeth (0-1). A new nation to hockey could manage to defeat India in a test, and that was not a freak one, as later events proved.

A year later at the Sydney World Cup, India could manage only a draw against them, which inter alia led India to the fifth spot denying them a semifinal chance. Indeed India was lucky to draw them with a penalty corner conversion from Anil Aldrin just when four minutes left for the famous Africans victory.

This country always proved a tough nut for India and it is well manifest in the World Cup.

India could only draw South Africa in three World Cups.

Sydney (1994): 2-2
Monchengladbach: (2006) 1-1
New Delhi (2010): 3-3

South Africa first visited India in 1994, returned with the Silver in the Lucknow Indira Gandhi International Gold Cup. Robert Pullen, who later coached the national side, pulled out so many goals; was joint-top scorer with Dhanraj Pillay. Alistair Fredrics was the first non-white hockey international, played well.

They came again in 1995 for same Indira Gold Cup. It was a brilliant side. It was on the other pool, did not engage India.

Their third and last visit was in 1996 when India beat them 3-0 to win the Chief Minister Cup in Chennai.

The 2012 is the third test between the two, and fourth visit of the Africans to India.

African men nowadays are not what they used to be in the 90s, and are somewhat running on a weak phase. That India scored four goals in the second half after both were 3-3 at one point in the recent Champions Challenge I is a proof. Earlier in the pool too India overcame them easily (4-2).

However, it is worthwhile to recollect the first Champions Challenge Cup (2001). Led by Baljit Singh Dhillon and trained by Cedric D’souza, India won them 2-1 in the final to earn a berth for the 2002 Champions Trophy. It was a tough match indeed in Kuala Lumpur.

At the same time, it is also interesting to recall the scenario of 1999. Coach Baskaran was just recalled to the hot seat, after Harcharan Singh was shown the doors after a token tour. India drew two matches and lost three, returned without a token win.

Therefore, it is time for the then captain Md. Riaz to return the same in the company of his senior coach Michael Nobbs.

Though India and South Africa were meeting frequently in the 90s, it has drastically came down later. For instance, they have met only 13 times since 2001 out of which India lost only once, while winning 8. Others are drawn.

2001 Champions Challenge Cup 2-2
2001 Champions Challenge Cup 2-1 (Final)
2004 HA Challenge Cup 6-4
2004 HA Challenge Cup 4-3
2004 HA Challenge Cup 0-1
2004 Olympics 4-2
2005 Azlan Shah Cup 2-1
2006 Commonwealth Games 2-0
2006 World Cup 1-1
2006 World Cup 1-0
2010 World Cup 3-3
2011 Champions Challenge Cup 4-2
2011 Champions Challenge Cup 7-4

Stick2Hockey.com



Indian women ready for Azerbaijan

Ritu Sejwal


NEW DELHI: With only a month to go for the London Olympic qualifiers, the Indian women's hockey team has decided to leave behind injury woes and instead make the most of the four-'test' match series it is set to play against Azerbaijan at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium from Sunday.

"It will be a good exposure for everyone. We want to see how the girls perform, whether they can sustain the intensity during pressure moments. This test series will help us analyse all that," team's coach C R Kumar said on Friday.

"On the exposure trips in the past, we missed out on important field goal opportunities as the girls only managed to score goals through penalty corners," he said referring to the team's performance in the four-nation tournament in Argentina.

However, the coach brushed aside any major fitness issues in the team. "There are no major injuries. Some members had niggles during the 'test' series in Australia but have recovered. Yes, they are yet to match the fitness levels required in a hockey game," Kumar added.

The Indian camp has 48 probables and the performance in the upcoming series will decide who gets to don Indian colours in the Olympic qualifiers from February 18-26. India will compete against Ukraine, Poland, Canada, Italy and South Africa in the qualifiers.

"The national selectors will be present during the series to shortlist the final team for the qualifiers. The idea is that everyone gets the exposure," he said.

The Times of India



Indian women take on Azerbaijan

Principal Correspondent


In the run-up to the Olympic qualifier next month, Indian women's hockey team will try out as many combinations as it can in the four-match Test series against Azerbaijan to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from Sunday.

Literally it will be a test for the home players as some of them are making a comeback from injuries and fitness related issues. Coach C.R. Kumar said he would try at least 32 players to get the best possible squad for the qualifier, scheduled from February 18 to 26.

Some experienced players are returning to action after a layoff while a few others are recovering from fractures in hands. “There are no major injuries, only some minor issues are there,” said Kumar on Saturday.

“It will be an opportunity how they sustain the intensity,” he added.

Kumar said the focus would be on scoring more field goals. “In recent tournaments we had missed a lot of scoring chances. The optimum priority will be to see the strikers score.”

He said since all major teams were busy for the Champions Trophy in Argentina, India had to play with 15th-ranked Azerbaijan.

Good outing

Captain Asunta Lakra hoped it would be a good outing against Azerbaijan, which it had played twice in the Champions Challenge in Ireland in June last. India had won the matches 7-2 and 3-1.

Azerbaijan, which plays its Olympic qualifier in Japan in April, looks forward to start its preparation with the series against 13th-ranked India.

The Hindu



'Azerbaijan tie a test for Olympic qualifiers'

NEW DELHI: Indian women's hockey coach C R Kumar on Saturday said that the four 'Test' matches against Azerbaijan, starting from Sunday, would give the national selectors a chance to identify the best players for the Olympic qualifiers to be held next month.

"The four Tests would help the selectors watch all the 32 to 42 probables here and then select the best among them for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers," said Kumar on the eve of the first Test.

"We would also be able to judge how they can perform and how much they can sustain their intensity. All parameters would be kept in mind," he added.

India will compete against Ukraine, Poland, Canada, Italy and South Africa in the Olympic qualifiers to be held from February 18-26.

The coach said although the team did well in Test series in Australia and then in four-nation tournament in Argentina (involving Ireland, Argentina and South Africa), goal scoring was an area where the Indian women need to give maximum emphasis.

"We missed a lot of scoring opportunities, so that will be the maximum priority," Kumar said.

The women's team has been attending a preparatory camp for the qualifiers at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Asked why India chose to play Azerbaijan, who are ranked lower than them, and not a higher ranked side before the Olympic qualifiers, Kumar explained, "The good thing about Azerbaijan is that it has a lot of Korean players and they are ranked 15th in the world. So, that means they will display a fast game.

"So, they cannot be taken lightly and it will be helpful in for our preparations for the qualifiers."

Captain Ashunta Lakra also said that Azerbaijan play tough hockey and that would give her team a good chance to analyse their game.

"Azerbaijan team is good. Though we are better skill-wise, they play tough hockey. So we cannot effort to miss our chances against them as it could mean trouble," said Lakra.

Lakra, like her coach, admitted that the team would have to improve on their goal scoring.

"Our focus would be on goal-scoring," she insisted. After tomorrow's first game, the second match will be played on January 16, third on January 18 and the final Test on January 19.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan women's hockey team manager Rashad Alizada said that playing against India in the four Tests will be a good way of preparing for their Olympic qualifiers to be held in Japan in Arpil.

"India are a good side. They are higher ranked than us. So this will be a good preparation for the qualifiers," said Alizada.

Azerbaijan defender Khatira Aliyeva agreed with her team manager said that playing against India would be a good preparation.

"We hope to do well in Olympic qualifiers and playing against India would be very good preparation," she said.

The Times of India



Olympic qualifiers: ‘Indian hockey will be dead if we miss out this time’

Harpreet Kaur Lamba


Of all the stories surrounding India’s Olympic eight gold medals in hockey, perhaps the most compelling comes from the 1936 Berlin Games.

A day after the Games opened, the city was covered in posters that read - "the Olympic complex now has a magic show too!" The reference was to the legendary Dhyan Chand and his brilliant stick work, which even had German dictator Adolf Hitler in awe.

India beat Germany 8-1 in the final, forcing the legendary US athlete Jesse Owens - taking part in his first Games then - to say, "It is always the Indian team that wins the gold."

Representing the country at the Olympics still remains the biggest dream of any athlete, and when one talks of Indian hockey, its past can never be discounted.

Of the current Indian squad - in the capital for a preparatory camp for the Olympic qualifiers - only four know the feeling, and pride, of being at the biggest stage.

Ignace Tirkey, Arjun Halappa, Vikram Pillay and Sandeep Singh were members of the 2004 Athens Games squad and are now hoping to take the flight to London, come July 2012.

Drag-flicker Sandeep says the feeling of being at the Olympics is "incomparable".

"I was only 17 when I took the flight to Athens and it was very special for me. It was an honour to be among the best athletes in the world," he recalled.

Forward Halappa, who shared a room with the then-India skipper Dhanraj Pillay, said it remained his best memory till date.

"Getting to the Village itself was very special. I remember meeting athletes like Maurice Greene, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer. It was very sad that we could not bring laurels for the country, but these memories will remain with us."

The eight years since an Indian hockey team took part in an Olympic Games, though is a reflection of the slump the sport is in. Much has transpired since India’s miss at the 2008 Chile qualifiers, but nothing that has lifted the team from the depths.

Sandeep was forthright in his assessment. "We have faced a lot in these eight years.

There have been a few high and some very low moments.

"And let’s accept it. If we miss it one more time, Indian hockey will be dead and forgotten," said the 24-year old.

During the last six months, the youngsters in the camp have often walked up to the Olympians, asking them to narrate their experiences of the Games.

"Most of the players ask me what it is like to be there. I tell them it is a different feeling.

Even footballers like David Beckham speak about their desire of playing in the Olympics "Sadly, it has become a distant dream for us these days," said Halappa.

Ignace, the seniormost member of the team, said it is "a chance to rectify things".

"Nothing is more heart-breaking and we have seen it in Chile. Here is a chance to rectify things and we should not miss it," he said.

The Asian Age



School's out but hockey's in for Dennison

By Michael Burgess


Commitment is expected from all our top sportspeople but Rhiannon Dennison took things one step further last year.

The young Black Sticks defender quit school in 2011 because it was getting in the way of hockey and her goal of making the national team.

The move was not universally popular but she achieved her goal of national selection and is part of the squad that heads to Argentina today for the Champions Trophy in Rosario, preceded by a four nations challenge in Cordoba.

"It was getting harder and harder to juggle school and hockey," says Dennison of her Year 12 studies in 2011.

"In June, I decided to throw it in and leave school; I switched to correspondence so I could focus every day on hockey."

The 18-year-old says her parents were "awesome" and "100 per cent behind me" but some of the staff at Rangitoto College were less enamoured with the decision.

"Some of my teachers weren't too happy but I hope now it is okay," says Dennison. "I was missing a lot of classes anyway through hockey."

The extra focus was rewarded as she was selected for the tour to the US in August, then the subsequent Oceania series against Australia, and has now racked up six matches.

It was still a nervous wait on Champions Trophy selection in December.

She thought she had missed out when she heard the team had been announced and she hadn't received a phone call.

"There were a few tears," says Dennison, "but it turned out I had a flat cellphone battery. I was probably crying more when I realised I had made the team."

For Dennison the ligthtbulb moment when she realised that the silver fern could be a possibility came in 2009.

"I decided to do everything I could," remembers Dennison. "I was down at the turf practising all the time. I had a lot of friends in rep teams and we would train on specific things and I was always bugging coaches to do extra sessions."

She made national age group teams in 2010 before her call-up to full national honours last year. The Black Sticks were granted some time off over the Christmas break but Dennison, like the rest of the team, had to stick to strictly agreed training schedules.

She went running on Christmas Day - though it was definitely 'pre-turkey' - and another long jog on New Year's Day, sandwiched around other aerobic work.

Dennison knows little about Argentina; only that it will be hot, with temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius after nightfall possible, and that the team's favourite game in the hour-long journey from their central city hotel to stadium on previous tours was counting the stray dogs.

Dennison, who was always a striker for her club and province, has mainly been used at the defensive end for the Black Sticks.

"I remember the first few trainings and I was put in the halves," says Dennison. "I thought it could be an interesting experience but later on I thought; 'wait a minute - is this permanent?"'

And yes, before you ask, Dennison is named after the classic Fleetwood Mac tune, a big hit on their breakthrough self-titled album of 1975.

"My parents really like the song," laughs Dennison, "especially my Dad. I don't mind; I think I first heard it when I was eight and it's on my Ipod now. But none of my friends tease me about it - no one in my age group knows who Fleetwood Mac is."

The Black Sticks face South Korea, Great Britain and Argentina in the four nations tournament which begins on January 18. From there, they travel to Rosario to play practice matches against Japan and China ahead of the Champions Trophy which starts on January 28 (January 29 NZT).They have not yet left the country but the women's Black Sticks have already suffered a setback.

Assistant coach Greg Nicol crashed off his bike last Friday afternoon and will now not be travelling with the team departing for Argentina today.

Nicol suffered a deep gash to his leg after falling from his bike when attempting to jump a kerb on his ride home from work. Hager drove him to North Shore hospital, where staff initially though a skin graft would be necessary before eventually settling for 15 stitches.

"It's far from ideal but we have to live with it - s**t happens," says Hager. "It just means my workload increases for the first section of the trip."

Hager, already known for the massive days he puts in where he often rises at 5am, will be running solo at the four nations tournament, as his other (part-time) assistant Chris Leslie is tied up with family commitments until January 23.

Nicol and Leslie are expected to arrive in Argentina just before the start of the Champions Trophy on January 28.

The New Zealand Herald



Intriguing fixture as champions clash in MJHL opener

KUALA LUMPUR: A clash between champions kicks off the 2011 MHC-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League (MJHL) on Jan 19.

Defending overall champions Thunderbolt open against league champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in the fixtures released yesterday.

In 2010 Thunderbolt won the league title by beating UniKL in the last match of the preliminary round. However, UniKL went on to win the overall title.

Last year, it was a neck-and-neck battle between the two until the last match of the fixtures. The game ended in a draw but UniKL took the league title on a better goal difference. Thunderbolt took revenge by winning the overall title.

This year, the two meet on the opening day at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru.

The fixtures were released yesterday at the sponsorship ceremony. Milo and the National Sports Council (NSC) have again signed on as sponsors for the MJHL. They have been sponsors since its inception in 1995.

The Milo sponsorship is expected to total around RM500,000 in cash and kind.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) senior vice-president Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad said that they are grateful to the two sponsors. He thanked them for agreeing to increase the prize money from RM85,000 to RM145,500 this year.

“This year is historic. We have a record 26 teams in the fray and there is also a big increase in prize money. And to top it, the two major sponsors have continued to stay with us. Now let us hope that the action on the field will be historic too,” said Nur Azmi.

UniKL team manager Amir Azhar said the excitement of the title race will fade after the first three weeks.

“The way the fixtures have been drawn the title race will be over by the time we reach the third week. We play Thunderbolt first and then we also have a match with the other contenders Bukit Jalil Sports School in the same week. Thunderbolt meet BJSS in the second week.

“So you can see that the front-runners for the title will be known by then and it is a matter of staying ahead of the pack,” he said.

Thunderbolt coach Lailin Abu Hassan said it was the luck of the draw that pitted the two champions in the opening match.

“It is okay as we would have to play them anyway. Our task is to win and hope that will lead us to the title. We will be ready for action next week,” he said.

The league begins on Jan 19 with three match days each week. The preliminary round ends on Feb 19. The top six teams from Division One and top two from Division Two qualify for the knockout stage. The final for the overall title is slated for March 24.

The Star of Malaysia



Hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons

THE year hasn't started on a good note for the associations that govern the biggest sports in Malaysia -- badminton, football and hockey.

All three have been in the news for the wrong reasons with the FA of Malaysia (FAM) and BA of Malaysia (BAM) hitting the headlines for their inability to make firm decisions.

BAM's handling of the high performance director issue was poor from day one and the association did itself no favours when it opted for a three-man committee on Friday.

Though BAM president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Salleh went to great lengths to explain the reasons behind the decision, it is pertinent to note that the committee is in place only till the London Olympics.

Now, with the Maybank Malaysia Open reaching its final day today, all fans will agree that as far as the national players are concerned, Lee Chong Wei is the only one who deserves to come under the supervision of the high performance committee.

Though BAM remains hopeful that Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will be right up there challenging for honours in London, one tends to believe that this will only be possible if the pairs from China, South Korea, Denmark and Indonesia were to withdraw from the Olympics.

BAM has, as pointed out this week, a problem and Hafiz Hashim's inclusion in the Thomas Cup squad is an indication of how severe the issue is.

What needs to be done then is to not limit the committee's scope to just the Olympics for Chong Wei has proven that he is level headed, willing to listen and will be ready for London.

What the committee must do is focus on the future for there will soon be no Chong Wei and with every other discipline not performing, badminton is heading for the dark ages.

Football is, after more than two decades, slowly emerging from the dark ages but sustained progress will only be possible if FAM stops flip-flopping.

Though bowing to Terengganu over the foreign players issue was, given the circumstances, the right decision to make, FAM did itself no favours with its initial handling of the problem.

What could have been settled with a meeting escalated into a war in the media and to be brutally honest, FAM is the big loser here.

Not only did it have to backtrack after some fiery statements by its officials but in its attempt to save face, FAM has reopened the door to all teams to register foreign players again.

Has it not heard of two wrongs don't make a right?

Wrong is what national hockey coach Tai Beng Hai attempted to correct when he took to task critics who have been speculating that all is not well in the squad.

A fuming Beng Hai denied allegations that there is a boycott by certain players and stressed that the squad are on track for the Olympic Qualifier in March.

That is excellent if this is indeed the case for what the nation wants is for the squad to make the Olympics and now that Beng Hai has made his point, he must get his players to start performing.

As for the newly-minted Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC), it would be good if the squad are paid visits on a more regular basis to ensure all is well and the nation can expect a fighting performance in the Qualifier in Ireland.

After all, the best way to start the year -- even if only in March -- is by ensuring Malaysia will have a sizeable contingent in the London Olympics.

New Straits Times