Newly appointed hockey head coach K. Dharmaraj giving instructions to his players at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday. - BRAIN MOH/The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: K. Dharmaraj never thought that he would become national chief coach this soon.
The Malacca-born Dharmaraj was named assistant to Paul Revington just two weeks ago. It was a well-deserved “promotion” after guiding the national juniors to a creditable fourth place finish in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last month.
Dharmaraj, who was the national juniors coach since 2010, said that he had envisioned becoming the national chief coach one day, but he never expected it to happen so fast.
He wanted to gain experience by learning everything about coaching from Revington for at least a year before thinking of becoming the national chief coach.
However, on Sunday, Dharmaraj was appointed Revington’s successor by the MHC (Malaysian Hockey Confederation) after the South African resigned due to health reasons.
“I am surprised that MHC wants me to replace Revington,” said the 45-year-old former international.
“I hardly have any experience under Revington coaching the national team.
“I thank MHC for having faith in me. It will be a challenge for me to guide the national team in competitions this year.
“But I will work hard to achieve this year’s targets set by the MHC,” said Dharmaraj, who completed his first training session as the new chief coach at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
The five major assignments for Dharmaraj this year start with the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh from March 13-23.
This is followed by the Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan from April 26-May 4, World Cup in The Hague, Holland, from May 31-June 15, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games from July 23-Aug 3 and the Incheon Asian Games from Oct 19-Oct 4.
Dharmaraj said that his biggest assignment this year is to guide Malaysia to win the Asian Games in September as this will help Malaysia qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
“Malaysia have not featured in the Olympics since Sydney in 2000. So it will be a challenge for me to help the national team in less than nine months to achieve this target after a lapse of 14 years,” said Dharmaraj, who featured in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The Asian Games gold medallist will gain an automatic berth for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Dharmaraj said he would continue training the 35 players he has in the training squad until after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
“I will use the tournament to gauge the performance of the few players who have been called up for national training for the first time.
“The first vital assignment for me will be the Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Kuantan, which is important as the winner of the meet will be promoted to next year’s Champions Trophy.
“But it’s not going to be easy as we have strong teams like Asia Cup champions South Korea and also New Zealand, who finished runners-up in the inaugural World League final in New Delhi last week,” said Dharmaraj, who is proud to be at the helm of local hockey, which is the highest-achieving team sport in Malaysia.