Hafifihafiz Hanafi (right) seen here in action against Japan in a test match at Bukit Jalil in 2011, was a surprise inclusion into the Malaysia World Cup hockey squad who start their campaign against Australia on Saturday at The Hague, Holland.
THE HAGUE: The last two years have been pure agony and uncertainty for hockey player Hafifihafiz Hanafi.
He injured his knee in October 2012 and had to sit out the whole of last year trying hard to recover from it. It was only in April that he finally got the full clearance to train and was recalled to the side just two weeks before the Champions Challenge I started in Kuantan.
He didn’t make the final team and at that point thought that playing in the World Cup would remain just a dream.
The Maybank player is already 28 years old and time is not on his side.
He was caught by surprise when the final 18 players for the World Cup were named on May 21 by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) and his name was on the list.
“I am thankful my sacrifices have not gone in vain. It was a pleasant surprise and I want to make sure that I do my best and repay the faith the coach has in me.
“It is difficult to express my feelings as I wait for the opening match. My only thought is to score goals and help Malaysia win our matches,” he said.
The Perak-born player has a silver medal from the 2010 Asian Games and has played in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Champions Trophy as well.
He was a member of the 2005 National Juniors team coached by Sarjit Singh. Two years later he made the national team and earned a regular berth. It was also in 2005 that he joined Maybank, which he now plays for in the Malaysia Hockey League.
Now with the biggest hockey stage waiting for him, Hafifi believes they need to create history.
“Our target is to finish in the top 10, but I think we must work hard to do better and try to match the eighth placing earned by the 2002 squad.
“I believe that my team-mates are also determined to do better and we will try our best to spring a surprise,” he said.
The Malaysians open their campaign with their Group A match against world number one Australia on Saturday.