Arulselvaraj (right) was the assistant coach to Paul Revington (left) when the South African was in charge in 2012.
KUALA LUMPUR: A. Arulselvaraj is now the chief coach of the national hockey team, replacing under-fire K. Dharmaraj.
Arulselvaraj’s first assignment is the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea from Sept 19-Oct 4. He will be assisted by former national coach Tai Beng Hai, who has also been named the team manager.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said the appointments were just an interim measure.
In a surprise move, the MHC also decided to replace the entire team management, including team manager George Koshy and assistant coaches K. Gobinathan and Nor Azlan Bakar.
“The changes are just for the Asian Games as we are in the process of looking for a foreign coach. We have to admit that the team have not done well and that the changes were necessary at this point of time,” said Tengku Abdullah after the MHC council meeting.
“We would like to thank Dharmaraj for having taken change of the team for the past seven months. Since he has a contract with us, we will redesignate him after a discussion with the National Sports Council (NSC).”
Tengku Abdullah admitted that the team management had failed in their objectives in the past two tournaments – the World Cup in The Hague, Holland, and the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Malaysia finished last in the 12-team World Cup. At the Commonwealth Games, Dharmaraj’s team finished seventh. The Malaysians also suffered a humiliating 4-2 defeat in the hands of minnows Trinidad and Tobago in a group match.
“Under the circumstances, we need to replace the entire team management,” he added.
Tengku Abdullah also pointed out that the changes were done on merit and not due to personal issues.
“We took into account the report from our evaluation panel. They looked into the preparations as well as the performance at the World Cup. It was clear from the report that there were major issues in the team.
“I don’t want to go into the details. But three important things were mentioned in the report. One was the fitness level of the team. It was not good enough. Then, there was player power and the discipline was really bad. All these started after the sudden resignation of Paul Revington in January.”
Tengku Abdullah said that he had given Dhamaraj a vote of confidence when he appointed him as chief coach in January.
“Unfortunately, the results did not measure up to our expectations. The problems in the team were also too big to be ignored,” he added.
As for Arulselvaraj’s target, Tengku Abdullah said he would be tasked to take the team to the Asiad final.
Earlier, the MHC had set a gold medal target for the team.
The Asian Games is a qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Only the gold medallists will be given an automatic berth at the Games.