Wednesday, 30 July 2014 | MYT 8:26 PM
Hockey team's showing is simply an embarrassment and a farce
Malaysia's Mohd Azri Hassan battles for the ball as three Trinidad & Tobago players surround him. - GLENN GUAN / The Star
GLASGOW: Hockey used to be one of the most popular team sports in Malaysia.
And it is also the one sport to have qualified for the most number of Olympic Games – eight.
Malaysian hockey made its debut in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics – a year before the country gained independence.
Malaysia have also competed in six World Cups – the latest being in The Hague, Holland, last month where they finished last out of 12 teams.
The best Malaysia have done in the World Cup was a fourth placing in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.
It was one of the proudest moments for Malaysia in world hockey.
That’s the kind of history that Malaysia boast in world hockey and not many can even dream of.
Yet, on Tuesday, a team from Trinidad and Tobago turned Malaysian hockey into a laughing stock when they stunned coach K. Dharmaraj’s men 4-2 in a group match of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
That must surely rank as one of the most embarrassing and disgraceful losses ever for the national team.
What makes the defeat even harder to stomach is the fact that Trinidad are ranked a lowly 29th in the world – that’s 16 spots below Malaysia – and have never featured in the Olympics or World Cup before.
And hockey is not even a popular sport in Trinidad, who only have five AstroTurf pitches – compared to 40 in Malaysia!
To put matters into perspective, Malaysia hammered Trinidad 8-0 in a group match at the last Commonwealth Games in New Delhi four years ago.
Malaysia came to Glasgow with morale at its lowest and confidence in the abyss following their last-placing in the World Cup in The Hague.
Still, they began promisingly – beating Canada 2-0 in the opening game last Saturday.
In the second game, they continued to impress – holding the fancied England to a 1-1 draw in the first half.
Then, out of the blue, their game fell apart in the second half and England scored an average of one goal every five minutes to pulverise the dazed Malaysians 8-1.
Many just brushed it off as a one off.
But what happened next – against Trinidad – has left many baffled and embarrassed.
Malaysia conceded three early goals in the first 16 minutes to lose 4-2.
Is it because Malaysia underestimated Trinidad? Is it because there is a player revolt against coach Dharmaraj? Is it because Dharmaraj has no tactical nous to coach the team? Or is it simply because the national players have become big-headed?
It is probably a combination of all the above.
If you were to look back and try to trace when the rot started, you don’t need to go too far back.
It all began to unravel at last month’s World Cup in Holland – where they lost all six matches, scored just eight and conceded 26 en route to finishing last.
Dharmaraj retained just four players from that disastrous World Cup squad and brought some young players to Glasgow.
Even with this so-called weakened side, Malaysia should have seen Trinidad off comfortably.
No, there definitely is something wrong with the national team.
Ask anyone who has been following the Malaysian team’s performance in Glasgow and they will tell you that there is a lack of commitment among the players and virtually zero fighting spirit in them.
In fact, some seem to view this Glasgow trip as a holiday than taking part in a tournament.
Talk of a player revolt is also not off the mark because there are indeed some who are unhappy that Dharmaraj was chosen to take over from Paul Revington as the national chief coach in January.
These players are said to be rallying to get Dharmaraj out.
Let’s take a look at Dharmaraj’s record as a coach thus far.
He did well to guide Malaysia to a creditable fourth placing in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December.
He then led the senior national team to a runners-up finish in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in March before taking the team to their first-ever bronze medal in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan in April.
So, why are these players unhappy with Dharmaraj being the coach?
Some former coaches also feel that Dharmaraj does not have the ability to handle the national team because of his lack of experience.
But if he is not given the job, how then is he going to gain experience?
There will be plenty of discussion in the next few weeks about what went wrong in the game against Trinidad but as far as Dharmaraj is concerned, he prefers to stay mum until the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept 19-Oct 4.
Whether he will still be in charge by then is anyone’s guess.
Malaysia won the silver in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have set a lofty target for the team in Incheon: Win the gold and qualify automatically for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
It’s still not too late to revise your target, MHC.
Let’s face it. As long as we have prima donnas in the team and as long as the players do not want to change their attitude and commitment, there’s nothing Dharmaraj – or a foreign coach – can do for Malaysian hockey.
If only these bunch of sorry losers can learn from the women’s table tennis players about commitment, determination and spirit.
The women’s table tennis team defied the odds to reach the final although their target was only to win the bronze in the team event.
Paddler Ng Sock Khim, who was told by her doctor to rest after undergoing a knee surgery last December, played on by strapping her knee.
Now that’s courage and commitment for you.