KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Mohd Azwar Abdul Rahman’s decision to take a semester break from his studies paid off when he was called up to play in the third edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup, which begins at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on Sunday.
The Sungai Petani-born player was offered a sports science degree course at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam in June.
He registered for it but immediately asked for a break from studies, a decision the diminutive Azwar is glad he made.
“I took a gamble by skipping my first semester to feature in the Sultan of Johor Cup and it paid off handsomely.
“It’s also the biggest break of my hockey career as the Sultan of Johor Cup will be my first tournament since joining the national junior team a year ago,” said Azwar, who is also the youngest player among the 18 named for the tournament.
Azwar was from the 2017 project squad but was called up to join the Project 2013 last September because of his talent and skills.
Azwar, who guided Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI)-Thunderbolts to bag the league and overall titles in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) this year, went on a playing tour to South Korea in June, a tour to Europe in July and another playing tour to Brisbane last month.
He scored one goal in the tour to Korea, two in Europe and four in the Brisbane tour.
Although small in size, he has proven that he has the capabilities to score goals.
“My mission in the tournament is to give my best and win a place in the Junior World Cup (in New Delhi from Dec 6-15),” said Azwar.
The tournament in Johor is also part of the national junior team’s preparations for the Junior World Cup.
National juniors coach K. Dharmaraj said that although Azwar might not have the size, he definitely has the capabilities to beat bigger players and to score goals.
“I believe he will shine in Johor Baru and live up to my expectations,” said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia started their training at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on Monday and will play a friendly against India on Friday before opening their campaign against Argentina on Sunday.
Their other matches are against S. Korea (Sept 23), England (Sept 25), Pakistan (Sept 26) and India (Sept 28).
The final and placing matches are slated for Sept 29.
Malaysia won the inaugural tournament in 2011 by defeating Australia 3-2 in the final.
But the national juniors ended up being wooden-spoonists in the six-nation tournament last year.
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