GEORGE TOWN: Coach Bob Rajendran has never failed to steer the Penang men’s hockey team to at least the semi-finals in all his seven previous outings in the Malaysia Games (Sukma).
The 67-year-old is out to keep the proud record intact on his eighth appearance in the biennial event in Kuching this week.
Bob has coached Penang in every edition since the 2000 Penang Games, with the exception of Negri Sembilan 2004 when he was briefly coaching in Sarawak.
“This is my eighth Sukma in charge of Penang. My fire and enthusiasm is still strong. I’m doing this (coaching) for the love of the sport and I will continue to serve hockey as long as I can,” said Bob.
In the Sukma hockey competition, which begins on Wednesday, Bob will not be satisfied with just reaching the last four again. He wants the elusive gold medal.
The nearest he got to winning the gold was in Sabah in 2002, when Penang went down fighting to Kuala Lumpur on a wet night.
As he is no longer able to physically keep up with his players during training, Bob is aided by former international M. Jiwa Mohan.
Jiwa featured for Penang in the 2000 and 2002 Sukma competitions under Bob.
“Jiwa came forward to help me whip the boys into shape. He is a big help.
“We took the boys for a short playing stint in Perth during the fasting month. We played five friendlies against Australian opponents. We expected to get thrashed by the Aussies, but the boys held their own and even managed to beat a junior team 6-1 in one of the matches,” said Bob.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Penang in their preparations for the Games.
The men’s hockey team do not have a permanent training venue and had even travelled to train in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
There are only two artificial hockey pitches in Penang – one within the Universiti Sains Malaysia campus and the other is the Mutiara Impian Sports School turf, which is used by the Penang women’s hockey team to prepare for Sukma.
The artificial turf laid at the Bertam Hockey Stadium in Kepala Batas for the 2000 Sukma has not been replaced despite it being in a deplorable and unplayable state for many years now.
In the Sukma men’s hockey competition, Penang are in Group A with Perak, Malacca, Johor, Perlis and Sarawak.
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