Seasoned campaigners thrilled to play international ice hockey at home


Giving full attention: National coach Kristof Kovago giving instructions to his players during a training session at the Ice Hockey Stadium in Empire City Mall last month. — Reuters

Giving full attention: National coach Kristof Kovago giving instructions to his players during a training session at the Ice Hockey Stadium in Empire City Mall last month. — Reuters

TENGKU Azlly Tengku Abdillah and Moi Jia Yung have 20 years experience with the national ice hockey team.

But when the SEA Games get under way, the duo will be feeling like rookies all over again as this will be the first time they are competing in an international match on home soil.

This is also the first time that ice hockey has been included in the SEA Games programme and a new rink has been built at the Empire City Mall.

The other teams taking part are Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. There is only one gold medal on offer in ice hockey.

Defender Jia Yung, 33, is thrilled at the prospect of playing an international match in front of the home crowd.

“This is really an exciting time for us in the ice hockey team, especially for me as this will be the first time after 20 years that I’ll get to play an international match at home.

“I’m really looking forward to it and hope to enjoy it to the fullest,” he said.

Goalkeeper Tengku Azilly, 36, is just as delighted to finally get a chance to showcase their talent at home.

“We have always played our international matches away from home. So, this is a new beginning for the sport. I feel like we are just starting over,” he said.

And Jia Yung has called on his teammates to rise to the occasion and make it a special moment for ice hockey at the KL Games.

“Singapore and Thailand will be our main threat. But we must be ready for any teams and take advantage of any opportunities that come our way,” said Jia Yung, who is aware that the national team have failed to shine in their first two assignments of the year, including in the Interna­tional Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) in Bangkok last month.

Malaysia lost all four games to finish last in the five-team competition. They were thrashed 15-1 by Thailand and edged 5-4 by Singapore. They also lost 10-3 to the United Arab Emirates and 10-5 to Mongolia.

The national team, coached by Hungarian Kristof Kovago, also took part in the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, in February.

They only won one of their three Division II matches – beating Indonesia 13-2 – on the way to finishing 15th overall.

Despite the setbacks, Tengku Azily believes they can give the other teams a fight for their money.

“We have a team of experienced players and youngsters who are determined to prove themselves at home. Thailand and Singapore may have had better results, but we will have home support. So, you never know,” he said.

SEA Games 2017 , Ice Hockey , SEA Games , Asia