KUALA LUMPUR: For three decades, Kuala Lumpur were the team to beat in the Razak Cup hockey competition.
But in recent years, they have become just another team trying to make the final.
KL’s last title was in 2010 and since then their best finish was runners-up in 2013 and third in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Last year they were fifth.
The 19-time champions have found the going tough since the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) changed the eligibility ruling to allow the states to use only players born in the state.
Although the bulk of the national players and other young stars work in the capital and play for the clubs in the state league, they are not allowed to play for KL. This has prompted the KL side to groom their own players.
Like in recent years, KL will again field a young side for the tournament which begins at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh on Saturday.
Coach I. Vickneswaran (pic) has four national players – Mohamed Ramadan Rosli, Joel van Huizen, Mohamed Shahril Saabah and Mohamed Aideed – and two ex-internationals – Baljit Singh and Hizzat Sumantri – as the core of his team.
He also has national Under-21 player Syafiq Sumantri in the side.
“Of course we want to regain the title. But the target is to make the semi-finals and take it from there,” said Vickneswaran.
To prepare for the tournament, KL will play two friendlies against Police before they leave for Ipoh on Friday.
Playing in Division One, KL are in Group A with defending champions Terengganu, Penang and Melaka. Group B has Police, Perak, Johor and Negri Sembilan.
“We only started training two weeks ago. It’s not ideal and the national players only joined us on Sunday.
“We are in a tough group with all the team having been champions before. But we will do the best we can.
“We play Melaka in our first match on Saturday. The aim is to go for a winning start and use each game to improve our performance. Teamwork will be a key factor,” said Vickneswaran.