KUALA LUMPUR: This year’s title race in Division One and Division Two of the Razak Cup hockey tournament is expected to be an open affair.
The Razak Cup tournament will be held at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh beginning today and most of the teams will be fielding many of their young players in preparation for next year’s Perak Sukma at the same venue.
The fact that the national players are all equally divided in both divisions makes it an even playing field.
Terengganu, Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Police will start as favourites in Division One while Pahang, Perlis and Selangor should be the main contenders in the lower division.
After for the first time after almost a decade, there will be three foreign teams in the fray in Division Two, with Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand providing some glamour as they try to gain more exposure.
They are unlikely to be a threat to Pahang, Selangor or Perlis.
Terengganu will be the team to beat in Division One. Not only have they been Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) champions for the last three years, they also easily won the Razak Cup title for the second time last year.
But Terengganu coach Sarjit Singh was quick to point out that “there are no favourites this year”.
“A lot of teams are using young players and that will give every team an equal chance of winning. We have 11 Sukma players and it will be similar with the other teams as well,” he said.
Negri Sembilan coach S. Chandran picked Perak to be the biggest threat “as they have six or seven national players”.
“The other teams are more evenly matches.
“So I don’t really see any team running away with the title.
“The form of the day is very important,” he said.
KL coach I. Vicknesweran also feels the same.
“Basically, all teams will initially aim to reach the semi-finals.
“Every group match will be crucial.
“We are looking for winning start because the opening ties are always tricky,” he said.
The former international also welcomed the move by all the teams in fielding younger players as “this will allow them to gain invaluable experience”.
Penang, who gained promotion from the lower division last year, will be the dark horse as they aim to stay in the top tier
Actually, that will be the main agenda of all eight teams in Division One.
In Division Two, former champions Pahang will be looking for a quick return to the top division after being demoted last year.
Selangor are another former champions trying to get back after languishing in Division Two for several years.
Overall, the Razak Cup should be an exciting affair in both divisions.
KL lead the Razak Cup series with 19 titles, followed by Perak (seven).