KUALA LUMPUR: The absence of eight affiliates of the Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) from the women’s Razak Cup hockey tournament should not detract the value or competitiveness of the event.
Debutants Indonesia will vie with eight other local teams – defending champions Pahang, last year’s runners-up Armed Forces, Kuala Lumpur, Terengganu, Perak, Johor, Selangor and Melaka – for the Cup.
The eight absentees are Police, Sarawak, Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Penang, Sabah and Negri Sembilan.
Most of the teams had cited the ongoing Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations as a reason for not sending a team this year.
But KLHA vice-president and organising chairperson K. Mahes-wari said that efforts should have been made to include senior players in their squads.
“It all boils down to proper planning and having a league within their states to find talented players.
“We are grateful to the teams who have agreed to participate and the show must go on. Those who have opted not to compete are only depriving their players of an opportunity to excel at the highest level of competition for women,” she said.
Maheswari also explained that all matches would be moved forward by an hour due to the unpredictable weather conditions.
“This will ensure we have enough time to complete the matches should it rain,” she said.
The champions will receive RM5,000, the runners-up RM3,000 and third-placed team RM2,000.
Pahang will start as odds-on favourites to retain the title.
They have been boosted by the presence of national players such as Siti Noor Amarina Ruhani, midfielder Wan Norfaiezah Saiuti, drag-flick specialist Nuraini Rashid, Rabiatul Adawiyah Moha-med, S. Priyangga, Siti Zaidah, Fatin Naimah and former international Nadia Abdul Rahman.
Coached by former international Benedict Arrias, Pahang probably pack too much power for their opponents.
Johor are another team aiming to make the semi-finals after finishing eighth last year.
They have national assistant coach Lailin Abu Hassan as coach and can rely on the experience of players such as Norafiza Sulaiman, Marlia Mohamed, Noor Hayati Sirkam, Nurul Nadia Aziz and Fatin Nabilah Husna Mansor.
With the inclusion of national goalkeeper Farah Ayuni Yahya, Johor will prove to be a tough nut to crack.