KUALA LUMPUR: No one gave Malaysia a ghost of a chance of winning gold in the boys’ hockey competition at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But that’s exactly what the boys did and they delivered it with a bang.
National coach Wallace Tan’s side upset India 4-2 in the final at the Parque Polideportivo Roca Stadium on Sunday.
Striker Muhd Akhimullah Anuar Esook was the hero of the Malaysian team as he not only scored two goals in the final but became the Games’ top scorer by netting 22 goals in seven matches.
In the final, Terengganu-born Akhimullah scored in the 14th and 19th minutes.
Mohd Firdaus Rosdi (eighth) and skipper Amirul Hamizan Azahar (17th) delivered the other goals for Malaysia.
Both India’s goal were scored by captain Vivek Prasad in the third and sixth minutes.
The 18-year-old Akhimullah, who was also the joint top scorer at the Asian Youth Olympics Qualifier in Bangkok with 17 goals with India’s Vivek, was thrilled to bits with his efforts.
“Never in my wildest dreams that we would win the gold at the Youth Olympics as we were not sure of the strength of the other teams,” said Akhimullah.
“We were the newcomers, we were just hoping to go as far as we can in the Games.
“But after finishing runners-up in Group A behind Argentina, our confidence level grew for the knockout stage.
“Winning gold in the Youth Olympics is the best achievement at the age-group tournament and it augurs well for hockey in Malaysia.
“We will now focus on qualifying for the 2020 World Junior Championship (the dates and venue have yet to be decided).
“I am also happy with my performance as I not only helped Malaysia to win gold but also did well to win the top scorer award,” he added. Most of the Malaysian players are from the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) students in Bandar Penawar.
This was the first time Malaysia team qualified for the Youth Olympics after they finished runners-up to India in the Asian Youth Olympics Qualifiers tournament in Bangkok in April.
In Bangkok, India edged Malaysia 2-1 in penalty shootout after both teams played to a 4-4 draw in regulation time.