KUALA LUMPUR: Youngster Muhd Arif Syafie Ishak has been having the time of his life after being called up to the national hockey team for the first time.
Just a week into the squad, the Pekan-born Arif has been given a chance to train under legendary Dutch penalty corner drag flicker Taeke Taekema in Kuantan.
And Arif is just loving it as he is picking up valuable tips from Takema, regarded as one of the world’s top drag flickers.
Taekema represented Holland for 11 years from 2000 and has scored a total of 221 goals in 242 matches.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) invited Taekema to Malaysia for a week following a request from national coach Roelant Oltmans in a bid to help improve Malaysian players’ penalty corner conversion rate in tournaments.
Arif, who impressed the national selectors after converting six penalty corners for Tenaga in the recent Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), said it was a dream come true to learn from a legend like Taekema.
“Taekema was the top drag flicker during his time and I’m impressed with his prowess in goal scoring,” said Arif.
“Many goalkeepers used to fear him as he had such accuracy in penalty corners.
“I’m lucky to get valuable tips from Taekema on how to improve my drag flicks. He also taught me how to build up my confidence in taking penalty corners.
“I’m so happy with my first national call-up and I’m doing all I can to impress the national coach.”
If Arif continues to impress, he may even get a chance to represent Malaysia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh next week as two defenders – captain Muhd Sukri Abdul Mutalib and Syed Mohamad Syafiq Syed Cholan – are injured.
“All I can do is to just keep my fingers crossed,” said Arif, who was a member of the Malaysian team that won their first-ever Youth Olympic gold medal in Buenos Aires last October.
Apart from Malaysia, five other teams - India, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Poland – will feature in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
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