Hope springs eternal for hockey team in London qualifier as Britain loom

  • Hockey
  • Wednesday, 30 Oct 2019

PETALING JAYA: Three-time champions Pakistan have failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games – will Malaysia suffer the same fate in Europe next?

Former hockey greats Pakistan, the Olympic winners in 1960, 1969 and 1984 and who last won a medal – a bronze at the 1992 Games, were crushed 1-6 by Holland in the second leg Olympic qualifiers in Amstelveen, Holland, on Monday.

They had earlier held the Dutch team 4-4 in the first leg at the same venue but with the defeat on Monday, world No. 3 Holland booked the Olympic ticket on a 10-5 aggregate.

Like Pakistan, Malaysia will play in their opponents’ den too when they take on Britain in London during the two-leg Olympic qualifiers on Nov 2 and 3 at the Lee Valley Hockey Stadium.

The Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal (pic) has chosen to be optimistic about Malaysia’s chances although he is still riled up that his boys have to play both the qualifying legs in Britain’s territory.

“It’s unfair for Pakistan who also had to play both their matches in Holland,” said Subahan, who was not surprised with Pakistan’s 1-6 defeat to Holland in the second leg.

“It’s one sided and unfair but unfortunately, those are the rules set by the FIH (International Hockey Federation). Malaysia are in the same predicament but I believe the players will cope well.

“It’s not easy against Britain but nothing is impossible if the boys put their heart and soul into the two matches in Britain’s backyard.”

Malaysia have arrived in London after completing their friendlies against Dutch clubs in Holland over the last few days. Roelant Oltman’s men were beaten by Gazellen-Combinatie (4-1) and HC Bloemendaal (4-2) respectively.

Some may consider the defeats against the clubs as a bad omen before their crucial matches against Britain, but Subahan stayed positive.

“I won’t say the boys played badly because we know the quality of Dutch hockey is very high, so are their clubs. After all, the Dutch national team had just beaten Pakistan,” said Subahan.

“And it’s not easy as the weather is cold, everything is different even from the way they use their sticks.

“So we can’t read too much into the friendlies. They were good “warm-up” matches as they have given the coach a chance to experiment with a few things.

“I believe Roelant knows what he is doing and I’m confident that the team will do well.

“The MHC have given the best support to the team over the last four years – financially and morally. The team know what it means to play for the country.

“Now it’s up to the boys to perform and hopefully, they can turn the tables on Britain and do the country proud.”

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