KUALA LUMPUR: It’s unfair.
National women’s hockey coach K. Dharmaraj is stumped by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation’s (MHC) decision to let him go together with five other local coaches.
The MHC, on Saturday, decided not to extend the contracts of Dharmaraj, national assistant coach Stephen van Huizen, national junior coach Nor Saiful Zaini, Mohd Nasihin Nubli, Lailin Abu Hassan and Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi – that runs until end of this month.
These coaches were however, given some reprieve.
They are released to coach the clubs in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) starting on Jan 10.
The MHC will gauge their performance during the league before they name the new set of coaches by March 1.
MHC’s tough stance in their bid for a revamp of the coaching setup is understandable as the national men’s team have failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. They have, however, decided to keep national chief coach Roelant Oltmans, who has a two- plus-two-years contract.
Dharmaraj says the decision is baffling.
“My contract ends this month and I will be without a job for two months. And I have a family to support, ” said Dharmaraj.
“The league begins in three weeks’ time and in such a short time-frame which club will hire me?
“Most of the clubs already have their coaches for the MHL. There are several small clubs like UiTM (Universiti Teknologi Mara) but they can’t afford to hire me as their coach.
“If I don’t have a club to coach in the MHL, then how can MHC gauge my performance.”
Dharmaraj guided the national juniors to win their first Junior Asia Cup in Melaka in 2012. The win enabled Malaysia to qualify for the 2013 Junior World Cup in New Delhi where they finished a creditable fourth among 16 teams.
Dharmaraj also led the national women’s team to finish runners-up in the World League Second Round in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 to qualify for the first time for the World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Belgium in 2018.
He also guided the women’s indoor hockey team to the gold medal in the recent SEA Games in the Philippines after coaching them for just one month.
There are questions on why Oltmans has been retained while his assistant Stephen has been shown the way out but the latter took the decision of MHC with an open heart.
“We did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and MHC have all the right to revamp the coaching structure. I accept the decision, ” said Stephen.
“I want the best for the national hockey team. It’s all about the team and not about the coaches.
“I’m already 61 and have been involved in hockey for 40 years as a player and a coach. We must be professional and allow new blood to take over.
“The MHL will be starting soon and I don’t think any club will hire me to coach them.
“I will take a break from hockey, ” added Stephen.
Nor Saiful did not want to comment but it’s obvious that he is shocked as well.
Nor Saiful, who guided Malaysia to finish third in the six-nation Sultan of Johor Cup in October, is an employee of Tenaga Nasional and he will continue to coach Tenaga in the MHL.
The heading here has been amended.
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