PETALING JAYA: The pain of finishing second best – or even third – still hurts for Fitri Saari. And he is out to make amends in the Razak Cup hockey tournament this year.
The Terengganu midfielder, who last won the Razak Cup in 2016, believes his state team have always been capable of winning the title but have just been unlucky.
They have been in two finals but lost to Perak both times – a 2-3 defeat in 2017 followed by a 1-3 penalty shootout loss after a 2-2 regulation time draw in 2018.
Last year, they beat Kuala Lumpur 3-2 in the third-fourth placing match, while Melaka won the tournament by beating Johor 3-1 in the final at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
This year, Fitri believes that Terengganu, led by coach Wan Mohd Roslan Wan Abdul Rahman, have a side capable of getting into the final, and doing well in the single division tournament.
“The Razak Cup will be my first competitive action after the Malay-sian Hockey League. Obviously, I am excited to play again, but I am focused on helping the team get to the final, ” said the 27-year-old.
“We have a good mix of experienced and young players capable of challenging any team in the tournament.”
This year’s Razak Cup tournament will be played in a single division format without age barriers, and the competition will be held at the National Hockey Stadium, Bukit Jalil from Sept 18 to 26.
A total of 15 teams have registered for the men’s category, with Sabah making a return after a four-year lapse and Sarawak opting to stay out.
Fitri said the return of national players would only bolster the team and give them a better chance of doing well in the tournament.
However, he reminded the team that if they wanted to go far in the competition, they need to be sharper in the penalty box.
“I guess that would be fixed with the arrival of Firhan (Ashari), Nik Mohd Aiman (Nik Rozemi) and Akimullah (Anuar Esook) from the national squad. Aki (Akimullah) is one talent that will boost our fortunes in the tournament.”
Asked if he was hopeful of making it to the national team if he impresses in the Razak Cup, Fitri said he would have to think about it due to his commitments with the National Sports Council (NSC).
The player, who has earned 170 caps for Malaysia, works for the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) unit.
“I have my commitment to NSC. I just joined the unit in June. The first few weeks, to be honest, were tough.
“Imagine having to learn about football, even though there is not much of a difference between hockey and football. For me, every day is a learning process.
“After more than a month, I am growing into my role.”