The Pahang-born Hafiz, who plied his trade at the Pistoia Club in Italy (2016) and Uddingston Hockey Club in Scotland (2018), has to fight it out with a host of experienced forwards in the training squad.
The players vying for the spots are Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil, Mohd Haziq Samsul, Mohd Sufi Ismat Rohulamin, Arif Sabron, Norsyafiq Sumantri, Mohd Shahril Saabah, Firhan Ashaari, Mohd Akhimullah Anuar Esook, Mohd Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal, Mohd Noor Firdaus Rosdi and Mohd Amirul Hanif Mamat.
And then there’s veteran poacher Faizal Saari who has sounded his intention of making a return following the appointment of new national coach A. Arul Selvaraj.
And Hafiz, fondly known as “Mamat Berry” by teammates, is determined not to throw in the towel.
“I can’t take things easy. We have so many good strikers and I know we will all have to fight till the end.”
“Thing will get tougher when more players from the Razak Cup tournament (Sept 18-26) will be called up,” said Hafiz, who will be playing for Pahang.
After the Razak Cup, the national team will then prepare for the Asian Champions Trophy in November.
Hafiz knows Arul’s style quite well during his stint with the Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) team in the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) which ended in February.
Arul led the team to the treble – the League title, Community Shield and the TNB Cup.
“What sets him apart from the rest is his mentality. He has worked in Europe, so he knows their style and brings that to his teams,” said Hafiz.
“I hope he can use that knowledge to good use with the national team.”