Maybank fancy their chances now that foreigners are not in the fray

In good stead: Maybank will have the experienced Hafifihafiz Hanafi (right) to lead their charge.

PETALING JAYA: Over the years, teams with foreign players tend to dominate the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL).

Teams like UniKL and Terengganu have always shown their might with their foreign stars in the competition but this year, everyone will be on an equal footing as none of the team have signed up players from other countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s restrictions on travel.

And this is music to Maybank coach Azrul Effendy Bistamam’s ears, as he believes that the competition will be an open affair in the league.

With that, he has even set a top-three finish in the league and challenged his team to qualify for the TNB Cup final.

“It will be an equal battle as every team will be banking on their nationals, juniors and ex-internationals, ” said Azrul.

“We’ve some excellent local talents, including national players like strikers Haziq (Shamsul) and Meor (Azuan Hassan).

“Also, we have talented national junior players like Mohd Aidil (Mohd Shah, goalkeeper), defenders Adam (Aiman Mamat), Asyraf (Ishak), midfielders Rico (Alfarico Lance Liau), Syafiq (Hassan) and Hafizi (Zainuddin).”

Besides those players, he also has experienced players like strikers Amirullah Zainol, Hafifihafiz Hanafi and goalkeeper Zaimi Mat Deris.

Azrul admitted that preparation for the league had been affected as they would only gather for training on Jan 4.

They were supposed to start earlier, but due to hockey pitches being fully booked and following strict guidelines set by the National Security Council on sports facilities, they had to wait.

“But, I’m not too concerned about it because these players know each other quite well.

“Most of them are part of our three-year project which started last year. We are building a strong foundation for future successes.”

Last season, the club finished fourth in the league and lost 2-5 to Tenaga Nasional in the third-fourth playoff of the TNB Cup.

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