KUALA LUMPUR: Hockey in Malaysia was once the forte of the Sikh community and the sight of turbaned players on hockey pitches was a common one. How things have changed.
When the Malaysia Hockey Federation named their Under-19 side on Thursday, there was only one Sikh player in the team – forward Kelvindar Singh.
And the Kuala Lumpur lad is on cloud nine as he faces his first junior international tournament, the MHF Under-19 boys' invitational hockey tournament which begins tomorrow at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The Bangsar lad said he was overjoyed to be named in squad and hopes to make a big impression in the tournament.
“This is the first time I have been selected to play in a junior international tournament and I am the only Sikh player in the entire team.
“I also hope to follow in the footsteps of my heroes like former internationals Avtar Singh Gill, Avtar Singh Grewal and Maninderjit Singh and play in the national senior team in the future,'' said Kelvindar after a training session in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
“My target is to be considered for the 2004 Junior World Cup qualifiers.''
Kelvindar, however, will not be playing his normal forward position and will be moved to midfield instead.
“I will be playing as the centre-half and it definitely will be challenging as I have only played in that position for Royal Military College (RMC) in schools tournament.”
In the Malaysia Junior Hockey League (MJHL) last year, he played as a forward for Malaysia Sports School and scored five goals.
“However, I hope to give my best and become a good centre-half like former international skipper Sarjit Singh,'' said Kelvindar.
Besides Kelvindar, the other juniors who will be playing for the first time in the international junior tournament are goalkeeper Mohd Shah Ahmad Noor and forward S. Selvaraju.
The MHF have also entered the national Under-16 squad for the eight-day tournament. The other teams are Junior World Cup champions India, Pakistan and South Korea.
The Malaysian Under-19 team will open their campaign against Asia Junior Cup champions South Korea tomorrow.