KUALA LUMPUR: Pahang Telekom will be without four key players but are still confident of retaining the overall title in the Malaysia Junior Hockey League (MJHL) beginning next week.
The Pahang team have four national players in their side and all are barred from playing in the MJHL. The four are Ismail Abu, Mohd Sufian Mohd, Mohd Sallehin Abdul Ghani and Mohd Shahrun Nabil Abdullah.
Except for Ismail, the other three were in the Malaysian team who finished runners-up to India in the Under-19 Invitational tournament early this month.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation have informed all teams in the MJHL that players in the national squad for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March will not be not allowed to play in the MJHL.
With the four players out, Pahang Telekom will have to play the entire league with 16 players. Coach Izwan Suhardi said they had appealed to the MHF to allow the four players to play in the league.
“MHF will meet next month to decide on the fate of the four and we hope they will get the green light to play,” said Izwan, the former international goalkeeper.
“However, we still have a reliable squad, powered by six players who played in the recent National Under-21 tournament. They are Khairulnizam Ibrahim, Mohd Khaizol Azwar, Zarit Zainal, Mohd Zulkifli Abdullah, Mohd Al Fadhir Kassim and Norhisham Shaari,'' said Izwan, who also was the coach of Pahang team for the national Under-21 team. They finished third behind Australia's New South Wales institute of Sports and Kuala Lumpur.
The East coast side also have two other experienced forwards in Mohd Redza Maadon and Izwan Hassan. Redza, who is from Pahang, played for Kuala Lumpur in the National Under-21 tournament.
Pahang Telekom are drawn to play in Division One of the MJHL. They made their debut last year and won the overall title by defeating Malaysia Sport School 1-0 in the final. In the semi-finals, they beat former champions Anderson 2-0.
The Pahang team will open their campaign against Sri Aroma of Penang at the Kuantan Stadium on Feb 8.
Of the 22 teams in the MJHL, the newcomers are Perlis School Sports Council, Penang Free School and Sports School Juniors.