KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Faizal Saari went to India last month with high hopes of making an impact for the Mumbai Magicians in the India Hockey League (IHL).
But the Tenaga Nasional player, who was the top scorer in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) last year with 18 goals, endured a miserable outing in the IHL – firing blanks in all 12 matches.
And that’s despite being paid a whopping US$$26,000 (RM78,000) to play in the league! The 22-year-old Faizal, who has 97 international caps to his credit, was clearly annoyed with his poor showing.
“It was a very competitive league as it featured players from all over the world ... so, it was a challenge for me to score,” said Faizal.
“I also had communication problems as the players spoke Hindi to me! I’m frustrated with myself for letting the club and my team-mates down.”
Faizal, however, claimed that Australian national coach Ric Charlesworth, who was in charge of the Mumbai Magicians, was pleased with his performance.
“He praised me for my dribbling skills and told me to be much sharper in the semi-circle,” said Faizal, who felt that it was a good experience playing in the IHL as “I learned some new tactics and skills”.
“It has made me wiser and I know that I need to train harder to become a better player.
“I hope to bounce back and overcome this setback by giving my best in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh next month (from March 9-17),” added Faizal, who returned from India last Sunday and will rejoin the national team’s training on Monday.
For the record, Mumbai Magicians finished last in the five-team league.
Besides Faizal, national goalkeeper S. Kumar also featured in the IHL. The Tampin-born keeper played for Uttar Pradesh Wizards, who finished third.
The Ranchi Rhinos were crowned champions and Delhi Waveriders the runners-up. Jaypee Punjab Warriors finished fourth.