Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal believes the men’s national team will break into the top 10 of the world rankings by the end of the year.
The year will commence with the Malaysia Hockey League, the domestic league for Malaysia hockey. It will serve as a good warmup for the first major challenge, i.e. the Commonwealth Games, where the men’s team will look forward to changing the colour of their silver medal into gold, followed by the Indonesia Asian Games (Aug 18-Sept 2) and the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India (Nov 28-Dec 16).
The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on March 2-10 and the Australian Invitational will be warm-up tournaments for Stephen van Huizen’s side this year. These tournament will be highly beneficial for the team, who will get the right warmup needed.
“It is an important year where the ultimate target is to win the Asian Games where the champions will qualify automatically for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. We can beat any team in Asia and I believe we will be No 1 in this continent very soon.
“We last played in the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, and if we can qualify for Tokyo from the Asian Games, it will ease off pressure on the team.As for the World Cup, we hope to achieve top eight. I think it is a realistic target as we did well in 2017. If everything goes to plan, I believe we will break into the top 10 after a long time by December,” said Subahan.
Subahan said the Commonwealth Games is still important, but it will be treated more of an exposure for the players ahead of the Asian Games and World Cup.
“Our best available players will play in Gold Coast. We will use the tournament to build a solid team and it will be a bonus if we can make the semi-finals,” he said.
He said the availability of goalkeeper S. Kumar, who is provisionally suspended for failing a drug test at the Asia Cup in October, will be telling factor in Malaysia’s hopes of achieving targets.
“We hope the International Hockey Federation (FIH) will set Kumar’s hearing sometime this month. The case will be heard at FIH’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Although, Kumar is already 38, he is still our No 1 goalkeeper, and we do need him greatly for the Asian Games and World Cup. Kumar will state his case at the hearing and hopefully, he will not be handed a harsh punishment,” said Subahan.