20 March 2019


  Semis target

I think we should qualify for the semi-finals. Then from there it is anybody’s game and with homeground advantage I hope we will be able to create upsets and put up a good show. – C.R. KUMAR

(21 Aug 2002) KOTA KINABALU: The rather inexperienced Sabah men’s hockey team has the quality to spring surprises come September.

Although the team coached by former Indian international coach C. R. Kumar lacks match temperament or exposure when compared to their peninsula counterparts, but with homeground advantage behind them, they are capable of taking on the top teams in the Ninth Malaysia Games (Sukma 2002).

Even the coach is quietly eyeing a place in the last four.

He said the team should be able to reach the semi-finals in the country’s biggest sporting carnival, which is only 17 days away.

“Although personally, I would prefer to take one match at a time, I think we should qualify for the semi-finals. Then from there it is anybody’s game and with homeground advantage I hope we will be able to create upsets and put up a good show,” Kumar said yesterday.

“I’m happy with the players’ progress. They have shown some improvement and I hope they will maintain it until and during the Sukma,” he added.

On the team’s friendly tour to Perak recently, Kumar said it was a very good experience for the players.

During the tour (to Ipoh, Perak), Kumar said they played five matches and managed to record one win, two draws and suffer two defeats.

“I’m not very particular about the results of the friendlies. It doesn’t bother me. We are trying to play as many matches as possible and trying to identify our weaknesses.

“This trip was a good experience for the players where they played against different teams. Now they have a wonderful experience, including myself.

“Most of the players have not played outside Sabah before and with this experience they now more-or-less understand how it feels to play against teams from outside.

“I don’t have any idea on the strength of the other teams. If you are talking about the national team (Malaysia) I know their strength, but it is not the same as the state teams.

“Now at least I know something from this trip.

“The players are looking forward to the Games and we will have Kedah to beat in the opener. We need to win the opener as it will definitely boost the team’s confidence and spirit,” he said.

Kumar has another 17 days left to polish the side. “After the trip I have more or less identified the weaknesses of the team and we are now trying to rectify our weaknesses.”

During the friendly tour, Sabah also played against the Kedah Sukma team. The match ended in favour of Kedah.

Kumar also expressed his sincere thanks to the Sabah Sports Board (SSB) for making the trip possible.

On behalf of the team and the Sabah Hockey Association (SHA), he also thanked the Mayor of Ipoh City Hall as well as the Kota Kinabalu City Mayor for making all the necessary arrangements for the trip.

“They (Ipoh) were having a local league, but they postponed it to give way for us to play our friendly matches there. They (Ipoh City Hall) also brought our players for sight seeing around Ipoh,” added Kumar.

Meanwhile, Kumar said he would finalise his squad soon after consulting the SHA officials in the next couple of days.

At the moment, Kumar has 19 trainees in his squad and he needs to drop three to make the final 16-member team for the biennial Games.

In the Games, Sabah has been drawn in Group A together with reigning champions Selangor, Kedah, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan while Group B comprises Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Perak, Johor and Brunei.

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