Malaysia is a nation currently transforming its hockey development under the guidance of one of the world's most experienced coaches - Hockey World Cup winner, Olympian and International Hockey Federation (FIH) Master Coach, Terry Walsh.
One of the Federation's most recent projects has seen the launch of a new women's youth league system, created to help raise the standards of young players and subsequently help the nation rise up the women's world rankings.
Their national women’s team is currently ranked 20th in the world and regularly finish behind Asia's higher ranked nations, including China, Korea, Japan and India in continental events.
Things could be about to change however, as The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) has taken steps to promote hockey among girls and women through the realisation of this new competition.
The all-new Women’s Teen League Championship 2016 started in February and will run until 10 April. It comprises 14 clubs from across nine states and has been very well received according to one of the MHC Vice-Presidents and former national men’s Team Manager, George Koshy. He said: “The league has had a lot of encouragement and support. MHC is determined to improve the performance of women’s hockey in Malaysia while also increasing female hockey talent in the country.”
Plans to raise the standard and profile of women’s hockey in Malaysia was the focus of a speech by another MHC Vice-President and lead voice for the women’s team, Professor Dr. S. Shamala, earlier in the year. Dr Shamala said that 2016 was going to be a very important year for Malaysia's women’s team as it provided a platform to prepare the team for several big tournaments in 2017 and 2018.
“I am very happy with the team’s achievements in 2015. We retained the gold medal in the South-East Asia Games for the sixth time. We also put in a great performance in the second round of Women’s Hockey World League before losing 1-0 to Poland in the semi-finals, thereby missing our chance to qualify for the Olympics,” said Shamala.
The MHC’s main ambition is to see the national women’s squad break into the top four world ranking in Asia. Currently, in the FIH world rankings, Malaysia sits behind China (5), Korea (9), Japan (10) and India (13).
With Terry Walsh as Technical Director and Muhammad Dharmaraj Abdullah coach of the women's team, Shamala thinks that pairing has all the hallmarks of success. “Dharmaraj has a splendid record with the men’s youth team and I thought that he was very creative in motivating the players, so it was a good thing that he was willing to be our coach,” said the Vice-President.
The establishment of the Women’s Teen League Championship will be key to developing young talent in Malaysia and raising the standard of play across the board. It is also a chance for clubs to put some investment into their players as the winning team will receive RM15,000 ($3,700 USD), while group stage winners will get RM5,000 ($1,200 USD).
For the MHC, while the new league is all about the long-term status of the game, key events are only just around the corner, with the Kuala Lumpur South East Asia Games taking place in 2017 and the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Hockey devotees in Malaysia will therefore be eagerly anticipating early signs of the programme’s success at these tournaments.
As another mark of their development, Malaysia will shortly celebrate the announcement of their 10th officially certified hockey field under the .
Whilst hockey is played on numerous other fields throughout the country, all 10 of the FIH certified pitches in Malaysia are classed as Global* standard, including this latest pitch at the Stadium Hoki USM in Penang, manufactured by FIH Preferred Supplier .
This internationally recognised quality-assurance programme provides consistent and dependable industry standards for the performance, construction and durability of hockey turf installations worldwide and ensures the appropriate quality for the intended level of play. It aims to help inspire more people to play hockey, promote player welfare and protect the investment of those funding hockey facilities. As a result, many more Malaysians now have the opportunity to learn and develop their hockey skills in safe and reliable environments while playing on these certified fields.
Hockey projects such as these are key to inspiring the next generation - the overall aim of the FIH's 10-year strategy - the Hockey Revolution. To find out more about this strategy, click .
*Global certification is for non-filled water based surfaces that are primarily used for international and top level national competitions.