KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 -- The national women's hockey team will have to wait until the end of July to begin training, although the men's squad will take to the field for contactless training this Wednesday (July 1).
This is because the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) is looking to finalise the selection of the headcoach for the 'Malaysian Tigress' squad - which was originally due in April - before commencing the training programme.
MHC deputy president Prof Dr S. Shamala is confident that the selection process, which has been delayed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can be completed within a month once the interview process resumes next week.
"We want to finish the process of selecting a coach first because coaches play an important role in player selection and team planning for the next four to eight years. We have not interviewed 12 candidates from overseas, while for local candidates, we have interviewed 10 of 11.
“We have good names from abroad, but the postponement of the Olympic Games to July 2021 could affect the availability of some candidates. The Olympics was supposed to take place this July, but this change may result in their contract being extended another year, so we have to discuss first,” she told Bernama at the National Hockey Stadium today.
The coach’s position for the 20th-ranked team fell vacant when Muhammad Dharma Raj Abdullah did not extend his contract after it expired on Dec 31 last year. He is currently serving with the provincial team of West Java, in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Shamala said the senior men's, as well as the junior men’s and women’s squads which will begin training soon, would need to follow stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs).
These include taking swab tests after reporting to the national camps, disinfecting training areas and equipment, training in small groups, and maintaining social distancing at all times.
Shamala said men's team head coach Roelant Oltmans will return from the Netherlands tomorrow, with his assistants Amin Rahim and Nasihin Nubli taking charge of training activities while the 66-year-old undergoes self-quarantine.
On plans for international friendlies and tours, she said it would depend on the COVID-19 situation in the countries involved, however, she emphasised that tours were very important for teams’ exposure and increasing world ranking points.
“The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has changed the world ranking system, so we need competitive action to earn points and maintain our position. Regardless, subject to the COVID-19 situation and the government's approval, we are currently focusing on training in the country,” she said.
Shamala also hoped that the government would soon allow the organising of tournaments, so that the MHC could hold the 2020 Tun Abdul Razak Cup and the Youth Hockey League.
"The safety factor remains a priority, we are prepared in terms of the SOP and on how it should be organised, so we will begin tournament as soon as the government allows it," she added.
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