SULTAN Azlan Shah has, for the first time, sent a stern message to the Malaysian hockey team not to take his tournament in Ipoh on May 24-June 3, lightly.
The former Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president and current Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) president said so after holding a special meeting with the tournament stake holders on Saturday.
"My message to the Malaysian team is not to treat my tournament as a practice session. Give more respect to it. The Malaysian team must be serious," said Azlan Shah.
He sent out this warning after a closed door meeting with stand-in team manager George Koshy, Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) senior vice president Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad, AHF secretary general Tan Sri P. Alagendra and National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Zolkples Embong.
The meeting, among other things, discussed the composition of the team for the Azlan Shah Cup.
When asked if he would like to see a bigger pool of juniors in the Malaysian senior team, he said: "Yes. We did discuss about that, but I can't tell you how many juniors (from the Junior Asia Cup squad) should be included, but suffice to say the juniors should be given a chance to play against the best in the world," said Azlan Shah.
The Invitational will feature six Olympic teams -- Britain, New Zealand, South Korea, Argentina, Pakistan and India.
Seniors' coach Tai Beng Hai has included eight juniors from the Junior Asia Cup squad into his squad and played a friendly against New Zealand yesterday.
"I can't name the final squad yet because Razie Rahim (main senior penalty corner flicker) picked up an injury in training and I need a few days to find out how serious it is.
"I will be naming the squad only after I find out if Razie can play or not," said Beng Hai.
The eight junior players are Faizal Saari, Fitri Saari, Firhan Ashaari, Faiz Helmi, Nor Izzat Sumantri, Mohamed Ramadhan, Noor Faeez Ibrahim and Amir Farid.
Malaysia, who finished last in the seven-team tournament last year, yesterday lost to New Zealand 4-2 in the friendly. By Jugjet Singh