GUNG HO: Coach has dream of winning Junior Asia Cup
K. DHARMARAJ has never been one to hide his thoughts, be it during his playing days or coaching the Project 2013 team since 2009.
He has set his mind on not only qualifying for the Junior World Cup next year in New Delhi, but also win Malaysia's first Junior Asia Cup gold in Malacca.
"Every time that I was quoted in the media that I want not only the World Cup spot, but also the gold medal in Malacca, I would receive many calls and SMS messages cautioning me not to be overconfident.
"My reply to them is until when are we going to have a low key attitude going into a tournament?
"What is the message that we are sending to the players if the coaching staff themselves are afraid to set a target higher than that of the parent body?" reasoned Dharmaraj.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHF) has set the target of playing in the final, but Dharmaraj is bent on winning the gold as he believes his players are capable of it.
"I have won many local tournaments both as a player and coach.
"But winning the Sultan of Johor Cup was the best moment of my life.
"To be honest, I never thought that we would be champs in Johor.
"But having been at the helm since 2009, I have had a dream to win the Asian tournament.
"This tournament was why the Project 2013 team were formed and playing at home provides us with the perfect opportunity to make good the dream," said Dharmaraj.
And he has a large coaching and support staff to achieve the dream.
"I have two video analysts, one masseur, one medical assistant, one nutritionist, one psychologist and one bio mechanic.
"My coaching team consist of K. Gobinathan, Nor Azlan Bakar and M. Nadarajan as goalkeeper coach. All were there in Johor as well.
"I am a strong believer in sharing responsibilities and using the best to master the best.
"All this would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from the MHC, NSI (National Sports Institute) and NSC (National Sports Council)," said Dharmaraj.
The Junior Asia Cup offers only two tickets to the World Cup, while India are automatic qualifiers.
Malaysia, South Korea, Iran and Japan are in Group A while Group B consists of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China.
Dharmaraj, though, is not without worry.
"I fear my own team's performance more than any of the other teams. One off day could spell trouble for us.
"Pakistan have included five senior players in their squad.
"And I reckon India and Korea too are strong in their own way as they are Olympic-playing nations.
"However, we have trained long and hard and are well prepared for this moment.
"I will play attacking hockey all the way, and I believe the results will be in our favour," said Dharmaraj.
The tournament starts on Thursday.
Fixtures -- Thursday: Korea v Japan (6.05pm), Malaysia v Iran (8.05pm).
Friday: Pakistan v China (6.05pm), India v Sri Lanka (8.05pm) -- matches at MBM Stadium, Malacca