MALACCA is set to host its first international hockey tournament as its stadium received a RM1 million facelift and the opening ceremony will be the first of its kind.
The Junior Asia Cup, which also doubles up as a World Cup Qualifier, will be held on May 3-13 with players and officials ferried by boats along the Malacca River to the venue of the opening ceremony.
"We are proud to play host to the tournament and have worked hard to ensure that all preparations are of international standards," said Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad, deputy president of Malacca HA and senior vice president of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation.
"It is an honour for Malacca to play hosts as this is the first time we are given the opportunity to host a top class tournament and that is why we want the opening ceremony to be the first of its kind.
"And another pride is that Malaysia coach K. Dharmaraj, manager Mirnawan Nawawi and assistant coach Nor Azlan Bakar are all from Malacca as well," said Nur Azmi.
Eight teams will battle for two tickets to the World Cup, with India claiming the third as hosts next year in New Delhi.
The eight are: Malaysia, South Korea, Iran and Japan in Group A, while in Group B are India, Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka.
The MBM Hockey Stadium has undergone renovations that cost more then RM1 million and the after effects are there for all to admire.
The grandstand has been upgraded with dedicated media and broadcast rooms and seats fitted as well on the terraces. Even the changing rooms have been done up, truly reflecting a world class venue.
And that is not all, as the lighting system has been upgraded, enough for telecasting matches in high definition.
And fans are also in for a treat, as host broadcaster Astro Arena is planning to telecast all Malaysian matches live.
As for Pakistan, among the favourites to claim a slot in the final, seasoned forward Umar Bhutta will lead them.
"We have a strong combination in the presence of five senior players and we are hoping to see boys performing well to reach the final," said team manager-cum-coach Rana Mujahid.