DOWN SIDE: But six players from present squad will not make it to New Delhi
MALAYSIAN hockey has never shown so much promise in any tournament for the last seven years, be it at senior or junior level.
The last time Malaysia had such a quality bunch of players was during the 2005 Junior World Cup in Rotterdam, but still we could only finish 10th.
The Project 2013 team have achieved their target of qualifying for the 2013 Junior World Cup in New Delhi, but unfortunately six will be overage by then.
They are stalwarts Faizal Saari, skipper Nor Faez Ibrahim, Izat Sumantri, Amir Farid, Mohamed Ramadan and Dedi Aryandi.
For now, all is rosy but the coaching set-up as well as the team management have been through a lot to form this bunch of winners.
"For sure, I will miss the six in the Junior World Cup, as they played big roles in helping the team to qualify. However, we do have back-up players in training as we foresaw the situation much earlier.
"By November next year, they should be ready to step into the shoes of those who will leave us," said Malaysian juniors coach K. Dharmaraj.
He treats his charges like he does his children, and even the naughty ones are loved.
"Since this team was formed in 2009, I have faced many challenging situations for not only do I have to manage my own children but am also entrusted by parents to manage their children who dream of bringing honour to the nation.
"At times, I did feel helpless, tackling the problems that surfaced. But now, looking back, I am happy as some of the boys who were branded as 'naughty' have matured to caring human beings," said Dharmaraj.
Malacca has been a super host, as not only is the stadium spanking new and spectator friendly, the officials have also done a great job in organising and running the show.
The only two problems seem to be the umpiring and publicity, which are the concern of the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Dharmaraj and Japan team manager Satoshi Makimoto have complained about the umpiring as crucial goals were disallowed and penalty corners were not given when supposed to. Both were of the opinion that since so much was at stake, quality umpires should have been selected and also video referrals made available to settle disputes.
As for publicity, the Asian Hockey Federation only uploads a day later, while the FIH doesn't care about the Junior Asia Cup as its website does not even have a mention of the event.
TODAY -- Classification: China v Iran (6pm), Japan v Sri Lanka (8pm). TOMORROW -- S-finals: Malaysia v India (6pm), Pakistan v South Korea (8pm).