KUALA LUMPUR: In an unprecedented show of unity, 18 national hockey players gathered at the back of their coach, A. Arul Selvaraj, to face the media following their unsuccessful mission at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
During the press conference at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Monday, the players expressed their unwavering commitment.
They are not giving up, and their determination remains intact as they aspire to guide Malaysia to the Paris Olympics next year.
But first, before the Olympic qualifier in January, they will work on rectifying their mistakes that led to their downfall at the Asian Games. The Speedy Tigers finished sixth in Hangzhou.
"None of the players have expressed a desire to leave the team. On the contrary, they are eager to work hard and make a comeback in the Olympic qualifier in January," said Arul.
"The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) supported our pursuit of gold at the Asiad, and we aim to repay MHC for their confidence in us.
"Our downfall in Hangzhou resulted from small errors. We were unable to maintain our scoring form seen in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT).
"Although our push-out and stops in penalty corners were good, our conversion rate was disappointing."
At the ACT held in Chennai, the Speedy Tigers convincingly defeated Pakistan 3-1, China 5-1, and South Korea 1-0 in the group stage.
They later secured a 6-2 win over Korea in the semi-finals but lost a closely contested final 4-3 to India.
However, their performance in the Asian Games was less stellar, with a 4-3 loss to Korea, a 4-4 draw against China in the group stage, and a 5-2 loss to Pakistan in a classification match, resulting in a sixth-place finish.
"We will regroup on Oct 23 before traveling to New Zealand in early November for a 10-day training and playing stint," said Arul.
The Olympic qualifiers will be held in Oman and Valencia.
The top three teams from each qualifier will earn Olympic berths.
"Despite the tougher competition we will face in the qualifier compared to the Asian Games, we will give our best to earn and Olympic berth," Arul added.
The five teams from the Asian Games competing in the qualifiers are Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, and China.
Additionally, seven teams from Europe, including Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Spain, and Ukraine, have qualified.
New Zealand will represent Oceania, while two teams from Pan America and one from Africa will complete the lineup.