Speedy Tigers forward Firhan's final Olympic push

KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Firhan Ashaari is approaching the twilight of his hockey career, and he hopes to earn an Olympic pin before he retires.

The 30-year-old wants to get it right this time with the Speedy Tigers in the Olympic qualifiers in Oman on Jan 15-21 after two failed attempts.

The top three teams in Oman will qualify for the Paris Olympics next year.

Firhan, who earned his first cap at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011, said qualifying for the Olympics has been Malaysia's biggest hurdle.

The Malaysian hockey team have not qualified since the 2000 Sydney Games.

"I had bad appearances in the last two Olympic qualifiers as the team failed to earn a berth in both attempts," said Firhan.

In 2015, the Speedy Tigers finished fifth at the World League Semi-Finals in Belgium and failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games.

Four years later, the Speedy Tigers were thrashed 9-3 on aggregate by Britain in a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"Enough of disappointments. I want to help end Malaysia's Olympic misery in the qualifiers next month.

"It is our last chance to play in Paris."

In Oman, world No. 12 Malaysia will open their Group A campaign against No. 23 China on Jan 15, followed by matches against fourth-ranked Britain on the next day and No. 16 Pakistan on Jan 18.

World champions Germany are in Group B with Canada, Chile and New Zealand.

Firhan, who has scored 40 goals in 205 international matches, said he and his teammates have vowed to fight hard in every game in Oman.

"We need a positive start against China, whom we drew 4-4 at the Hangzhou Asian Games in October. But our toughest mission is against Britain.

"Playing against Pakistan will be another tough encounter," said Firhan, who has played in three World Cups (2014, 2018 and 2023).

Pakistan outplayed Malaysia 5-2 to finish fifth in Hangzhou.

Ashaari said the key to success is to perform consistently in Oman.

"We must take our chances from field and penalty corner attempts during matches,

"Our coach (A. Arul Selvaraj) is helping us adapt to new tactics.

"We have an experienced team, and I believe we have a shot at finishing in the top three in Oman to earn an Olympic ticket," Firhan added.

The other forwards in the team are Faizal Saari, Shello Silverius, Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal and Ashran Hamsani.

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