Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sukma: Last chance for juniors to earn places for Europe tour

KUALA LUMPUR: The Sukma hockey competition in Kuala Terengganu from May 30-June 9 will be the final selection ground for players in the national junior side for a tour of Europe beginning on June 10.

National junior coach V. Muralidharan said that he would pick his final squad of 18 for the tour, which includes a four-nation meet in Poland, based on the players’ performances in Sukma.

“We really have no choice as the team will depart on June 9 for Poland. We have 30 players in our training squad and only one player, who is nursing an injury, will not be allowed to compete in Sukma,” he said.

Pahang midfielder Mohamed Nor Zakhwan is nursing a leg injury and he will also not be considered for selection for the tour.

Two other players have recovered from their injuries and they have been given the clearance to play in Sukma. They are Penang’s Azrin Rizal and Selangor’s Wong Kee Hoon.

Another player, Perak’s Khairul Rizal, is required to get the nod from the National Institute of Sports (NSI) doctors to play in the Games. The CIMB Bank employee did not undergo a medical check-up last week.

The national juniors are preparing for the Junior Asia Cup, which will be held in India from July 11-19.

The tournament is also a qualifying event for the 2009 Junior World Cup. But the results will have no bearing on Malaysia’s qualification.

Malaysia are automatic qualifiers by virtue of being the joint hosts of the Finals with Singapore.

In the four-nation tournament in Poland, Malaysia will play against the hosts, India and France. The team will then go to Germany for three matches before completing the tour with two matches against Belgium.

Muralidharan said he hoped that the players would tread with caution in Sukma and not risk themselves to injuries.

“They will also have to work on their fitness when training with the state teams. Our main worry is injuries.

“I will monitor the players closely and also talk to the state coaches to get their feedback as well,” he said.

The Star

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