SINGAPORE - In six days, Singapore's hockey men will line up across the field from Oman for the first of two friendlies (May 17 and 18). It will be their last stand.
The team failed to meet their own standards at the Asian Games hockey qualifiers in March, and will need good results against Asia's sixth-ranked side, Oman, to convince the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) that they are worthy of a ticket to the 2014 Incheon Asian Games (Sept 19 to Oct 4).
The squad then agreed to undergo a rigorous training programme and also decided to pay their own way to Oman (see top inset) and play the two games, to try and convince the selectors to give them a ticket for South Korea.
Their initiative has been given a boost by former national goalkeeper Paul Lim, who has pledged $20,000 to fuel the dreams of those who picked up the mantle after him.
"I've been there and I know what it's like to have a dream. If these guys are willing to not only work hard, but also cough up their own money for the trip, I'm in to support their dreams," Lim told The New Paper.
Lim retired from the national team after the 2007 Korat South-east Asia Games, but remained active in the local leagues before recently undergoing knee-replacement surgery.
The sponsorship comes through The Project Group, of which Lim is managing director.
The construction consultancy was involved in the DFS Galleria on Scotts Road and will be working on upcoming projects at Changi Airport.
National coach Solomon Casoojee was appreciative of Lim's gesture.
"The money will go a long way in keeping players in our programme, but this doesn't change anything, because none of us knew Paul was going to do this," said the South African.
"The boys were prepared to dig into their own pockets and that's important - in terms of attitude and commitment."
The Singapore hockey men had targeted second place in the Asian Games qualifiers but finished fourth out of eight teams.
While the tournament rules stipulated that the top four teams would qualify for the Games, the SNOC set a higher standard and the team felt the decision was fair.
While Paul's contribution will "help put some money back into the players' pockets", Casoojee insisted their commitment to the programme will have to stay the same.
The players have agreed on a minimum training attendance requirement and monthly fitness targets to drive their Asian Games bid. Progress has been encouraging.