Hockey: Boys not sticking together

Forward Enrico Marican is a key Singapore hockey player who is currently on a training camp in Australia.

Another forward Ian Vanderput is his national teammate who is attending daily training here.

And both, ironically, are in Singapore's South-east Asia (SEA) Games hockey squad.

It is shocking that with less than three months to go to the Games to be staged here from June 5 to 16, the hockey boys cannot be together.

According to national coach Solomon Casoojee, there are a variety of reasons for this unhappy situation.

Casoojee explained: "National Service commitments (just posted to units after basic training), school commitments (some are on attachments/working on their final-year projects at the Institute of Technical Education), as well as personal reasons including a choice to focus on their careers" have caused the "split".

Marican and 10 other players, including Ashriq Ferdaus and Tan Yiru, have been away in Australia since last Thursday training with Australian coaches. Another local player will join them once he gets medical clearance.

The boys will return from Australia on March 27 for a two-day local training camp and then be back Down Under from April 3 to 15 for the second part of the training stint.

Casoojee went to Australia with the 11 players, and then returned to work with the boys left behind, among them Vanderput, Ishwarpal Singh and A Suresh.

Suresh aside, another goalkeeper, Iszuan Adon, also did not travel.

Despite Casoojee's assertion that there has been good support for the most part, isn't it ridiculous that the hockey squad cannot have the full complement of players for a national cause?

And wasn't this the reason why Singapore were trounced by a record score of 16-1 in the World League Round 2 match in January by Malaysia?

That shameful defeat did not go down well with many former internationals, many calling for some heads to roll. Centre half M Jeevanathan, who played in the gold-medal deciding game which Singapore won 2-0 in a replay at the 1973 Seap Games here, then said: "What a sorry state this is?

"We could stand up to the Malaysians then. Nowadays, even the Malaysian second-stringers can wallop us. I cannot take this."

But what Jeeva and some critics may not realise is that Casoojee had not been getting a full complement of players for training even then, and he had been doing his best with eight or nine players at each session.

The Malaysians, on the contrary, were full-time players who had release from their supportive employers.

Frustrated though, South African Casoojee, who has been here for five years, was not moaning about the situation but is trying to get round it.

Intensive training under Western Australian coaches and tight, physical matches against their clubs are what he is looking to.

"We have to change our mindset, We are too safe, too conservative, and, hopefully, the stints in Western Australia will help condition our boys better," he said.

In the wake of what Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, said last Thursday when he urged Corporate Singapore to support the SEA Games by granting time-off for staff to attend the Games, shouldn't employers do more for athletes competing at the event?

With a mere 78 days to the Games' opening, athletes - hockey players especially - need all the support, especially in player release.

Isn't is a joke that the Singapore squad - without Suresh and Iszuan - have been playing friendly matches in Australia by borrowing the clubs' second-choice goalkeepers to guard our goal?

This article was first published on Mar 18, 2015.
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