Kuala Lumpur (27 July, 2016): Arul Selvaraj is scrambling against time to get Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) geared up for the Premier Division of the 2016 TNB Malaysian Hockey League.
With just three weeks to go before the league begins on August 19, the UniKL head coach is without eight players who are away in Kuching, Sarawak for the ongoing biennial Malaysia Games.
“It has not been a good start towards our preparation for the league this season. I only have four players available in town while eight are away for the Malaysia Games and they are only expected to return on August 2,” said Arul, adding that his foreign legion of six players are also due to arrive by the end of this month.
UniKL have signed Ireland’s Robert Luke Madeley, Daragh James Walsh and goalkeeper James Ruairi Carr, Australian Adrian Coster, Pakistan’s Muhammad Toseeq Arshad and Germany’s Patrick Neil Schultz for the Premier League.
Schultz, a forward, featured for UniKL last season while midfielder Toseeq played for Maybank. At the age of 17, Toseeq became the youngest ever hockey Pakistani Olympian when he represented the country at the 2012 London Olympics but was unable to inspire the Green shirts to a medal as they finished a disappointing seventh.
The eight UniKL players away in Sarawak are goalkeeper Mohamad Ridzwan Azmi, Mohamad Ashran Hamsani, Zul Pidaus Mizun, Muhammad Azwar Abdul Rahman, Muhammad Sufi Ismat, Rafizul Ezry, Wan Haziq Hisyamuddin and current national senior player Muhammad Najmi Farizal.
Another member of the team is former national player S. Selvaraju who left for Australia in April to play for Greater Dandenong Warriors HC until September. He is expected to return before the league begins. UniKL will also have the services of current national player Baljit Singh and National Development squad players Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin and Muhammad Hafiz Zainol.
“It is a good thing the Premier League only starts on Aug 19 and this allows me time to gather all the players for training. Had the league started earlier it would surely spell trouble for us,” said Arul, adding that he hopes his foreign line-up will arrive in the city before end of this month.
“Training will go full scale on August 3 as I would have had all the players reporting. We will move on from here for the league,” said Arul, who guided the team to a sixth position in the league last year. Sapura Hockey Club also ended UniKL’s run in the TNB Cup by defeating Arul’s side on a 5-3 aggregate in the quarterfinals.
“Looking at the other teams who have gone from strength to strength we do have a lot of catching up to do. Overall we do have a reasonable side capable of giving the other teams strong opposition so I won’t say we are a weakened side,” he added. “Time is essence to recoup and we will definitely take it from here.”
Unlike last year, UniKL was strengthened by the presence of several National Juniors but it’s a different situation this time.
“We still have an advantage over some fancied teams as we have a low number of national players and six foreign players. At any one time all six foreign players can be on the field together with our national players. I am looking at the positives of it,” said Arul, who was coach of the National Juniors last year.