Named after our ninth Agong, who was himself a hockey player, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has been on the International Hockey Federation (FIH) calendar since 1998 in Ipoh. It started off in 1983 as a biennial tournament but due to its popularity, the tournament became an annual fixture.
President of FIH, Leandro Negre recently bestowed the Member of Honour award to the late Sultan Azlan Shah to his son, Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Sultan of Perak.
In his speech, Leandro said that the award was to honour the late sultan’s dedication and contribution to hockey and how he had managed to make the game an internationally known sport.
Dato’ Abdul Rahim Mohd Ariff, organising committee chairman of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup harbours hopes of seeing Malaysia lifting the cup for the first time.
All seven teams which participated in this year’s tournament namely, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Canada and Japan did a splendid job. The host team’s performance on the whole was satisfying.
Malaysia won two games against Japan and Pakistan. It was a morale-boosting effort for the young Malaysian team and home fans had expected them to do better.
However, a drubbing by India dashed all hopes of a play-off in the final. A third-placing finish too was denied when beaten 5-4 by last year’s winner, New Zealand in a penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw in the deciding game.
“I’m a bit disappointed for the boys, they deserve a third placing. They played their hearts out and gave their best, it’s not as if they didn’t try,” said coach, Stephen Van Huizen.
Stephen’s training of the boys could be seen through Razie Rahim, the team captain and the two goalkeepers, Hafizuddin Othman and Hairi Abd Rahman. The three players stood out among the rest. They worked hard for the team and, in essence, were the pacemakers.
Being the top-ranked team, it was not a surprise to see the Aussies winning the 25th Edition Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Their commitment in a game is something we can all learn from. Incidentally, Australia has won the Azlan Cup for the ninth time. In the final they defeated India by 4-0.
The whole tournament ran smoothly, without a single glitch. No untoward incidents occurred during the duration of the tournament.
While the fans were not as ferocious as last year, they did account for themselves whenever Malaysia played well. What matters is they were there when fan support was needed.
Seeing fans singing, dancing and cheering was certainly a boost for the home team. The presence of a dedicated cheering team in the stand whenever Malaysia took to the field was a welcome sight.
Beside it being a symbol of unity, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is also about learning from each other. Of course there is the winner and the loser, as that is the name of the game. But amidst the glory and the agony, there is much to be learned. Winning is not everything and neither is losing but camaraderie and sportsmanship fostered are qualities that are difficult to come by if we do not seek them out.
By now, all participating teams would have known their strength and weaknesses and it is incumbent upon them to start training for subsequent tournaments in the FIH calendar.
As for the young Malaysian team, we all hope they would maintain their performance and come back stronger. Who knows, the elusive cup might be ours next year.