Malaysia will face a tricky situation when they play Kazakhstan in their opening men’s Group B match at the hockey event at the Asian Games. Kazakhstan is practically an unknown quantity and there is little information on them as they were a late replacement for China who pulled out of the event last month.
Malaysia’s vastly experienced goalkeeper S. Kumar said that there is no reason to underestimate the team although they are not a well-known hockey team. Kumar, who will be playing in his fifth Asian Games, said that the team needs to go all out from the first match and not leave it late to secure the points.
He said the first ever meeting of the two teams should serve as a lesson for the players.
The Kazakhstan team played in the 1994 games in Hiroshima and shocked the Malaysians 3-1 in their group match. That was their only participation in the hockey event at the Asian Games. In the play-off match at the same meet, the Malaysian managed to beat them 5-0.
That defeat is certainly a blot on the Malaysians record.
“I was surprised to learn that we had played them before and lost in a group match. This is what I am talking about. We must never take any team for grant especially those ranked below us. We have already completed our preparations and now it remains to show that we can play at the big occasions,” said the 37-year-old the FIH Negri Sembilan player.
Kumar’s first Asiad was in 2002 in Busan. Since then he has played in 2006 (Doha), New Delhi (2010), Incheon (2014). He has a silver medal (2010) and bronze (2002) to show for his efforts.
Kumar is also highly decorated with numerous awards.
Kumar has won 15 international best goalkeeper awards, starting at the 2007 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. He was also the best keeper in the 2009 Invercargill World Cup Qualifier before picked as Asia’s Best Player by the Asian Hockey Federation in 2010.
Kumar, who was converted from a footballer to a Hockey keeper by the late V. Sivapathasundram in 1994 at the Tunku Besar Secondary School, has represented the country since 1998.
“My focus is on the Asian Games and I am determined to see the team do well.
“We have a gold medal target and that is fine with us. All the big teams here in Jakarta want to do well and winning the gold medal is a big deal considering it will gain the team an automatic berth.
“We are no different. If we played it right and follow instructions then I do not see why we cannot achieve it,” he said.
Besides Kazakhstan, the other teams in Group B are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Oman, and Thailand.
The teams in Group A are India, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.