Hockey coach Arul eyes forging unbreakable bond with players

The newly appointed head coach will take charge of the Speedy Tigers following coach Oltmans’ resignation last month

NEW national men’s hockey team head coach A Arul Selvaraj plans to form an unbreakable bond with his players when he takes charge of the team beginning next week.

The coach, who returned home last week from Dublin, Ireland, is undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine until Aug 26 as required under the Covid-19 standard operating procedures.

He believes by forging an unbreakable bond with the players, it will help him instil a sense of togetherness in the team and give the players stronger motivation to give their all.

“I want to spend more time with the players off the field, like going for meals together…That is the reason I decided to stay nearby the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. I want to listen to the players more…about how we can grow as a team and make them feel they own the team.

“I have also left behind my family in Ireland, so I will have more time to spend with the will always be there for them.

“I have now survived nine days in quarantine. I hope not to fall sick before the second swab test in a few days’ time. I’m also using this free time to research on the team, get updates on the players’ fitness levels from the other coaches and read up on sports science,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

It seems like Arul will have more time to spend with his charges as the national team won’t have any more international matches to look forward to this year after the Asian Hockey Federation on Wednesday decided to again postpone the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) scheduled on Nov 17-27 to March 11-19, 2021 due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions.

The sixth edition of the tournament — which was initially scheduled for June 4-12 — will be held at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

That is certainly good news for Arul as he will have more time to prepare the national team, who is ranked No 11 in the world, including a few weeks to work with his players before releasing them for the Tun Abdul Razak Cup set for Sept 18-26.

“In a way, it (the ACT postponement) is good for me as I will have more time to better prepare the team before facing our first test together. We have to be ready to face a tight set of fixtures in 2021, with the Malaysian Hockey League expected to be held in January and February, followed by the ACT and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (in April).

Arul will take charge of the Speedy Tigers — as the national men’s hockey team is known — next week after current head coach Roelant Oltmans of Holland tendered his resignation at the end of last month.

Malaysia’s last international outing was a disaster, with the Speedy Tigers given a 9-3 aggregate drub- bing by Great Britain in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifying playoff at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London in November 2019. — Bernama