Hockey bubble a success

Tomorrow is the culmination of the Malaysia Hockey League with Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) eyeing a grand haul in the men’s and women’s competitions.

The UniKL men’s team won the Charity Shield and league crown and faces former champion Terengganu Hockey Team in the TNB Cup.

Its women’s team, making its debut this year, was undefeated en route to winning the league title and will play PKS UniTen in the Vivian Soar Cup.

While the battles on the pitch are expected to be hard fought, the battle against Covid-19 – which saw players, coaches and technical officials stay in a ‘hockey bubble’ – appears to have been won.

After nearly four weeks of staying at Pullman Hotel in Bangsar, where there were up to 400 players and officials at the start of the tournament, not a single new infection was detected.

“It was a humbling experience being in this hockey bubble,” said technical delegate P. Kuganeson, who has lived the longest in the bubble.

“I checked in on March 10 and will check out on Sunday morning. Technical delegates were broken into three groups so they did not have to spend all their time here.

“It was the same for the umpires as some had issues applying for leave.

“At the start of the season, there were about 400 or so people inside the bubble – 14 teams, officials and support staff, the technical delegates, umpires, ball boys and even bus drivers.

“Basically, anyone and everyone involved had to be in the bubble. It was not easy.

“Teams which did not reach knockout or cup stages left the morning after their last match.”

Kuganeson said everything was meticulously planned and each team was assigned to dedicated floors to which no one else had access.

He added the teams were also assigned dedicated buses and everyone involved in the tournament had to use special entrances to and from the hotel.

“We do not go into the main lobby. We even have separate entrances for our buses,” said Kuganeson.

“Buses leave on schedule so players do not have time to ‘mingle’ at the training and match venues while the staff from National Sports Institute are consistently monitoring to ensure all standard operating procedures are followed.

“Everything in the hotel and stadium was clearly labelled and the hotel facilities are fantastic.

“The gym was dedicated to us. There is even a dedicated convenience store for the teams. Most importantly, there are plenty of activities for the players.”

Asked what he missed most about living in the bubble, Kuganeson replied: “Going for banana leaf rice lunch with my mother!”

“The craving for the tarik and roti canai is also strong but we have been spoilt with some excellent food.

“This is an unforgettable experience but one I hope we do not have to repeat in future.

“I am thankful we have come out of it unscathed with no reported cases. That is down to all the planning and hard work of everyone involved,” he added.