They should all go, not just Subahan and Shamala

In all my years of covering hockey as a journalist and having come from a hockey-playing family, this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) seems to be the ‘most vicious’.

There have been numerous ‘surat layang’ done the modern way – via WhatsApp – as well as articles in print and online with nearly all of them hitting out at Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal and his deputy Prof Datuk Dr S. Shamala.

Subahan and Shamala had repeatedly promised to step down if the men’s team failed to qualify for the Olympics. In fact, Subahan was quoted in 2015 as saying:  “I will leave the MHC if we don’t qualify for the 2020 Olympics!”

But the duo made a U-turn last week saying they would contest the Nov 16 elections due to the “overwhelming support” from the affiliates.

The men’s team were duly thrashed 9-3 on aggregate by Britain in the two-leg playoffs to Tokyo over the weekend.

That is just one of the many targets set by MHC that the men’s and women’s teams have failed to meet. This was a point former international and the national body’s ex-general manager Maninderjit Singh highlighted recently.

Among the failures listed by the former national defender are:

  • Top eight target in 2016 Junior World Cup (finished 11th).
  • Failed to qualify for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
  • Women’s indoor team to be finalist at 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games (finished third in group).
  • Top eight in the 2018 World Cup (eliminated in the group stage).
  • Top three in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (finished fifth).
  • Men’s team to win gold at 2018 Asian Games (won silver).
  • Women’s team to make 2018 Asian Games semifinals (failed).
  • Women’s team to reach final qualifiers for Tokyo Olympics (failed).
  • Gold at 2019 FIH World Series Final in Kuala Lumpur (finished second and suffered humiliating 4-2 defeat to Italy).

Going by the lack of success, it can be concluded MHC has failed but why just single out the two individuals?

Some members of the MHC executive board have been critical of Subahan and Shamala of late but have been part of the decision making process for many years. As such, there should be a collective sense of responsibility and frankly, the whole lot of them should go.

It is a known fact MHC is divided into camps. As such, backbiting and ‘stories’ have been circulating about Subahan and Shamala by their detractors.

It would actually be wonderful to have a clean slate but unfortunately, we see the same old faces nominated – except for AirAsia’s co-founder and executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and Regent of Pahang Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Al-Sultan Abdullah this year.

Johor HA wants Kamaruddin to take over from Subahan while Tengku Hassanal has been nominated for the deputy president’s post (male). Former national captain K. Maheswari, a stalwart of the Negri Sembilan team of years gone by, is Johor’s pick to challenge Shamala.

When Subahan took over in 2015 from Tengku Hassanal’s father, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, the association was RM2.6 million in debt.

Subahan was Al-Sultan Abdullah’s anointed successor and the former Selangor state assemblyman for Taman Templer managed to clear the debt in under a year.

While the officials continue to bicker and point fingers at each other for the lack of success, the players and coaches must also shoulder some of the blame for not reaching the Tokyo Olympics.

The team was 5-2 up against Japan in the Asian Games final last year but allowed Japan to come back to draw 6-6. The Japanese won the shootout 3-1 to dash Malaysia’s hopes of qualifying automatically for the Olympics.

Like the office bearers in MHC, we seem to be depending on the same old faces year in and year out.

What about development? Where are the players from the 1Mas programme which started in 2010? 1Mas died an unnatural death last year after more than an RM11 million was spent on the programme. It was money down the drain.

Speaking of development, what steps have been taken to make hockey ‘popular’ again?

The Malaysia Hockey League is a half-past six event with just a handful of teams (mostly from the Klang Valley) and matches played at near-empty venues. The Tun Razak Cup, once the premier hockey tournament in the country, has lost its lustre.

These, sadly, are all old news. Google hockey stories in Malaysia and you will see the same old problems cropping up over and over again.

Fight for Change 2019

Perhaps it is time Subahan and Shamala stepped aside but if their detractors want them gone, then they should follow suit or it will be back to square one.

Just as one or two shouldn’t take the glory, neither should just one or two be held accountable.

There won’t be any changes in MHC and hockey if the other familiar faces remain. We should push the reset button and get people willing to work and accept change.

Until then, it will be as you were, no matter who is in charge.

Main image from Malaysia Hockey Confederation Facebook page.