Friday, August 18, 2017

Hockey team eyes a slot in the final

Myanmar's national hockey team has set itself the target of reaching the final at the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August.

Players in action during the States and Regions national hockey tournament last October at the Thein Phyu Hockey Stadium in Yangon. Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar TimesPlayers in action during the States and Regions national hockey tournament last October at the Thein Phyu Hockey Stadium in Yangon. Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times

Myanmar missed out on a place in the final at both the 27th and 28th SEA Games in 2013 and 2015, having to settle for the bronze on both occasions. But this time they have been training hard and the aim is to make it to the final.

Myanmar hosted the 27th edition of the SEA Games in 2013 and Singapore the next of this competition held every two years.

“We only got bronze medals. But this year our first target is to reach the final and the second is to win the gold medal,” president of the Myanmar Hockey Federation U Saw Lu Lu Htaw told The Myanmar Times.

At the 2015 SEA Games Myanmar took home the bronze medal with a dominating performance against Thailand, thrashing them 5-1 in the match for third place, after having lost to eventual winners Malaysia 2-0 in the previous round.

“Although we can hope for a place in the final, winning the gold will be very difficult because Malaysia are world class, and they play the highest level of hockey in Southeast Asia. But we’ll do our best and try to prevent them from scoring, if we meet in the final.” U Saw Lu Lu Htaw added.

Malaysia won golds in both the men’s and women’s competitions at the previous two SEA Games.

The current national team is a balanced mix of experience and youth. Its head coach is from Pakistan as well as its goalkeeping coach.

The players toured Malaysia last April where they played a series of matches against local clubs. The month-long tour was part of their overall training and preparation for the upcoming Games.

“Our team played warm up matches against local clubs and junior teams. We won 15, lost 3 and drew 2 matches. I’m satisfied with their performance,” said U Saw Lu Lu Htaw.

Before heading to Kuala Lumpur, the national hockey team will be travelling to China next month and play more warm up matches there.

The team rates host Malaysia and Singapore as their toughest opponents.

“Singapore are tough. They won silver at the last Games. But our team has a new head coach. Myanmar people can expect new playing form and better performance from our team,” said U Saw Lu Lu Htaw.

While the men’s team can entertain hopes of making it to the final, the most the women’s team can look forward to is bronze, because of a dearth of women players in the country. The last time Myanmar fielded a team in the women’s competition was at the 27th SEA Games when they won bronze medal, while they didn’t enter a team in the next competition in Singapore.

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