KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 (Bernama) – The national men’s hockey team has been dealt with a big blow as veteran goalkeeper, S. Kumar is set to miss the Men's FIH Series Finals from April 26 to May 4 at the National Hockey Stadium here.
Head Coach Roelant Oltmans confirmed that the 39-year-old has not fully recovered from a thigh injury suffered during the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) last month to play in the Olympics qualifiers, while captain Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib is back in good shape and ready to fight for his place.
“All the injured players have returned to the pitch for training, except Kumar…Everyone is training and we will only announce who made has made it into the 18-player list for the tournament tomorrow. To be honest, I was expecting this (that Kumar cannot make it), so we are completely prepared with (our other goalkeepers) Mohd Hairi Abdul Rahman, Mohd Hafizuddin Othman and Muhamad Zaimi Mat Deris.
“Of course, we are not happy that Kumar will not be able to play, but we have Hairi and Hafizuddin for the role, we have seen Hairi showing a good performance at the Sultan Azlan Shah (SAS) Cup, last month.
“I have discussed with goalkeeping coach Martijn Drijver, he is very pleased with their performance during our training sessions, we are fully confident with our goalkeepers,” he told reporters when met during the training session at the National Hockey Stadium here, today.
Kumar was reported to have suffered a 7.5cm tear in his right thigh during the MHL, which also caused him to miss the SAS Cup in Ipoh.
Meanwhile, Roelant said the didn't agree with the decision made by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to not use video referrals, but the 64-year-old accepted it nonetheless.
With only eight days left for the tournament, Roelant said he was also wary of China’s threat as the team had shown vast improvements, however, he was confident his squad was up for the challenge.
“China have proven in the World Cup that they are good team, there is no doubt, so we are not to take China lightly, as it will be a ridiculous approach. We take them very seriously, we assure (you) that we are prepared, we have tactics in place for that game.
“We are sticking with our plan to play only one friendly, which is against Wales before the tournament because we just played a tournament last month (SAS Cup), we are in good shape and ready,” he said.
The Malaysian Tigers squad, ranked 13th in the world, have been drawn in Group B and will open their campaign against Brazil (ranked 27th) on April 26, followed by China (14th) two days later and Italy (32nd) on April 29.
Favourites Canada, ranked 10th in the world have been drawn into Group A with Austria (19th), Wales (24th) and Belarus (31st).