Malaysian Tigress to sacrifice Raya

Malaysian Tigress to sacrifice Raya

KUALA LUMPUR: The national women’s hockey squad are set to sacrifice their Hari Raya celebration again this year, to prepare for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Women’s World Series Finals from June 8-16 at Banbridge, Northern Ireland.

The Malaysian Tigress squad need to finish top two in the eight-nation tournament to secure their berth into the last stage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Qualifiers.

This means, besides missing the Hari Raya celebration which is expected to fall on June 5, the team would have to undergo training during the fasting month as well.

Its head coach, Muhammad Dharma Raj Abdullah said his charges agreed to train twice a day – 3 am to 4.30 am and 9 pm till 11 pm – with a rest time after every training session, to be fully prepared to face some of the best teams in the world.

“I have spoken to the girls, it is not easy to wake up at 3 am and train at that hour, but we know we have to face teams like South Korea and Ireland, which would be very difficult. Some players might retire after this which means this might be their last chance to play in the Olympics.

“Therefore, they wanted to give their best shot. Since we are ranked 22nd in the world, the only way to advance to the Olympics Qualifiers is by finishing as the top two,” he said in a press conference at the National Hockey Stadium, Bukit Jalil today.

Malaysia are drawn into Pool A with world number eight Ireland, Czech Republic, and neighbours, Singapore, while Pool B consists of world number 11 South Korea, Scotland, Ukraine and France.

“Since Singapore are in our group, we can secure at least the third place and advance to the crossover match. We also have good chances against Czech Republic and if we can pull an upset against Ireland, we can play Scotland in the semi-finals…We will see how it goes.

As a part of the preparations for the tournament, Muhammad Dharma and his charges will leave to Rome, Italy on May 23 to play a few test matches, then to Glasgow, Scotland on June 1, where they are expected to celebrate the first Syawal before leaving for Northern Ireland on June 6.

This is not the first time Muhammad Dharma is holding training at 3am, as last year the Malaysian Tigress faced an almost similar fate to prepare for the FIH Series Open at Singapore, just a week before Hari Raya, which also forced the team to cut short their Raya holidays.

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