Singapore (31 January 2017): Singapore’s head coach K. Rajan has beefed up the national men’s hockey team with the inclusion of nine senior players for the two Test matches against Thailand on Feb 3-4 at the National Hockey Centre in Bangkok.
The Test series are considered pivotal in Singapore and Thailand’s preparation for the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games – a regional multi-sport event that will take place in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur from 10-31 August 2017.
Singapore is placed 39 in the current FIH Hero World Rankings and Thailand at 59.
“All 18 members of the team will travel to Bangkok on the morning of Feb 3 and play the first match against the Thais later in the evening followed by the second tie on Feb 4,” said Rajan.
A Malaysian international in the 1970s, Rajan was appointed head coach of the Singapore senior squad on Aug 1, 2016, replacing South African Solomon Casoojee. He signed a two-year contract with the Singapore Hockey Association and the 5th Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Cup held in Hong Kong last November was his first major assignment.
“This team is much stronger that the one that competed in the AHF Cup in Hong Kong last year. We have the senior players back in the squad now. We did not have the depth and experience of the seniors during the AHF Cup as some players were in National Service while others had personal commitments,” he said.
“However, we had set a target of finishing fourth in the AHF Cup and the players worked hard to achieve it. It was a good experience for the juniors in our preparation for the SEA Games,” added the head coach. “The Test series against Thailand is part of SHA process in developing the team for the SEA Games.”
Enrico Elifh Abdul Latho Marican will lead the Singaporean side against Thailand in the Test series after missing out on a chance to play in the AHF Cup due to work commitment.
For the record, Singapore defeated Thailand 4-0 in the semi-finals of the 2015 SEA Games but lost to Malaysia 4-3 in the final on the penalty shootout after the match ended 2-2 in regulation time at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium to retain the silver medal.
In the Hockey World League Round 1 held in Singapore in April last year, Thailand strolled to a 3-1 win over the hosts for the bronze medal. Both teams, however, failed to progress to the second round.
The last international encounter between the nations was at the 5th AHF Cup in Hong Kong in November last year with Singapore securing a 2-1 victory in a Pool B match.
“It has been my personal target of taking Singapore to a higher ranking in Asia by defeating all the teams that are not in the top six (rankings) in Asia. If the players work hard enough and show a high level of commitment we can achieve this target,” added Rajan, who had led Tenaga Nasional Berhad to six Malaysian Hockey Premier League titles in his 12 years as coach.
Singapore will also play two friendly matches against Oman in the Malaysian state of Malacca on Feb 25 and 26. The matches will be held at the Bukit Serindit Hockey Stadium.
“Oman will be in Malaysia for a few days en route to competing in the Hockey World League Round 2 in Dhaka (Bangladesh) and it will be good for Singapore players to explore this opportunity,” he said.
Singapore Squad: Enrico Elifh Abdul Lathif Marican (captain), J. Ram, Wee Wei Xuan, Muhammad Fazly Abdul Rahman, Jeremiah Samson Balakrishnan, Ong Jun Hong, Mohammad Sabri Yuhari, Hazmi Mohamed Ibrahim, Ahmad Faris Muhammad Johari, Kendy Lee, Norman Teo, Darren Sia Dian Lun, Dineshraj Naidu, Muhammad Fazri Mohamed Jailani, Silas Abdul Razak, Tan Ri Yu, Nur Ashriq Ferdaus Zul’kepli and Muhammad Aidil Ibrahim.