National men’s coach Hanip Che Halim said Thailand have made steady progress since the 2019 Manila edition, while Indonesia will be stronger under Malaysian coach K. Dharmaraj.
“Dharmaraj guided the Malaysian women’s indoor team to the title in the 2019 edition. And he is assisted by another Malaysian, K. Gobinathan,” said Hanip at UTC Sentul on Tuesday.
“Both Dharmaraj and Gobinathan are quality coaches. They had also coached Malaysia to fourth place at the 2013 Junior World Cup (field hockey) in New Delhi.
Hanip was part of the men’s squad that won gold at the 2017 KL and 2019 Manila editions.
The men’s team, however, are still the favourites to retain their gold after winning the Indoor Asia Cup in Bangkok last August.
“Expectations are high as we are Asian champions. We have started our preparations for the Sea Games in Sentul.
“We have a month to iron out our game before the Sea Games,” said Hanip.
Former national team defender Syed Syafiq Syed Cholan is among the 15 players, including the eight who played in last year’s Indoor Asia Cup, in the squad
National women’s coach Badrul Hisham Osman said they too would face a strong challenge from Thailand and Indonesia in the Sea Games.
“We have a new team as most of our players who played in Manila have retired. We are banking on seasoned campaigners Farah Ayuni Yahya, Qasidah Najwa Halimi, Iren Hussin and Raja Norshahrina Raja Shabbudin in the Games.
“It will be really tough for us to defend gold in Phnom Penh,” said Badrul.