BUKIT JALIL, Aug 3 — “Do Malaysia proud and don’t waste this once in a lifetime chance as once the doors are open it’s the benefits are endless.”
So says ex-hockey international, Selvaraju Sandrakasi, to the four Tigress about to embark on a journey to play in Europe’s elite hockey leagues, at a press conference today.
Nuraini Abdul Rashid and Fatin Shafika Shukri will join Butterfly Roma Hockey Club in Italy from September 3 till November 12, while Hanis Nadiah Onn and Wan Norfaezah Saiuti will link up with Germany’s Sportverein Zehlendorfer Wespen 1911 eV from September 1 to October 31.
The girls were chosen based on performances and potential and are given this unique chance to play in these two countries for the first time in Malaysia’s history due to Raju’s relationships with these clubs.
“I’ve played for 13 clubs in my career and a lot were abroad. I made sure despite all the difficulties I’d face I must be a consummate professional,” said Raju who last played for Malaysia at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“The squad under K. Dharmaraj are going from strength to strength and the next step in their evolution is to go abroad,” added Raju who is currently the coach/player for Pistoia Club in Florence, Italy.
“But unlike many in the past who couldn’t hack it abroad I want these girls to be warriors. I want them to embrace the culture, be fighters, work very hard and come back and share the knowledge with the rest of the team.
“It is not easy to get Malaysian girls to play abroad because no one knows about our women’s hockey. Second problem we have is there aren’t enough players. So the few we do have need to realise what a big opportunity this is.
“If they go there and make a good impression, chances are we will get more chances in the future to send the girls there. If they blow it, it will leave a bad impression and we may not recover for awhile.
“So please heed my words and remember, this is not a holiday trip. There’s a lot at stake.”
The girls will get a return ticket, apartment to stay in and allowance throughout their time with the clubs. They’ll be part of the local league and will not play the entire season.
This is because next year the teams could have a busy schedule in the beginning of year.
They’re set to face language, food and a cultural barrier.
Other Malaysians who have played abroad were captain Siti Amarina Ruhani and Fazilla Sylvester Sillin who’ve played in Spain’s second division.
These teams are first division and offer elite level competition.
“The league’s broken into two parts. The first one’s after the Asian Games while part two is in 2019. During these window the clubs can bring in players and let others go,” said national head coach K. Dharmaraj.
“The clubs have taken these girls for the first part and next year to bring in players in the leagues. After the Asian games we don’t have any assignments so the timing for them to go is great,” said national head coach Dharmaraj.
“So next year we have assignments hence the girls will join us.”
Tigress are aiming to make the podium at the Asian games from August 18 till September 2. Dharmaraj is buoyant and wants the team to embrace the pressure and start aiming high.
Their best finish was third place at the inaugural edition in 1982.
“I see the seniors bucking up. It’s perhaps the fact the juniors are giving them a run for their money,” said Dharmaraj.