The 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup received a major boost in sponsorship as RM1.7 million was handed over by sponsors at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
Heading the list of contributions was the Sultan Azlan Shah Foundation, contributing RM500,000 with Raja Dato Seri Elena Sultan Azlan Shah presenting the mock cheque.
Other contributors were the Perak State Government (RM250,000), ASTRO (RM350,000), Sapura Group (RM100,000), Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (RM100,000), Dataran Setar Sdn Bhd (RM100,000), Ngan Yin Groundnut Factory Sdn Bhd (RM50,000), Essential Educare Sdn Bhd (RM50,000), Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd (RM50,000), Famina Enterprise (RM25,000), Dato Shum Long Sang (RM25,000), SBSK Plantations Sdn Bhd (RM25,000), Ipoh City Hall (RM20,000). Those who contributed in kind were Impiana Hotel, Chillis and Spritzer.
Six teams will battle it out on the blue turf of the magnificent Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh from March 9 – 17 to lay claim to the magnificent trophy. The tournament, which commenced in 1983 has seen many “super powers” of world hockey participating and it is no different this time around.
Leading the cast is defending champions New Zealand, currently six in the FIH World Rankings, who edged Argentina 1-0 to lift the trophy last year.
Joining them from Down Under is Australia 9 (ranked 2), followed by Pakistan (5), South Korea (8) and hosts Malaysia (13).
Australia has most number of titles won with six, followed by India (5) Pakistan (3), Germany (2), Korea (2), Argentina (1), England (1), Holland (1) and New Zealand (1).
What is most interesting is the fact that Korea, New Zealand and hosts Malaysia will be led by new coaches, in the likes of Paul Lissek, Colin Batch and Paul Revington respectively.
Conceived as the theatre to match the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy, this annual competition is the brain-child of that visionary, His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah, the patriarch of hockey in Perak, Malaysia and Asia.
And no tournament can be successful without the support of sponsors. And in taking this into account, a sponsorship presentation ceremony was held today.
His Royal Highness Raja Muda Perak Darul Ridzuan Raja Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin graced the occasion to receive the contributions from the sponsors.
Also present was and Perak State Secretary Dato' Abdul Puhat bin Mat Nayan, Tan Sri P. Alagendra, the Secretary General of the Asian Hockey Confederation and Dato Abdul Rahim Md Ariff.
“Sultan Azlan Shah is playing a pivotal role in establishing Malaysia as the hub of Asian hockey activity,” said Dato Rahim.
“Hockey continues to be an irrepressible passion for the Sultan whose understanding of the nuances can be of envy even for the well-trained coaches.
“The annual tournament is just one among the list of events held in Malaysia, like World Cup, Asian Championships and the Champions Trophy.
Below is a question and answer with National Hockey Coach Paul Revington.
Question: How is the team coping thus far?
Revs: We have had a good couple of weeks of training and recent games versus Ireland. It is always nice to have games at the end of a training phase and I think both Ireland and New Zealand games are well timed for us as a team pre Azlan Shah Cup.
Question: We have not done well past two years, 6th place last year and 7th the year before. Your expectations this year?
Revs: I want an improvement in performance of fundamentals again - and expecting that this will lead to an increase in consistent results during the event.
Question: Many teams are using younger players this time around. What option will you adopt - youngsters plus experience?
Revs: I am not too concerned about what other teams are doing at the moment. We are several months/years behind most top 10 countries at the moment and therefore our focus has to be on ourselves and playing catch up. We must use every available opportunity to bridge any gap between our opponents.
Question: How do you see the other five teams?
Revs: Australia will always be highly competitive no matter what players they bring to an event. Their depth of talent is well known and they will arrive as favorites for the title. Pakistan and India are experiencing an upward curve in performance, which is healthy for the international game. Korea and New Zealand are both arriving with new coaches and with teams that have produced consistently strong performances in recent years.
Question: Have you played/coached in the Azlan Shah Cup?
Revs: I coached South Africa in 2005.
Question: When will you name final 18, now that you will play two matches v New Zealand on March 4 and 5 in Malacca?
Revs: We will definitely name 16 players next Thursday before the New Zealand games - with two final places possibly being announced after the NZ games.
For more on this tournament, please visit www.azlanshahcup.com and follow us on Twitter @azlancup.