Hockey's selection criteria for SEA Games raises questions
Australia-based defender Haseef omitted from SEA Games squad because he could not train in Singapore
He was one of only two players sent overseas by the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) as part of its Sports Development Pathway programme.
It was aimed at having young local players cut their teeth in an environment where the sport is played at a higher standard to help improve the national team.
But being on that programme appears to be a key reason behind Haseef Salim being omitted from the 18-member national men's squad that will fly the Republic's flag at next month's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Sources revealed that the 24-year-old defender was informed of his omission from the SEA Games squad via a WhatsApp message by national coach K Rajan, with the assertion that the SHF's High Performance Committee had decided to pick local-based players only.
According to the SHF selection criteria for the men's team that The New Paper has obtained, overseas-based players will be selected only if they are available "to train with the national squad for an agreed period of a minimum of one month immediately before the event".
"If you are here, I'm sure you will be considered," Rajan told Haseef in the text message that TNP has seen.
TNP understands that Rajan informed Haseef, who has consistently represented the country since the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, only after the player asked about his status in the squad, with no prior conversation on whether he was available to return to Singapore for training.
This is despite the fact that Haseef was included in the list of players submitted to the Singapore National Olympic Council and trained with the team briefly when he returned earlier this year.
Haseef is currently playing with the Suburban Lions Hockey Club in the Western Australian League, as he completes his final year in university.
While he is a defender, Haseef has served as the national men's team's designated drag-flicker at penalty corners, and has a decent conversion record.
He is currently the second top-scorer in the league, with 13 goals in 12 matches.
Haseef could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
The SHF's latest selection criteria was not made known to Haseef before the squad were selected on June 13, with appeals closing a week later.
The document was sent to Haseef only on June 22, after he submitted a request. TNP understands that other players in the squad were also not made aware of the criteria last year.
"The criteria was submitted to the Singapore National Olympic Council last year, it was prepared well before (June 22)," said SHF general manager Sajivan Hariram, who could not answer why the criteria was not made known to the players.
"I can't answer that, I'll have to check with the (SHF's) selection committee."
While the players were informed of their inclusion in the squad, the SHF did not make an official announcement on its website or social media platforms. Sajivan told TNP that the announcement will only be made at the end of the appeals.
Haseef met SHF officials last night to appeal their decision.
TNP understands that a player progress report was submitted by Dean Evans - coach of the Lions - to Rajan.
In the email, Evans wrote that Haseef's "capability in passing is world class" and that the athlete has "the required aerobic capability to achieve international standard at the second tier".
Evan's balanced report also highlighted Haseef's positional and decision-making deficiencies, but ended with a glowing statement: "In my playing and coaching career, I have not encountered an International player that has better attributes than him."
SHF president Mathavan Devadas has declined to comment until after the end of the appeal.
The murkiness over the selection criteria runs deeper. Among other issues pointed out by players whom TNP has spoken to is the matter of fitness.
The selection criteria stipulates that players must score 13.3 and above in the Beep Test to be considered, but coach Rajan revealed that such a test has yet to be conducted, despite the fact that the squad have already been selected.
"We are doing it after we come back from our tour to Kuala Lumpur, where we will play two state teams and a club team," said Rajan, who declined to comment on the Haseef appeal.
The men's hockey team won a silver medal at the 2015 Games held in Singapore. As part of their preparations, the boys will go to KL on a three-match tour from Friday to Sunday.