Singapore hockey team draw 1-1 with Myanmar
Lacking a finisher like Vanderput, Casoojee's men open with a draw
Those who were lucky enough to squeeze into the packed Sengkang Stadium last night, poured out of the bleachers onto the barriers surrounding the pitch once the match came to an end.
They offered their congratulations, or commiserations, after Singapore and Myanmar played out a tough 1-1 draw in a preliminary fixture of the men's hockey tournament at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
If the Singapore fans had turned to their own side of the fence, they would have noticed one of their own also clad in the red of Singapore hockey, although Ian Vanderput was in shorts and slippers.
On a night where missed opportunities decided the outcome of the game, Singapore could have done with the services of Vanderput, the most clinical forward in the land.
Singapore fell behind to a 20th-minute Zaw Hei Min goal following a penalty corner, with Silas Abdul Razak equalising in the final minute of the half, in a dramatic match that saw much goal-mouth action and even a protest that halted proceedings for six minutes.
"Coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn't count for much. At the end of the day, Vanderput's not here, and we've got to make do with what we've got," said Singapore coach Solomon Casoojee.
"We played controlled hockey for the vast majority of the game, but we were sloppy in the attacking third."
The New Paper had earlier reported (May 22) that Vanderput, who scored four of the team's seven goals in January's World League Round 2, was dropped from the final 18-man squad by the Singapore Hockey Federation's (SHF) selection committee, because his work commitments had seen him miss out on several training sessions.
Speaking to TNP last night, Vanderput reiterated that he understood why he was dropped from the team he still backs.
It was a match that could have gone horribly wrong for the hosts.
Hard-running, gritty Myanmar believed they were robbed of victory.
Coach Muhammad Akhlaq asserted that Silas' 35th-minute goal should have been ruled out, because International Hockey Federation (FIH) rules state that the ball cannot be hit directly into the D from behind the 25-metre line.
"Singapore got lucky. If we had won this game, then beat Thailand in the next game, we would be in the final," said the former Pakistani Olympian, who led the Myanmar protests that stopped the game for some six minutes.
"That goal should not have been a goal. I have much concern about the umpiring and it must improve," he said.
The men's tourney features only four teams and they play a round-robin format, with the top two playing in the final.
With just four minutes to go, Myanmar could have won the game anyway.
Myanmar No. 10 Aung Thein Htike lifted the ball over the Singapore goalkeeper, only to see his goal-bound attempt deflected wide, by teammate Thet Htwe.
"Luck favoured Singapore today and now we have to get two wins in the next two matches," said Akhlaq, who despite helming a team who have not played an international game since the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, believes his charges have a chance, even against the mighty Malaysians, who beat Thailand 3-0 in the day's earlier fixture.
"Although they are an Under-20 team, they are better than us. But we will try to get points," he said.
The four-nation women's tournament also kicked off yesterday, with Thailand beating Indonesia 9-0 and Malaysia blitzing Singapore 7-0.
"Hockey has a real future in Singapore. The peak for men's hockey was in the '70s. What we achieved then shows what we are capable of. The Malaysians are (now at the SEA Games) well ahead of us and, if we can medal, it'll be an achievement."
- Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam
WITH THE 1973 MEN: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (centre, in red) with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin (near right, in red) and some members of the Republic's 1973 men’s hockey team at the Sengkang Stadium yesterday. Led by captain in 1973, Veer Singh (second from far right), they are the only team to have stolen the hockey men’s gold medal from Malaysia in the history of the SEA Games.