Hockey chief insists SEA Games gold is still the target
The national men's hockey team were dismal at the Men's World League Round 2 tournament in January, but the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) is sticking with its gold-medal target at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held here in June.
The January tournament, which served as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World Cup, saw the Singapore men hammered 16-1 by reigning SEA Games champions Malaysia.
Singapore men lost 5-0 to Malaysia in the final of the 2013 SEA Games, and were also blitzed 8-2 by the regional kingpins at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
But SHF president Mathavan Devadas believes the hosts, coached by South African Solomon Casoojee, have a fighting chance of winning gold this year - because they may not face the strongest Malaysian team.
Speaking to The New Paper on the sidelines of a hockey clinic organised for about 170 secondary school students at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium yesterday, Mathavan said: "I understand that their (Malaysia's) senior men's team will be focusing on the World League semi-finals in Belgium, so they may send a partial junior squad to the SEA Games, instead.
"Our preparations are also going very well, and I think we can do it."
Fourteen of the 25 Singapore hockey men are currently training in Perth, while the remaining 11 have been going through their paces four times a week at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
One of the 11, Ishwarpal Singh, said they were working hard so that the group will be able to match the standards of their teammates, who will return on Wednesday.
"Silver is a realistic target for us, but we're going for gold," added the 22-year-old.
The women's team have also been training four times a week, and Mathavan is confident that they, too, will meet their target, which is a silver medal.
Singapore hockey was given a boost in their quest for glory yesterday when local sports apparel line Thorb and UK sports nutrition brand Science in Sport (SiS) pledged their support with sponsorships valued at an estimated $40,000 and $25,000, respectively.
The SiS deal will run till the end of the SEA Games on June 30, and the brand will provide the national team with products such as energy drinks and protein packs. Homegrown brand Thorb, who has been in partnership with the SHF since 2009, will sponsor the national teams until the end of the year.
Thorb will also be introducing Team Singapore hockey T-shirts for both players and supporters.
The T-shirts will go on sale at $15 each next week, and part of the proceeds will go to charity foundation SportCares.
Yesterday's event saw a visit from Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, marking the successful link between the state and Singapore to promote and develop hockey here.
The State Government of Western Australia forked out $50,000 last year to help in the development of Singapore's national and junior hockey teams through coach and player training, and the promotion of the sport in schools.
The Premier was joined by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi, who witnessed the official signing of the two sponsorship deals yesterday.