Tuesday January 15, 2013
Embaraj plays it cool after UniKLís nervous start
KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) coach K. Embaraj is not ready to rate his team as title contenders in the MHC-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League this year.
At the start of the season, UniKL were the pundits’ choice to stop SSTMI-Thunderbolt from winning the league and overall titles again.
UniKL, the 2010 overall champions and 2011 league winners, were beaten to both the titles last season.
But Embaraj is not convinced with his team’s credentials after the nervy 6-2 win over SSTMI Juniors in their opening match in Johor Baru on Sunday.
“We have a relatively young side, having retained only five players from last year’s squad.
“Most of the players are in the 16-17 age bracket. We are still rebuilding the side. Right now, our aim is to take one match at a time and see how they progress,” said the former international defender.
Goalkeepers Mohamed Fitri Jasni and Mohamed Shukor Safie; midfielders Nor Azrul Rahman and Mohamed Syafiq Zulzairin; and defender Mohamed Haziq Shamsul are the five players from last season’s side.
For Embaraj, he will have a clear idea of his team’s strength this week when UniKL take on former champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) on Thursday and then Petaling jaya City Council (MBPJ) on Saturday.
“BJSS and MBPJ are strong teams and can be considered title contenders. Our game against them will give us a better idea of where we stand. Beating these two sides will give the players confidence.
“All the teams in the league have improved on their squads with many of them having younger players.
“So, there is no way we can take any team for granted.
“I want to see my players improve from match to match,” said Embaraj.
Like UniKL, BJSS also have a young side. They lost both their matches to date, going down 1-0 to Thunderbolt and MBPJ.
BJSS coach S. Prakash believes there is room for improvement.
“We are still on a learning curve. We lost narrowly in both matches due to inexperience,” he said.
On the match against UniKL, Prakash said: “Most of the UniKL players are from BJSS and they are quite experienced. But we will try and win the match.”