The Sarawak men’s hockey team at the Kuching International Airport before their departure for Perak. From left (back row) HAS secretary Kangot Awan, coach Dangerous Lee Matthew, assistant captain Clement Tsai and captain M. Izzat Afifi. Team manager Beatrice Sawin is on the right (back row).

KUCHING: The Sarawak men’s hockey team is in for a rough time in Perak.

It is drawn in Group B which comprises tough opponents like Selangor and Terengganu in addition to Perak, Kedah, Perlis and Pahang.

Tasked with the unenviable job of coaching the team is former national player Dangerous Lee Matthew, on his first coaching assignment.

There are no two ways about it. Sarawak has never done well in Sukma men’s hockey, not even when it was held in Kuching two years ago.

The team can only face up to the challenge by putting the best foot forward.

Team captain M. Izzat Afifi,
who is into his third and final Sukma, is looking to go out with a bang.

“I am hopeful we can move into the second round,” he said.

Assistant captain is Clement Tsai, the former SMK St Thomas student now with Sabah Sports School.

The team is a blend of experienced players like Izzat and Tsai, who’s playing in his second Sukma, with several new faces.

They underwent a month long training in August with two sessions a day.

If nothing else, their fitness will be one thing coach Dangerous can bank on.

“Our fitness should be in really good shape,” he agreed though there is worry over one player Dolf with a back injury.

“We are hopeful he will be fully fit when the tournament starts as we need every one fit if we are to do well,” said Dangerous.

Sarawak start their campaign against Pahang on Sept 14 followed by Kedah, Perak, Terengganu, Selangor and Perlis in that order.

Four teams – top two from the two groups – will go straight into the cross-over semis on Sept 20 with the championship match scheduled for Sept 21.

Hockey Association of Sarawak (HAS) secretary Kangot Awan will also be on duty as one of the technical officials for the tournament.

The Sarawak team left for Perak on Monday morning.