The boys who played with so much heart and soul and passion, and drew 1,000-strong crowds for their matches during the Standard Chartered Men’s Junior World Cup in June, are back in action again.
I’m referring, of course, to our national hockey players who – despite being younger than, and outclassed by most of their opponents – still ended the tournament holding their heads up high with their never-say-die spirit, and that memorable long-awaited win over the US which helped them to avoid finishing last in the tournament.
This week, they will be out for more international exposure and experience as they pit themselves against Asia’s best in the Boys Under-18 Asia Cup, which will be held in Yangon, Myanmar.
The Asia Cup is also the Asian qualifying tournament for next year’s Youth Olympic Games.
As YOG host, Singapore does not need to qualify for the YOG but they will be seeking to gain more experience from this competition.
I do not know who has been selected for the Asia Cup but I will not be surprised if the bulk of the players were from the Junior World Cup squad.
This is because most of them were 16 and 17 year olds (which makes their gritty performances against their older, 19-year-old opponents at the JWC even more commendable).
If the squad is essentially the same, then we can expect the likes of JWC team co-captain Sabri Yuhari, forwards Enrico Marican and N Balakumaran and midfielder Ashiq Fernando to be in action.
According to media reports, the four were the leading lights of their team at the JWC.
Sabri impressed with his leadership while the ambidextrous Enrico formed an exciting strike partnership with the tenacious Balakumaran.
According to the Singapore Hockey Federation’s website, Singapore is well aware of its own strengths and limitations. That is why the Republic is targeting a fifth-sixth finish at the tournament.
In other words, it is looking to finish third in its five-team group, which in turn, will set it up for the fifth-place play-offs, probably against India, Pakistan or Malaysia.
Singapore will take on Taiwan today and South Korea on Sunday. It then faces Myanmar on Monday and Japan on Wednesday.
I’ll try to bring you guys the results of the matches, and as many details about our Lions’ performances as I can find from wherever.
Here’s wishing our young Lions all the best.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan