Coach believes women’s team will deliver on his birthday
by SHAMSUL FITRI
KUALA LUMPUR: Sepaktakraw women’s team coach Osman Che Meh is hoping for a birthday gift from his charges when they open their campaign in the SEA Games on Dec 13 against Laos.
Osman, who will turn 40 on the day, is confident that the team will chalk up a win to enhance their chances to qualify for the regu semi-finals.
“Vietnam are our other opponents in Group B. The other group has Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines,” said Osman after a training session at the National Sports Council Complex in Keramat.
“We have beaten Vietnam before and lost narrowly to Laos recently in the Games dry-run. I am confident that the team can deliver in Vientiane.”
The team comprise Nor Fairuz Azizan, Rohilah Harun, Nor Farhana Ismail, Norashidah Rashid and Siti Nor Zubaidah Che Ab Wahab. They will also compete in the doubles event.
Malaysia will be making a return to SEA Games sepaktakraw after withdrawing from the 2007 Korat Games over a dispute against the use of the rubber-coated Marathon Gen-II ball.
Although the women’s team will be making their Games debut, Osman said that the girls, who have been training together for the last two years, were expected to make their presence felt.
“They have been sparring with boys from the schools nearby and for three times a week, they go for fitness training at the National Sports Institute (NSI) in Bukit Jalil,” he said.
“But I have to admit that the team lack international exposure to better prepare them mentally, especially against tough opponents like Thailand.”
Osman said that the team went abroad twice this year – for the King’s Cup in Thailand and the Vietnam Open in October.
“They are a bit behind in terms of international exposure but I hope that in the future, there will be more local tournaments to make up for it,” he said.
“The boys who spar with them here are no match for them. They need real competitions to raise their standard for international play.”
Meanwhile, the men’s team to Laos will embark on a mission to redeem themselves for their poor showings in the international arena recently.
After being humiliated by minnows South Korea and Indonesia in the World Cup in Terengganu in June, the team are hard pressed to do well in Vientiane.
“The journey will be difficult but we must try our best to get a medal in the Laos Games,” said the secretary general of the Sepaktakraw Association of Malaysia, Datuk Arshad Yahya.
“We have prepared the team to the best we could and the focus now is on their mental strength and confidence to take on strong opponents.”
Of the four events in the programme, Malaysia will compete in three – regu, doubles and team. Malaysia have opted out of the hoop event while favourites Thailand chose not to compete in the doubles.
“We may have a chance to land the doubles gold. But we can’t be too confident of ourselves and let lesser teams surprise us,” said Arshad.
He said that the team had showed progress, especially with the recent win of regu Muhammmad Syazwan Husin, Mohd Hamikhairi Muhammad Roslan and Mohd Syafiq Abdul Rahman over Thailand in the Vietnam Open to grab the gold medal.
“Malaysian sepaktakraw has been through ups and downs.
“It is for us now to concentrate on giving our best in Laos,” said Arshad.
The last time Malaysia won gold in the SEA Games was in 1991 in Manila.