Leaving despite games success

South African Solomon Casoojee had plans to widen the talent pool, but the national men's hockey coach will leave in March next year, despite a contract that extends until 2017.
South African Solomon Casoojee had plans to widen the talent pool, but the national men's hockey coach will leave in March next year, despite a contract that extends until 2017.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

National hockey coach to depart next March in spite of surprise silver at SEA Games

He masterminded one of the more surprising Team Singapore performances in June's SEA Games, but national men's hockey coach Solomon Casoojee is set to depart even before his contract is up.

Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) general manager Geraldine Yan has confirmed that the South African will leave his post in March next year, a full year before his current contract ends in March 2017.

It is understood that Casoojee had wanted to leave immediately after the SEA Games - where he led the men's team to a silver, losing to regional powerhouses Malaysia only on penalties.

However, he will stay on to complete this year's international fixtures, with the Asian Challenge coming up in December.

Casoojee declined to comment when contacted.

However, he is believed to be disappointed with team training sessions after the SEA Games, especially since his five-year tenure has already been plagued with irregular attendances.

The Straits Times understands that training attendance figures range between four and 10 players after the Games, out of the 22 players in the national team set-up.

Among them, veterans Saiful Nizam, Farhan Kamsani and Johnson Sivalingam have retired, while team captain Enrico Marican, Ashriq Ferdaus and Silas Razak have entered national service.

Defender Sabri Yuhari, 25, who is one of the regular faces at training, slammed the attitude of the team. He said: "It is disappointing to see so few people during training these days.

"We only have a small pool of players and players assume they will be selected. In the past, we were always competitive and fighting for a place, but we do not have the same attitude now."

Sabri, a hockey coach at Xishan Primary School and Nanyang Polytechnic, also said that a lack of junior development contributed to a limited talent base to choose from.

The Straits Times understands that Casoojee saw his plans to widen the talent pool shelved for the past four years.

These plans include academy models, youth development programs and coach developmental programs for the junior squads .

He was also concerned about the quality of hockey in the local league, with the focus on the declining number of local players among the clubs.

Among the six clubs in National Hockey League One, Hollandse Club do not have any local players, Tornados Hockey Club have 21 foreign players in their 22-man squad, and Singapore Cricket Club have 10 foreign players in their team.

Sabri, who has played for League One side Jansenites for nine years, feels that Casoojee's imminent departure is a blow to the Republic's hopes of eventually overcoming Malaysia for top regional honours.

He said: "It is very sad that we were so close to beating the Malaysians but (we will now be) taking two steps back when Solly (Casoojee) leaves.

"Hopefully we will get more support from the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) and SHF for the development for Singapore hockey."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Leaving despite games success'. Print Edition | Subscribe