World-class keeper leaves national outfit after 21 years

After 21 years in the national hockey team, S. Kumar (pic), considered one of the finest goalkeepers in the world, has finally called it a day.

Although he has quit playing for the national team, the 40-year-old from Negri Sembilan will still be in hockey. The goalkeeper, who has represented Malaysia 321 times, has been hired by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) as the national junior team’s goalkeeper’s coach.

He will also continue playing for Tenaga Nasional.

The juniors will feature in the Junior Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh from June 4-14, the qualifying tournament for 2021 Junior World Cup.

NAME: S. Kumar

STATE: N. Sembilan

AGE: 40

POSITION: Goalkeeper

CAPS: 321

ACHIEVEMENTS: Asian All Star player in 2010.

Best Asian player in 2011, Won silvers in Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010 and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.

Best keeper in the 2017 World League Semi-Finals in London.

Two time best keeper in Asia Cup in Chennai in 2007 and Kuantan in 2009.

Five times best keeper in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013

Kumar, who made his debut for Malaysia in the 1999 SEA Games in Brunei, will attend the coaching course during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh from April 11-18.

Kumar said he had wanted to quit the national team a few years ago especially when his three-year-old son Harshenn died of a blood infection in 2015. Kumar was in Antwerp, Belgium, for the World Hockey League Semi-Finals when the tragedy struck.

Kumar, who returned for the funeral before the start of the competition, said he continued to play for the country because his services were still needed.

“But I have finally decided to retire as I am already 40. I have other commitments and want to spend time with my family, ” said Kumar, who was named the best Asian player in 2011, ” he said at a press conference, a day after Tenaga’s campaign in the Malaysia Hockey League came to an end with a 3-4 defeat to Terengganu.

“The time has come for other players to take over. We have a good set of senior and junior development goalkeepers for the national team.

Kumar’s exit was hastened by the fact that Malaysia did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Malaysia lost 9-3 on aggregate to Britain in London in the two Olympics playoff matches last November.

“I have played in two World Cups in (The Hague, Holland in 2014 and in Bhubaneswar, India in 2018) but my only disappointment is that I did not get to feature in the Olympics, ” he said.

The other keepers in the national training team are Mohd Hairi Abdul Rahman, Mohd Hafizuddin Othman, Mohd Zaimi Mat Deris and Adrian Andy Albert.

Hairi featured in the World Cup in Bhubaneswar and also played in the FIH World Series in Kuala Lumpur last year.

Kumar has a piece of advice for the national keepers: “They should have no fear playing against top teams in tournaments.

“The goalkeepers’ training is different than that for other players as they must be fast in clearing the ball in the semi-circle and always be on their toes, ” said Kumar.

“I am keen to be a coach as I have vast experience in goalkeeping and would like to contribute back to the national team.

“Although I have retired from the national team, I will still stay active as a player for Tenaga in domestic tournaments, ” said Kumar, who has won the best keeper awards few times in tournaments.

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