Nor Azlan Bakar is confident of Malaysia making a return to the Olympics after a 17-year absence. 

The former national player’s confidence stems from Stephen van Huizen’s boys charting a new course en route to a fourth-place finish at the London Hockey World League Semi-Finals in June which earned the Malaysians a spot in the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.

The Men’s Hockey World League Final will be played from Dec 1-10while the World Cup is scheduled from 28 Nov-16 Dec, 2018. Placed 14th in the FIH World Rankings than, the Malaysian Tigers also shocked World No 6 India 3-2 in the quarterfinals stage of the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in London.

The last time a Malaysian hockey team featured in an Olympic was in Sydney (2000) and the 39-year-old veteran player reckons that the current batch of players are capable of defying the odds once again to book a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“The Olympics is the most prestigious tournament for all athletes. When we qualified for the Sydney Olympics, it was indeed our happiest moment as were part of the action in the world’s biggest and glamorous sporting event,” said Nor Azlan who represented the national team from 1996-2006.

“Since then, Malaysia has never qualified and I am confident the current batch of players have the experience and skills to take on any team today irrespective of their world rankings because they deserve to be in the Tokyo Olympics.”

In order to gain automatic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Malaysians will have to clinch the gold medal at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games next year.A tall order indeed but Nor Azlan believes nothing is impossible. Malaysia’s best achievement in the Asian Games was a silver medal in Guangzhou (2010).

“In Asia, India are regarded as the strongest team and it’s never easy beating them. But ever since the boys defeated India in the quarter-finals to qualify for the World Cup and the World Hockey League Finals, we saw a glimpse of hope. I hope they will continue this momentum and create a new record in the Asian Games,” added Azlan. – BY ALVIN OH

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