In the first week of the second half of the HKHA Premier Division, with the top and bottom six teams segregated, the top three teams all won their matches with no change in the division standings.
Khalsa-A and Punjab-A are both on 32 points with HKFC-A 1-point behind. However, Khalsa still head the table on goal difference.
SSSC-A vs Punjab-A
The initial match of the afternoon, between SSSC-A against Punjab-A, was a fast moving entertaining encounter.
SSSC-A managed to stay ahead on goal scoring for most of the match so there was always the possibility that there would be an upset. SSSC-A were two goals up before Punjab-A got on the score sheet and the goal difference stayed at one or two goals until the final quarter of the match.
As the game got close to the end, Punjab scored twice—first to move them level and then again to take the lead and win the game 5-4.
In the later match, Valley-A gave the league leaders quite a stern test at the Valley ground, but Khalsa-A’s superior finishing gave them the edge.
Khalsa were 2-nil up at half time, but play in the second half was difficult as it was played in heavy rain causing water to lay on the pitch and restrict ball movement. Valley scored the only goal of the second half, but Khalsa did enough to take the match 2-1.
The Shaheen-A match with HKFC-A was rather one-sided. Club were 5 goals to the good at half time and continued to tuck goals away in the second half to finish with a 10-1 scoreline.
Several teams have recently brought, or are about to bring, in additional overseas players to compete in the Premier Division.
Kuldeep Singh Buttar, co-sponsor of SSSC-A, told the Epoch Times that they have just introduced one Indian player called Cheeyanna and that they have two more players arriving soon – one from India and one from Malaysia.
Khalsa have also introduced two more players—a new goalie and a defender/penalty corner specialist. The defender, Harpal Singh is an ex-India international that played for India in the 2004 Olympics in Athens—he will inject a wealth of experience having played for India from 2003 to 2007, including tours to Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland.
Meanwhile, Punjab’s Sunny Bali explained that they have several Olympian’s returning in the next week or two, but international record holder for goal scoring Sohail Abbas is not coming this time.
In the lower half of the table, KNS-A improved their position by beating current leaders HKFC-B (2-1) to reduce the gap to one point; bottom of the table Elite-A won against SSSC-B; and Pak-A won against KCC-A.
This Sunday (Feb 16) the most-important bottom-half match is SSSC-B against KCC-A, who are fighting to retain their Premier Division place.
The Shaheen Academy is sponsoring a program of hockey umpire development in Hong Kong named “Road to World Panel”. FIH International Umpires Manager, Faiz Muhammad from Peshawar, Pakistan is currently in Hong Kong for two weeks to guide the development program.
In talking with the Epoch Times Faiz Muhammad explained his role.
“I am here for two weeks and we are starting a very ambitious program,” said Muhammad.
“World Panel is the top level of umpires appointed to the Olympics and World Cup.
“Everybody cannot go to World Panel, but the Road to World Panel starts now.
“This is not just for two weeks, but to carry on developing these umpires. [The purpose] during the process [is] also to follow them, keep up with them and interact with them, so we know how they are developing and push them to really go up in level.”
Muhammad is excepting good results considering that he has run a similar program in Thailand.
“I have run the same program in Thailand for the last two years and we have seen five or six umpires attain the level of International Umpire,” he explained.
About 30 umpires will take part in the program, split about 60/40 men to women.
The FIH World Panel of Umpires is a very elite group of just 12 men and 11 women. Below that is the World Development Panel (13 men and 7 women), followed by Grade 1 (26 men and 13 women) and then a Promising Umpire List of 18 men and 25 women. Below these grades are International Umpires.
Currently Hong Kong has two listed International Umpires—Tong Cheung and Lam Ho Yeung. Hong Kong also has one International Umpire Manager—(Billy) Harcharan Singh Dillon.
With the considerable improvement in the level of play in the HKHA Premier Division in recent years – brought about by highly proficient team managers and coaches and the bringing in of top level international players to join the clubs—it is good to see additional effort now being placed on improving umpiring standards.
The next matches take place on Sunday Feb 16 when Valley-A meet HKFC-A at HKFC; Punjab-A play Shaheen-A; and SSSC-A play Khalsa-A—both at HV1.