On Sunday in Melaka, Malaysia, the host nation will contest the Junior Asia Cup Final for the first time since 1992. Malaysia has not fared too well in hockey in recent years having failed to qualify for the Olympics in their last three attempts, so this is a major achievement and understandably the whole nation is watching their performances with great interest.
Malaysia had failed to get past the last four stage on three occasions, in 1987, 2000 and 2004 and last night they had to overcome the defending champions India to make the final. A 2-0 victory means that they will meet Pakistan who trounced South Korea 6-1 in the other semi final.
The final will be justification in Malaysia for Project 2013, which was a five year plan to bring a group of players together and make them competitive on the World stage. A surprise win in the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2011 meant that going into the Junior Asia Cup many expected them to be a force to be reckoned with. Win or lose the vision has paid dividends so far, but the proof will be in whether the nucleus of this group can help Malaysia qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Rio.
Interestingly Pakistan is also a resurgent nation, when it comes to Hockey and the success of their team in these Championships, where they were slow to get going, as the squad only had five days together before the start of the tournament, has lead to huge interest back home. No doubt scoring 20 goals in their last two games will have helped; they beat Sri Lanka 14-0 before their game against South Korea.
Either way it is positive news for both nations and for the game of Hockey as a whole, and also shows the benefits in investing with a long term plan in your youth. IT may not happen overnight, but the rewards do come eventually.