The TNB Malaysian Hockey League for the 2013 season will commence this Friday and the focal point will not only be on debutants Terengganu HT, but also on the foreign players that have signed up to represent several teams in the Premier Division.
20 foreign players have signed up for various teams for the new season of MHL.A total of 14 teams will battle it our for honours in the Premier and First Division of the TNBMHL that first made its debut in 1987.
It has grown steadily over the years and although at one stage only two teams - TNB and KLHC were seen dominating it, the competition is expected to be a level playing field following the exodus of players from KLHC as wella s the fact that many foreign players have since been engaged to boost the teams.
The bulk of the foreign players are from Pakistan, with one player from Australia also signing up to play in the TNBMHL.
Teams however failed to secure players from India due to the reluctance of Hockey India to release its current batch of national players and that their juniors are embarking on a Europe playing tour at the beginning of May.
KL Hockey Club, the defending champions for the League and TNB Cup have signed six foreign players, five from Pakistan and an Australian to replenish their squad that was hardest hit by debutants Terengganu HT who are know known as the Real madrid of malaysian Hockey.
Skipper of the Pakistan national team, Muhammad Imran who scored five goals in the Azlan Shah cup last week leads the cast that also comprises of the evergreen Waseem Ahmad, Fareed Ahmad, Muhammad Umar Bhutta and Akhtar Ali.
"It will be interesting playing for KLHC this time around as I played for Sapura last season. The MHL is an interesting league and there are no easy matches. I believe that we have a good team that is capable of defending the titles and I look forward to assisting my team to honours," said Imran.
Also signed up by KLHC is Australian Timothy James Deavin who is best known for his last second gaol against Korea at the Azlan Shah Cup that helped Australia avoid defeat against Korea in a match that ended in a 3-3 draw.
"This will actually be the first time I will be playing in Kuala Lumpur as in the past I played matches for Australia in Ipoh only. It will be a new experience for me and I intend to repay the faith of manager George Koshy but helping the club to honours. From what I understand it is a highly competetive league.
KLHC will hace the services of three players who were named in the Azlan Shah XI to boost their chances with Deavin, Imran as well as Mohd Razie Rahim donning their colours.
Maybank is the other team that was on a recruitment drive and have secured the services of former Pakistan skipper Shakeel Abassi, Muhammad Irfan, Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool, all from Pakistan.
"We have decided to opt for foreigners as most national players opt to play for either KLHC, TNB or Terengganu. And we are happy with those we have signed. It is now a question of getting them to play as a unit with our local players," said Maybank team manager Rahim Musa.
Shafqat, who was also named in the Azlan Shah XI is a prized buy looking at his performance at the Azlan Shah Cup. He displayed good skills and composure and is expected to wreck havoc in the opponents defence with Shakeel.
Also signing up foreign players is Sapura who have signed on Pakistan's Khasif Ali, Yasir Islam, Muhammad Zubair and India's Raja Veerachamy.
And rounding up the foreign intake is Nur Insafi Warriors who have secured the services of Nasir Ahmad, Abdul Asim Khan, Shazad Amir, Imran Muhammad, Hussain Muhammad Salman and Ateeq Muhammad, all from Pakistan.