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 AFTER waiting for a decade, the Penang Under-18 hockey team finally got their hands on the National Schools (MSSM) Hockey Championship trophy at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, recently.

The islanders' hard-fought 2-1 win over Perlis in the boys' final also made up for last year's disappointment in the same tournament.

Then, Penang had been tipped to end their title drought but fell at the last hurdle, going down 1-2 to Kuala Lumpur in the final.

But the Penang players ensured there would not be heartbreak this year.

Mohd Aidil Firdaus and his Penang Free School schoolmate Mohd Azamuddin were the toast of the team after scoring during the final.

Perlis, who created a major surprise by qualifying for their first ever MSSM Under-18 hockey final, got their consolation goal through Mohd Faizal Rashidi.

The last time Penang won the Under-18 MSSM hockey title was when they hosted the competition in 1996.

Penang coach Yap Gark Soo attributed the success to the team spirit and togetherness of the squad, two thirds of whom are Penang Free School students.

“I am proud of my players for ensuring that Penang return home with the champions’ trophy.

“Our advantage was that most of the players in the squad were already familiar with each other’s playing style as they featured for the Penang Free School-USM side in this year’s National Junior Hockey League.

“Besides this, more than half of the players were part of the squad that finished runners-up in the MSSM meet last year. They were very fired up to make up for last year's disappointment,” said Gark Soo.

The Penang team also utilised the services of three Bukit Jalil Sports School-based players – Ahmad Ter-mizi Ismail, Adam Ahmad Mokhzan and Mohd Izzat Rahim, who is described as the livewire of the team.

“We went into the tournament with the aim of making it to a second successive final. But to come back from Kuala Lumpur as the champions is a delightful bonus.

“The victory has ended a barren run for Penang's junior hockey teams. 

“We have had a spate of second place finishes but no victories over the past few years. Hopefully, clinching the MSSM title will herald the beginning of better things to come,” said the coach.

The Penang girls’ Under-12 side created a sensation by qualifying for the final. However, they fell short when it mattered most and were forced to settle for second spot behind Perak.

The state's Under-18 girls’ team, comprising mainly of players from the Mutiara Impian school, can also be commended for reaching the semi-finals in the national schools meet.

East Coast teams ruled the MSSM Under-18 girls’ competition, with Terengganu winning the title and Pahang finishing second.

The Penang Under-18 boys’ winning squad: Mohd Faizal Zalani, Mohd Aidil Firdaus Shamsuddin, Mohd Haffiezye Harun, Nazreen Izzuddin Izani, Mohd Noorhafizan Hamid, Mohd Firdaus Alkap, Mohd Shafirizal Sabarudin, Mohd Aza-muddin Roslan, Izwan Firdaus Tajuddin, Azreen Rizal Nasir, Abdul Rahimi Rahman, Mohd Syafiq Jaafar (all from Penang Free), Ahmad Ter-mizi Ismail, Adam Ahmad Mokhzan, Mohd Izzat Rahim (BJSS), Vimel Ramasamy (Datuk Hj Abdul Kadir), Mohd Farith Hashim (Datuk Hj Mat Said), Mohd Azizi Baharuddin (Mu-tiara Impian).  THE STAR

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