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Zidane: UniKL will need to tighten the screws

Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin in head gear

TENGKU Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil is a name inextricably linked to Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL). Teammates call him ‘Zidane” – a moniker that speaks a lot of his mental toughness and agility.

He is among the best comeback stories in Malaysian sports – making an abrupt return just days after sustaining a fractured jaw in the 2020 TNB Malaysian Hockey League. He surprised teammates and fans when he played against Maybank in a headgear designed for rugby players – defying medical experts to take a rest for several weeks.

His return, however, was a welcome sign for the varsity side that was embroiled in a vigorous tooth-and-nail encounter against Maybank in the first quarter until Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin broke the deadlock by scoring the first goal in the 12th minute. UniKL went on to win 4-2.

The 34-year-old forward is instrumental in driving UniKL to its greatest competitive success last season by winning the Charity Shield, Premier League, and TNB Cup. For UniKL and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, the journey continues in the 2021 TNBMHL with the Charity Shield match against Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) scheduled on January 14. All matches will be played at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

One of the most respected players in UniKL, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin said the friendly match against Nurinsafi Penang last Sunday was an early shot for several junior players who will be eyeing a regular spot in the team.

“I want to see the juniors move the team in the direction it needs to go by turning in an enthusiastic performance,” said Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin. “Give them more time to gather the understanding and build the momentum.”

“We have several matches lined up in the next few days, and this will be good for the juniors and the team to be ready for the challenges ahead, especially in tight situations,” he added.

Among the newcomers lined-up this season is forward Nur Rahul Hrisikesa Mohd Murni Thaitchana, midfielder Pavandip Singh, and goalkeeper Muhamad Shafie Sahrom.

He stressed that there is no competitive imbalance in the league in the absence of foreign players as all teams are faced with a similar situation.

“There are no small teams in the league. I have great respect for our opponents. For UniKL, it is going to be another great opportunity for us to show what we can do with an all-local setup,” he added. “We are doing well in training and need to keep on improving in every friendly match for the league.”

The one-round league format proposed by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation, said Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, will mean UniKL will need to tighten the screws as there will be no second chance for redemption should the team falter along the way contrary to the home-and-away format adopted last season.

“We have to win all our matches to stay on top. Unlike last season, if we drop a point in the first game there is still hope in the return-leg match of winning full points and move forward,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Nurinsafi Penang manager Dr. Thaitchana Muruhti was delighted at the sight of his youngsters performing well against UniKL that is led by seven senior national team players.

“For the first friendly game, I think the players did well. We only started training a few days ago and we have another 13 training sessions to go before the league begins. Hopefully, the boys will be able to form a good understanding,” said Dr. Thaitchana.

‘We are using junior players from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Armed Forces, and Penang. The boys are playing their best and they just have to prove themselves. I want them to play good hockey, and hopefully along the way, we may get to upset some teams,” he added.

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