Handpicked by HRH Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, president of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association (RMPA), the 36-year-old Johor Bahru-born Firhad has raised Malaysia’s hopes as the team hit the last lap of preparations for the Asian-Australasian-African Championships, which get underway at the Royal Pahang Polo Club grounds on Monday.
The championships also double up as the Zone D Qualifier for this year’s FIP Polo World Cup Finals in San Luis, Argentina from Oct 11-25. The top three tops in the Asian-Australasian-African Championships will qualify for the World Cup Finals.
Firhad, lecturer with UiTM Shah Alam (Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation also helped out the Laos football team to the 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane after he was picked by the Asian Football Federation for the job. He must have done enough for Laos as they reached the first ever semi-finals before losing 3-1 to Malaysia.
Laos have requested for his help again for this year’s SEA Games in Indonesia in December. However, Firhad is not likely to take up the offer as he wants to pursue his Phd in sports science strength and conditioning) by the end of this year in United Kingdom or Australia.
Right now Firhad is totally focused in helping out Malaysia in the polo championships. And in Tengku Mahkota’s own words “Firhad has done a world of good in terms of fitness” since he joined the team last month during the inaugural Terengganu Open Polo Championships.
The seven-nation Qualifier will see Malaysia, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, India, Pakistan and Nigeria battling for a top three finish which will win them tickets to this year’s FIP Polo World Cup Finals to be played in San Luis, Argentina from Oct 11-25.
Malaysia have never played in the Finals but Tengku Abdullah, who is also the Tengku Mahkota (Crown Prince) of Pahang, believes this is Malaysia’s best chance to create history. The hosts have assembled a strong team for the Qualifier.
The team is made up of Captain Shaik Reissmann (Handicap 3), Huzaini Yunos (4), Amran Selamat (2), Muhammad Edham Shaharuddin (4), Saladin Mazlan (3) and Tengku Ahmad Shazril (3).
“The focus at this competition phase is to fine tune specific polo skills and maintaining physical and mental readiness for match play. The training program is designed to involve competition and matches, specific functional motor abilities training with injury prevention exercise and active recovery session in training schedule,” said Firhad.
“The players have been adapting and responding well. The commitment given by all the players is overwhelming. They are very dedicated to training. Their never give up attitude has motivated me to work more with them.
“In the training, we also include psychological intervention through mental rehearsals plus proper nutrition guidelines. Another important factor is team ...we eat together, train together relax together to get the bonding. In short, the team is one happy ‘family’ that is raring to go.
"The Argentine head coach (Carlos Pando) has done tremendously well, enhancing the players technical and tactical skills which is very important in this phase of training. In addition, we have great backroom staffs that help us in preparing the players".
“Bonding at this stage is very vital. Not only the players but also every single person involved with this team. We are working closely together to ensure our Malaysian team do well in this tournament.
"At the same time we hope they (the players) can peak physically and mentally by the time the tournament gets underway. Insyallah (Godwilling) they will make it to the World Cup Finals, added Firhad.
Malaysia, who drawn in Zone A, kick-start their campaign with a match against New Zealand on Tuesday. Their second match is against India on Friday.