New Zealand's Phil Burrows in action.
New Zealand's Phil Burrows in action.
(Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Although hockey is a team sport it is always worth taking a closer look at some of the outstanding individuals in the squads at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan and the Glasgow Champions Challenge 1.

Phil Burrows is the most-capped player in Hockey New Zealand’s history having played 312 international matches over a 14-year international career. One day before the tournament kicks off in Kuantan, Phil is looking forward to the opening match between New Zealand and Ireland. “This will be a tough match, we need to see how well we can deal with the heat”, Burrows says. His concern is well-founded; the match starts at 3.00 pm local time and New Zealand haven’t trained at the pitch at this time of day so far. However, the silver medal recently won at the Hero Hockey World League Final in Delhi early this year has given his team a lot of self-confidence. “We know that we can compete in the top tournaments”, Burrows says. After the success in Delhi the Black Sticks are considered by many to be tournament favourites in Kuantan. 

Faizal Saari is the star in the Malaysian team. He is an eye-catching and supremely skilful attacker who regularly gets his name on the score-sheet. "We are excited about this tournament“, Faizal said. Despite only being 23 years of age, Faizal has already played an impressive number of 137 matches for Malaysia. His team is one of three teams in Kuantan which has also qualified for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup kicking off in The Hague on 31 May. Before impressing in The Netherlands, team Malaysia would like to grab the ticket for the Champions Trophy 2016 here at the CC1 in Kuantan. 

Canadian team-captain Scott Tupper missed much of his team's preparations for CC1 as he has been playing club hockey in Belgium for RC Brussels and starred in last week's Euro Hockey League KO16. His team defied all expectations by reaching the last four, meaning the 27-year-old was still involved in EHL business until Monday. His Racing Club eventually lost the bronze medal match to Belgium rivals KHC Dragons.  

“This was already a busy week for me and it will be another busy weekend”, Tupper says. Regarding his expectations on Canada’s performance in Kuantan he adds: “We are expecting high quality matches. We want to finish well by trying to push into the semi finals.”

In Scotland, one player expected to sine is Korea's ace goal-scorer Park Mi Hyun. The most capped player in the current squad with well over 200 senior international appearances, Park Mi Hyun is a livewire striker with an extraordinary ability to create chances out of nothing. The 28-year-old attacker was named on the 10 strong shortlist for the 2013 FIH Player of the Year Award. 

South Africa's Marsha Cox (formerly Marescia) has made more senior international appearances than any other player in the tournament, with more than 320 matches under her belt. Marsha Cox is a true icon of South African hockey and one of the most popular players in the game. This 31-year-old midfielder is a triple Olympian, having represented her country at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games.  

The final player in our selection is one of the youngest players in the tournament. Berta Bonastre is a young player with a massive future ahead of her. Bonastre was captain of the Spain team that claimed a fifth place finish at last year’s Ergo Junior World Cup. She is the younger sister of Silvia Bonastre, who represented Spain at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. 

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