In the first week of February, The American International School in Ghala welcomed 160 students aged 14-19 and 20 coaches from ten schools from the region. The annual event, sponsored by SAISA, was held over three consecutive days on the two soccer fields at the Ghala Campus. They descended on Oman to compete in a compelling tournament of boys’ soccer, while enjoying Muscat’s legendary hospitality in 60 host families. The overall event was organised by TAISM Athletic Director, Kelly Lang.
The purpose of the South Asian Inter-School Association is to “promote and coordinate regional academic and cultural festivals, athletic tournaments and other events deemed appropriate by the member schools. To promote the values of collaboration, creativity, sportsmanship and fair and ethical competition. …in the truest spirit of cooperation and to develop physically, emotionally, creatively and intellectually through the sporting, academic and artistic experiences themselves.”
Concurrently there were games of Girls’ Basketball in Jordan and Tennis in Chennai, but The American International School Muscat was chosen as the venue for the Boys’ Soccer tournament as it is blessed with two soccer fields, so some heated matches were eagerly anticipated.
Boys arrived from Wednesday and were shown various sights of the capital such as the Yacht Club and Avenues Mall, and by evening all visitors had been united with their host families. Ibrahim, the Jordanian left mid-fielder from the American Community School, Amman said, “Oman is a nice country, a little too hot for playing soccer at midday, but I am staying with Liam Leibels -a very nice Canadian family”. German-American full-back from the Lincoln School, Kathmandu in Nepal, Tomas, said it was his 5th time in Muscat as he is also a swimmer and his hosts were very welcoming. Their son Aidan was helping at the event. Two Spanish parents had followed their son Eric as spectators from Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the 17-year-old mid-fielder is completing his final year. They absolutely loved Muscat and were very glad to have taken the opportunity to visit. The Dhaka team had quite a few fierce South Korean footballers on their side which would be reflected in their excellent final achievement. One school, International School of Islamabad, Pakistan, were suddenly short of players at the last minute, and in the spirit of true sportsmanship, TAISM’s Giorgi Berndt explained that he and his peers helped out by making up their numbers.
Teams arrived at the Ghala venue by 8 am on Thursday and prepared for a grand opening ceremony and team photographs. The TAISM Band played a welcome fanfare and Cheer-Leaders gave an American Dance salute before Mrs Kelly addressed all the athletes and extended a heartfelt welcome to Oman. The captains led the competitors in the SAISA pledge, which emphasised the true spirit and passion of sportsmanship, the love of athletics and the honour of the teams. The tournament began at 9.30 am and continued all day until 5 pm.
On Friday the matches resumed at 9 am after more team photos until 5 pm, with a break for lunch whenever teams had free time. But this evening students were treated to dinner and a social with music from 6 pm, so the young people could fraternise in a leisurely atmosphere, along with some TAISM girl helpers. Saturday was an exciting day, with final matches fought and position placing — and here’s the spoiler alert: TAISM won first place in a close final against AIS Dhaka, Bangladesh. Amman won 3rd place against Kathmandu, Nepal. Karachi American School won 5th place over the American School of Bombay while Lahore gained a close shave over the Madras school in 7th and 8th positions. Finally Overseas School of Colombo, Sri Lanka beat ISO Islamabad — so perhaps the substitutes from the host school weren’t quite so helpful after all!
PHOTOS BY Nicole Becx