Oman coach aims realistic performance at Asiad

Muscat, aug 11 – With the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang about a week away, Oman national hockey team’s preparations are in full swing in their final leg. The Oman hockey team have been toiling hard to hone their skills leading up to the Asiad after a gruelling 17-day tour of Europe that included stints in the Netherlands and Germany. They have also had a domestic camp post the Europe tour to work on their physical fitness. Coach Tahir Zaman exuded optimism about the team’s preparations.
“The objective of the Europe tour was to make the players psychologically stronger and that purpose has been served. We played 11 matches in 17 days, won six games and lost five. Sometimes, we had to play three matches in a row and the players had to be mentally tough. What the tour has done is it has taken the fear out of the players,’’ Zaman added.
The Oman team played against some top Dutch clubs including Bloomendaal, who are European club champions. The Oman team lost their first match against Bloomendaal 7-1 but got their act together and came up with a much-improved performance in their second game, losing 2-1.
Oman’s victories included one against Belgium league champions Dragons among others.
Talking about the domestic camp that concluded on Wednesday, coach Zaman stated the focus was on physical fitness and conditioning.
“We want to improve the players’ physical levels and work on body balance, speed and agility. After a tough European tour, the players have developed better endurance levels,’’ he added.
Zaman also added the team was concentrating on penalty corner conversions, one-on-one defensive tactics and skills in the camp.
Looking ahead to the Asian Games that kicks off on August 18, Zaman said the team was excited about the competition.
“We are looking forward to the tournament. We are in a tough group that includes Pakistan and Malaysia as well with the other teams. Realistically, I am looking at a third place in our pool and an overall fifth-sixth place finish,’’ the former World Cup winning Pakistan player added.
Players’ fitness concerns
However, coach Zaman stated there were a couple of fitness concerns with regard to two key players Basim Rajab Khatar and Muhanna al Hasani.
Basim had suffered a hairline fracture in the hips and is recovering ahead of a final three-day camp before the departure for Indonesia.
Muhanna had undergone a hernia operation a couple of months back and had complained of pain recently. Coach Zaman said his condition is being monitored with the consultation of the team’s medical staff and a final call will be taken before leaving for Indonesia. The Oman coach also stressed on the goalkeepers’ role at the Asian Games.
“We will have teams like Pakistan and Malaysia, who are very good at penalty corner conversions, so our PC defence will be very crucial,’’ he added.
Oman’s Asian Games Pool B schedule: Oman vs Bangladesh (Aug 20), Oman vs Pakistan (Aug 22), Oman vs Thailand (Aug 24), Oman vs Indonesia (Aug 26), Oman vs Malaysia (Aug 28).

Squad: Mahmood al Hasani (captain), Muhanna al Hasani, Rashad al Fazari, Qasim al Shibli, Asaad al Qasmi, Marwan al Raisi, Imad al Hasani, Khalid al Shaibi, Ahmed al Noufali, Bassim Khater, Salah al Saadi, Ahmed al Balushi, Fahad al Noufali (gk), Wail Sanjoor, Mahmood Ashoor, Hamad al Fazari, Said al Hasani and Ammar al Shaibi.

Haridev Pushparaj