Muscat, may 14 – Oman’s hockey coach Tahir Zaman is targeting an improvement in the Sultanate’s ranking at the Asian Games in Jakarta later this year. The former Pakistan World Cup winner said the team will put its best performance at the quadrennial continental showpiece but realistically the focus will be on moving up the FIH rankings. “Obviously, every team that goes to the Asian Games will go with the aim of winning a medal. Even bigger teams like India and Pakistan have had to struggle for years before they won a gold medal at the Asian Games. For us, it will be a challenge to play against the big teams but we will compete hard and look to improve our rankings, that will be the target,’’ Zaman added.
The Oman players are currently busy with a training camp where the emphasis is on fitness.
“The boys are training hard in the camp and the primary aim of the camp is on enhancing the fitness of the players. Around 70-80 per cent of the focus is on fitness. We are having three sessions a day. The morning and afternoon sessions we have kept aside for gym and workouts,’’ the coach revealed.
“The latter part of the day has been kept aside for working on the skills and tactics,’’ he added.
The Oman hockey team has its preparation plans for the Asian Games already chalked out.
The team will leave on June 22nd for a Europe tour that will see them playing around nine matches in Germany, Holland and Belgium.
The Oman squad will have the opportunity of playing against Germany’s national under-21 team.
“We will play three matches against them,’’ coach Zaman said.
In Holland, the Oman team will play about five games and they will also play one match in Belgium against the Dragon Club, which is one of the top competitive clubs in Belgium.
Coach Zaman feels the Europe tour will give the Oman team a whole new experience and a wonderful exposure.
“I don’t think they have ever played European teams of such quality, not in the recent past at least, so they will benefit immensely playing against teams of high standard,’’ he added.
Zaman also felt the Oman players are a lot more confident bunch now after competing in the Asian Games qualifiers.
“They had that drawn game against Pakistan that gave them a real boost in terms of confidence. They learnt a lot during that phase,’’ Zaman stated.
When asked if there was any special area that he was making the players focus on, Zaman mentioned about the off-the-ball movements.
“You know, on an average, a player takes possession of the ball only for a few seconds to a maximum of a minute, so the rest 59 minutes he is off the ball. So how does he use that time and position himself to maximise the advantage for the team, that is important,’’ he added.
“Repositioning is something that I am constantly working with the boys. How you react to situations, the speed and passing and good scoring skills. It is important for them to have a good sense of positional awareness,’’ Zaman said. “Ultimately, the aim is to make sure the boys know and understand the difference of playing disciplined and professional hockey,’’ he concluded.