MUSCAT, March 13 : The second tier hockey nations are showing big improvement with Oman leading their ranks at the Asian Games Qualifiers, according to Tayyib Ikram, CEO of Asian Hockey Federation (AHF), and executive board member of International Hockey Federation (IHF).
In an exclusive chat with Oman Daily Observer, Tayyib said the second tier hockey nations are fast approaching the top tier as they are bridging the gap in standards with the hockey powerhouses in Asia.
“Oman have taken great strides in the recent times and no wonder they are producing dominating performance in the Asian Games Qualifiers.”
Oman topped Pool B by registering wins in all their pool matches and booked their spot in the Jakarta Asian Games.
Sri Lanka, who lost only to Oman in Pool B, also entered the semifinals and thereby qualified for the Asian Games.
“It was really heartening to see the skills from the Lankan players. We will try to give them a high-performance expert to boost their game,” Tayyib said on the sidelines of the Oman-Kazakhstan match at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.
“Kazak boys are also showing promise. They have the scope to improve,” he said.
Tayyib said it is possible for the countries to break into the top tier.
“Oman and Bangladesh have the potential to break into the top tier. Consistent performances will see them reach the goal.”
Ikram said that the current priority for AHF is to spread hockey in the GCC countries and Oman is leading the stakes.
Oman, ranked 32nd in the world, is trying to break into next level by hosting several international tournaments and also participating outside.
ASIAN CHAMPIONS TROPHY
Much to the credit of the enthusiastic Oman Hockey Association (OHA), the Sultanate has been chosen as the venue for the prestigious Asian Champions Trophy in October.
The October 18-28 championship will be a real feast for hockey lovers as it will see hockey giants India and Pakistan clash against each other.
Oman will play host to five top nations in Asia — India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea and Japan. Oman qualify as hosts.
On a query about Oman’s preparations for the biennial tournament, Ikram said Oman has shown its capabilities of hosting big events. “Oman has a proved track record of hosting big events. Anyway, the AHF is determined to make the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat a memorable one.”
“We have our expert team already in Muscat to ensure smooth conduct of the blue-riband event of the AHF,” he added.
The Asian Champions Trophy hockey will help three World-Cup bound teams — India, Pakistan and Malaysia — prepare for the FIH World Cup in Odisha from November 28-December 16.
Oman recently hosted a tri-nation tournament featuring Pakistan and Japan in which the hosts put up some impressive performances under the able guidance of coach Tahir Zaman.
OHA Chairman Talib al Wahaibi is upbeat after Oman clinching a berth in the Asian Games.
“Now, we will eye for the title in the qualifiers tournament. We have a talented bunch of players capable of that.”
“The OHA is very much committed to set up a solid platform for Oman hockey with quality players and technicians. We want the future of the game bright in the Sultanate,” Talib said.