Muscat, jan 29 - In a huge boost for the Sultanate, Oman has been given the hosting rights for the prestigious men’s Hero Asian Champions Trophy (ACT), featuring defending champions India, Pakistan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan apart from Oman. The fifth edition of the mega event will be held from October 18-28 at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat and will enthrall hockey lovers across Oman, the rest of Asia and around the world. The hosting agreement for the tournament was signed between Oman Hockey Association (OHA) chairman Talib al Wahaibi and Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) CEO Tayyib Ikram at an event yesterday.
OHA chairman Talib al Wahaibi said it’s a proud moment for Oman. “I am very proud that Oman is hosting the Asian Champions Trophy. We will learn a lot from the tournament and it will be a great opportunity for us,’’ he added. AHF CEO Tayyib Ikram felt the year 2018 will be a momentuous one for Oman considering the profile of the events the Sultanate will be hosting. “This year (2018) will be a real hockey year for Oman. The Asian Champions Trophy will be a very big event for Oman in terms of the level of the hockey. Oman will be witness to the best hockey action in the world when arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash in Muscat. India have won the title twice while Pakistan have won it two times as well, so it will be interesting to see how it goes this time,’’ Ikram added.
Ikram also stated that the AHF was working in tandem with the OHA to make the Asian Champions Trophy a big success. “I think we all are ready to deliver this mega tournament. It will be telecasted in 72 territories and Star Sports will have the official TV rights for the tournament. So, they will take the tournament across the world,’’ he added.
“It will be a big milestone for Oman to host a tournament of this magnitude and will enhance Oman’s profile at the world level,’’ Ikram stated. In February, Oman will host and play a three-nation tournament featuring Asian giants Pakistan and the competitive Japan. This will be preparation for the crucial Asian Games qualifiers in March, which will also be qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“One team from among the 10 participating nations participating will get a direct entry to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so this will act as huge motivation for the teams. Also, even if a team do not manage to get a spot for the Olympics, there are four Asian Games spots up for grabs and Asian ranking points as well,’’ said AHF CEO Ikram.
Ikram said Oman had put up a strong case for itself and hence won the bid since there were other bidders too for the Asian Champions Trophy.
“There were four countries that expressed very strong interests and Oman was one of them. Oman is very close to my heart and by winning the bid to organize such a high-profile event, this is a strong message to GCC and Middle East,’’ he added.
Talking about the readiness of Oman and the infrastructure to host the ACT, Ikram said the AHF is working on the process.
“We are working together with the Ministry of Sports, OHA and Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) to upgrade and convert the facilities available in Muscat.’’
When asked about why nations with lesser pedigree in hockey like Bangladesh and Oman were chosen to host the Asia Cup and Asian Champions Trophy respectively, Ikram had an interesting answer.
“By hosting tournaments in these countries, we are aiming at bridging the gap in performances between the top hockey nations and the second-tier nations,’’ Ikram added.
OHA chairman Talib al Wahaibi said by hosting the ACT and the tri-nation tournament he was trying to bring the sunshine back into hockey in Oman.
GOALKEEPERS’ TRAINERS COURSE
Coinciding with the Asian Games qualifiers in March, the FIH and AHF will organize the first ever goalkeepers’ trainers course in Muscat.
OMAN HOCKEY WEBSITE
Oman Hockey Association (OHA) will launch its official website prior to the commencement of the tri-nation tournament. “Initially, we will have the page in Arabic and after a few weeks it will be in English. We will make it social media friendly in a few months and be fully operational by the time the Asian Champions Trophy starts in October,’’ OHA chairman Talib al Wahaibi said.