By Anuroop A — MUSCAT: Oman national hockey team’s new coach KK Poonacha said his knowledge about Oman players will help him meet the challenges in taking the team forward. “This is my third stint as Oman national coach. All these years, I was closely associated with Omani players being the coach of Ahli Sidab. So I hope my experience with the local players will help me identify top talents in the Sultanate,” the former India international said during the Oman Hockey Association (OHA) function to unveil him as the national coach. Talking about the Oman players, Poonacha said they are fit for attacking style of hockey.
“Omani players have the skill and the killer instinct to go forward in the international level. The players have good fitness levels also,” he said. On areas to improve, the Indian coach said Oman need to tighten the defence and improve technical skill. Goalkeeping also needs a better performance, he said. “We have three drag flickers in the team and hope we will do better with penalty corners.” Poonacha’s immediate task will be to prepare Oman for the second round of Hockey World League (HWL) in Dhaka, Bangladesh from March 4-12. The top two teams from each of the three HWL second round events along with the two best-placed sides in the world rankings of the teams that finish third will advance to the semifinals.
Oman, who were runners-up in Round 1 in Antalya, Turkey in September 2016, will compete with seven other teams in Dhaka.
“Canada, Egypt, China and hosts Bangladesh will pose strong challenge for us. We will try our best to finish among the top two,” the former coach of Ahli Sidab said.
The other teams in HWL Dhaka are Canada, Egypt, hosts Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Fiji. Ireland will host the other Round 2 from March 11-19. Hosts Ireland will welcome France, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Wales, Scotland and Austria.
The last men’s Round 2 event will take place in Tunapuna, Trinidad & Tobago from March 25 - April 2. Malaysia, Japan, Russia, hosts Trinidad & Tobago, the US, Barbados, Chile and Switzerland will take part.
On the other hand, Oman’s new assistant coach Khalid Khalfan al Riyami was thrilled to be selected to the post. “It is my first time with Oman national team as an assistant coach. I am happy that I will be working with Poonacha, whom I had worked at Ahli Sidab six years ago,” the former Oman international said.
“I have always wanted to associate with hockey and the new role is challenging as well as thrilling to me,” the 48-year-old coach said.
OHA General Secretary Dr Khamis al Rahbi, Oman team manager, Asim Dawood al Maimani and other OHA officials took part in the press conference at Oman Olympic Committee headquarters.
Among other support staff, Shakir Munir will continue as the national goalkeeper coach.
Poonacha, who has been hired for a year, replaces German Oliver Kurtz, who was fired as head coach in December 2015. Omani coach Ahmed al Darmaki has been serving as an interim coach since then.
Poonacha hopes the recently concluded His Majesty’s Cup hockey championship will keep the players match fit for the HWL Round 2 in Bangladesh.
The team will undergo a training camp from January 10 to 26.
“We have selected 33 players for the first phase of the training camp. Later, it will be reduced to 22 and we will take 18 players to Dhaka,” he said.