‘Cheer squads’ for Oman match

In the Sultanate, all eyes are on the Gulf Cup’s semifinal match between Oman and Bahrain, to be played in Kuwait on Tuesday.
Boosted by the country’s spirited 2-0 performance against Saudi Arabia on Thursday, preparations are in full swing to get the maximum number of Omani fans to Kuwait ahead of the semis to cheer the national team.
Eight flights will operate between Muscat and Kuwait on January 2. Of these, three flights will offer free service in coordination with Royal Air Force of Oman, Ministry of Sports Affairs and Majlis Ash’shura. Five services are operated by Oman Air and SalamAir.
Social media is abuzz with details of promotions, which include free tickets for the first 100 participants sending their messages to a WhatsApp number. The flight tickets were to be sponsored by the Sabco Group.
The Ministry of Sports Affairs too has been working in coordination with some government agencies and the Oman Football Association to offer free flights to fans and get the maximum number of Omani fans to Kuwait.
“Considering Oman’s performance against the rivals in the earlier matches, there is a good chance for the national team to win and enter the finals. In that case, fans will get one more chance to cheer the team,” said Mohammed al Harthy, a student and an ardent football fan.
“I cannot afford to purchase a ticket and travel myself. It will be great if I can get a free ticket offered by various agencies and companies,” he said.
“Oman is certainly a strong contender for the Gulf Cup title this year. There is a responsibility for fans to cheer their team in the foreign land,” said Khalid, a government employee.
“If my company grants me leave to travel to Kuwait, I will certainly travel for a day to two,” said Omar al Balushi, who had travelled to the UAE in the past to cheer the national team.
Oman had lifted the Gulf Cup in January 2009, defeating Saudi Arabia, in a penalty shootout.
Oman’s semifinal rival has never won the title, but has been the runners-up on four occasions: 1970, 1982, 1992 and 2003-04.
Oman has been the runners-up twice, in 2007 and 2004.
The tournament was founded at the 1968 Summer Olympics. The first Gulf Cup tournament
took place in 1970, which was won by Kuwait. Kuwait has been the most successful team in the tournament’s history, winning 10 tournaments out of a total of 23.

Vinod Nair