Oman’s Under-21 squad has delivered a promising performance by winning the silver medal at the first AHF Central Asian Cup 2019 at Taldykorgan in Kazakhstan from September 2 to 9.
The Omani players, most of them who were making their national team debuts, notched up a memorable outing in the five-team round-robin tournament.
The improvement made by the Oman colts was visible in their last match against Tajikistan were they pumped in 11 goals — the highest margin in the tournament.
Commenting on the achievement, Oman Hockey Association Chairman Talib al Wahaibi said these youngsters are the future of Oman hockey.
“I feel very happy for this young and inexperienced side. They have performed remarkably well and done the country proud by winning the silver medal.”
“Hopefully, these youngsters will make Oman’s ‘dream team’ in five years,” Al Wahaibi told the Observer in an exclusive interview.
“Our national coach Tahir Zaman and support staff deserve praise for turning our inexperienced side into a competent force in the Central Asian tournament,” Talib added.
Oman’s achievement was special because they had competed against the senior teams from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Oman head coach Tahir Zaman expressed his satisfaction with the junior side’s performance against the senior and experienced players in Kazakhstan.
“Our boys put up a great show in the tournament. Our intention was to get some good match exposure before the AHF U-21 Cup,” the former Pakistani great said.
“We were worried at first whether the inexperienced junior players would be able to cope up with the international match pressure. Most of the players were playing outside Oman for the first time with many of them making their debuts for the national team.”
However, the youngsters pulled off a 2-1 win in their opening match against Kazakhstan ‘B’ team.
Zaman rates the second match against the eventual winners Kazakhstan ‘A’ as the best by the Sultanate side even though they lost it 3-2 after a close fight.
“This was our best match. It was 2-2 till the last 10 seconds. Kazakhstan scored the winner with only five seconds remaining with no chance for us for a comeback,” the head coach said.
In their third match, Oman made a creditable 1-1 draw against the strong Uzbekistan side, who had competed against the like of Indian and Pakistan in the World Hockey League second round.
The Oman coach feels that the young Omani side were at their best when they played simple hockey of attacking with combination of short passes.
He pointed out captain and defender Akram Ashoor (two goals) and vice-captain and forward Rashad al Fazari (three goals) among the bunch of talents who impressed in Kazakhstan.
“It was heartening to note that several of our players have scored goals in the tournament, showing the overall capability of the side. Our team game was outstanding and this gives Oman good hopes for the Asian Cup qualifying tournament in Hong Kong,” Tahir said.
The Asian Hockey Federation’s Junior Men’s Cup 2019 will be held in Hong Kong from December 14 to 22, which is a qualifying tournament to the Junior Asia Cup 2020.
Ahead of the AHF tournament, Oman will tour Pakistan and Bangladesh for some Test matches.
“The Pakistan and Bangladesh teams have already qualified to the Junior Asia Cup and the matches against these strong teams will be very good for Oman,” Tahir added.
Oman squad: Idrees al Balushi, Ibrahim al Hasni, Akram Ashoor, Amir al Mashari, Fahad Hassan, Aseel Amin, Ahmed Yousuf, Hamed Abdullah Ghashim, Aseel Ammar Suwaid, Asama Khamis Mohammed, Saleh Rasem, Mohammed Salim Hamed, Ali Ahmed Ali, Abdullah Awadh, Rashad al Fazari, Usama Khamis, Saleh Aziz, Yaqoob Yusuf.
Madian Ahmed Awadh Bait Habdah (head of delegation), Mohammed al Batrani (manager), Tahir Zaman (head coach), Khalid al Raisi (assistant coach), Mohammed Hoobais (fitness coach), Shakir Munir (goalkeeping coach), Waleed al Rashdi (team physiotherapist), Hussain Abdullah (umpire).
KAZAKHSTAN ‘B’ 2-1
KAZAKHSTAN ‘A’ 2-3