Anuroop Athiparambath –
MUSCAT, MARCH 2 –
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is actively considering Oman as the neutral venue for India-Pakistan matches with the Sultanate acting as the home venue for security-concerned Pakistan.
Speaking exclusively to the Observer, FIH president Dr Narinder Batra shared this information during his first visit to the Sultanate as the FIH chief.
In 2019, the schedule of international hockey will be changed with Champions Trophy to be scrapped and home and away matches will be introduced.
“The idea is to have Pakistan’s home matches in Oman. Under the present circumstances, the foreign teams are unwilling to tour Pakistan due to the security concerns. So it is better we find a neutral venue for Pakistan and Oman suits well to that option with its interest and following in hockey,” Batra said.
“Eight countries will visit Oman to play Pakistan and India-Pakistan matches will be the highlight of the matches,” he said.
The top two countries after the home-and-away series involving the top eight hockey nations will qualify to the final qualifiers for the Olympics as well as the World Cup.
“The matches will significantly boost hockey in Oman, with top quality matches being played in the country. On the other side, it will enhance the tourism in the Sultanate with thousands of foreigners visiting the place during the series probably from January to June of the year,” the FIH chief said.
The matches will be live telecast in 110 countries with Star Sports among the broadcasters, he said.
Welcoming the move, Oman Hockey Association (OHA) Chairman Captain Talib bin Khamis al Wahaiby said the OHA is positive about the proposal.
“We are waiting an official confirmation from FIH in this regard to further act on this proposal,” Al Wahaiby said.
On a query whether Oman would be interested in any friendly matches against the top-ranked teams soon, the OHA chief said that according to the current plan Oman are looking for such matches only from 2019.
“There need to be done a lot before we play matches against the top-ranked teams. According to our plan, the team will be set to stage such matches in 2019,” he said.
Later, Batra met Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed al Zubair, Chairman of Oman Olympic Committee, and then Shaikh Rashad al Hinai, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Sports Affairs. Zuhair bin Mohammed al Ajmi, member of Asian Hockey Federation, was also present.
Shaikh Khalid appreciated Batra’s constructive hockey initiatives at the international level and his constant endeavour to coordinate and cooperate with Oman Hockey Association.
Dr Narinder Batra expressed his happiness in visiting the Sultanate and thanked Shaikh Khalid commending the efforts being made by Oman Olympic Committee and Oman Hockey Association for development of the game in the Sultanate.