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Oman's Fanja club lifts His Majesty’s Cup


Fanja Club players are over the moon after creating a national record by winning the His Majesty’s Cup for football for the ninth time. – Jun Estrada/Times of Oman

Muscat: Fanja made history when they beat Hamed Al Azzani-coached domestic champions Al Nahda 2-0 to lift the prestigious His Majesty's Cup title for the ninth time in front of a capacity crowd at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex yesterday.

It took Fanja 23 years to win the title, to add to the eighth crown they clinched way back in 1991, and it was star striker Abdulaziz Al Maqbali who turned the hero scoring both the goals for the champions.

The victory helped Fanja to break away from Dhofar, who have been the joint record holders with eight titles.

In a tough match that saw both the sides missing several goal-scoring opportunities in the initial stages, it was Fanja's yellow brigade who had a clear edge.

Fabulous Fanja took complete control from the 35th minute of first half before Al Maqbali scored his first goal in the 42nd minute.

The 25-year-old, who is also the star performer for the national side, scored his second goal in the 74th minute.

Speaking to reporters after the exciting final, a delighted Fanja coach Guglielmo Arena explained how he motivated his players before they entered the field for the final game.

"I told them to play like warriors and win the title. This was a golden opportunity for us and we didn't want to miss this. My boys delivered as promised. I have no words to express my happiness. We were just unstoppable in this tournament," Arena said.

The Italian, who was appointed recently to revive the fortunes of the country's most popular club that also won eight league titles in the past, praised the young Abdulaziz Al Maqbali for guiding the side to victory.

"Maqbali is such a talented footballer. He has a bright future for Oman. He has delivered for us whenever we wanted and he has been in such a phenomenal form this season. I am really glad to have him in our side," said Arena.

Teammate and former international star Badr Al Maimani said his side had a clear plan ahead of the final. "We studied each and every player in their camp (Al Nahda) and we knew their weaknesses. We played accordingly and got the result. Thankfully, everything went according to the plan and now we are the champions. I am still trying to recall those moments," the free-kick genius told Times Sport.

A disappointed Azzani, who was honoured with the 'Best Coach' award during the Oman Football Association (OFA) annual ceremony on Thursday night, had this to say: "Fanja were clear favourites from the beginning. They were attacking from the start of the match and they showed us their intention to win the title. They have some brilliant strikers who can easily win matches for them and they controlled the ball so well.

"Our players couldn't find room to score because they blocked all our chances. They studied our game plan and I must say Fanja played better than us and they deserved to win the Cup."

A proud Hamyar bin Nasser Al Ismaili, chairman of Fanja, thanked his players for gifting the Club the title.

"We had to wait for 23 years for this to happen. That was long journey and to reach here was quite tough but our boys played with hundred percent dedication and gifted us this Cup. I am really proud of them," Al Ismaili added.

Sayyid Saud bin Hilal bin Hamad Al Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Muscat, handed over the trophy to the winning team in the presence of Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed bin Said Al Mardhouf
Al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs and Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi, chairman of Oman Football Association.

To get in touch with the reporter: nishad@timesofoman.com

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