Oman gear up for Asia Cup debut


GEARING UP: Oman pictured during a practice session. Times photo

Muscat: Oman Hockey Asso-ciation (OHA) has expressed confidence in the national squad ahead of their participation in Asia Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from August 24 to September 1.

The OHA officials will be keenly observing Oman when they make their Cup debut against India on Saturday.

Speaking to Times Sport, Redha Taqi Al Lawati, general-secretary of the OHA, said Oman is aiming to end on a good note in the tournament. "This is a big tournament for us and to play against some of the toughest sides itself is going to be a challenging task. But we know our boys can really do well here," said Redha.

Meanwhile, it is also learnt that Oman will also be taking part in the Asian Champions Trophy to held in Japan in November.

The 18-member side flew to Malaysia earlier this week to get acclimatised to the conditions and played a few friendlies ahead of the tournament.

"We played a few friendly games. We also played a very good practice game against Malaysian under-21 team. Though we lost that match, the boys gained in experience. The team are in good spirits now and are eagerly looking forward for the tournament," Redha said.

In the Asia Cup, Oman has been pooled in Group B with defending champions South Korea, eight-time Olympic gold medallists India, and Bangladesh. The Pool A comprises three-time champions Pakistan, hosts Malaysia, Japan and Chinese Taipei.

Speaking about Oman's first match against India, Redha said his side can give a good fight.

"India is a strong opponent. We played against them in the past and we can certainly give them a fight," he said.

Interestingly, Oman had a five-week European camp before they left for Malaysia. Redha said the OHA is looking at the game more seriously than ever before.

"In the past, we were more concerned about giving maximum exposure to our players. Things have changed now. We are not looking just at exposure but are now playing serious hockey. That is the reason we send our team for an overseas camp in Europe. That should help the players. We are looking for results in this tournament," he pointed out.

During the ten-day internal camp held in Muscat, Oman played four friendly matches against top Pakistani team Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA).

"The friendly matches were good. The players could get maximum exposure," he said.

National coach Oliver Kurtz has included four new players in the squad, namely Salah Al Saadi, Samir Hulais, Abdullah Al Alawi and Said Al Hassani. Veteran Aiman Al Katheri will captain the side.

"We are not putting too much pressure on the players. They know their job well and I am sure they can really make a mark in this tournament," Redha added.

Big blow for India
Meanwhile according to media reports, India's Asia Cup sojourn has begun in the worst way possible after skipper Sardar Singh was hospitalised in Ipoh on Monday due to high fever and throat infection.

To make matters worse, India are travelling without a team doctor, which delayed his medical treatment initially, as the team management didn't want to give him medicines without consulting a specialist.

The midfielder was down with fever and was admitted to the Ipoh Specialist Centre on Monday. The 27-year-old said he initially thought it was just a minor problem.
"But it became worse and I was hospitalised on Monday with fever," Sardar added.

Oman squad:  Aiman Al Katheri (captain), Fahd Al Nofli, Said Al Hassani, Mohammed Hubais, Younus Ghabish, Hashim Al Shatri, Bassim Khatir, Ali Salim Al Zadjali, Salah Al Saadi, Qasim Al Nofli, Samir Hulais, Abdullah Al Alawi, Mahmood Ashoor, Wael Sangour, Mahmoud Al Hassani, Ahmed Sabeel, Sami Awad and Shihab Nahad.

Oman fixtures: Aug 24: Oman vs India. Aug 27: Oman vs Bangladesh. Aug 28: Oman vs South Korea.


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