‘Bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties needed to boost hockey in Oman’

Shah­baz Ahmed, widely hailed as one of the best play­ers of his gen­er­a­tion, said there is an ur­gent need for academies to help de­velop and cul­ti­vate in­ter­est in the sport in Oman

Times of Oman - - OMAN - GAU­TAM VISWANATHAN

MUSCAT: Omani youth need bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties to en­sure that the coun­try has a long-term, suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able fu­ture in hockey, says the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Pak­istan Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion.

Shah­baz Ahmed, widely hailed as one of the best play­ers of his gen­er­a­tion, said there is an ur­gent need for academies to help de­velop and cul­ti­vate in­ter­est in the sport in Oman.

He is cur­rently in the Sul­tanate as part of a Pak­istan team, which has trav­elled to Oman to take part in the Friend­ship Cup, or­gan­ised by the Em­bassy of Pak­istan and the Oman Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion to boost in­ter­est in the sport and ties be­tween the two na­tions.

“The Omani youth need to be mo­ti­vated to play hockey,” said Ahmed, a win­ner of the 1994 Hockey World Cup. “They need to be shown that there is a fu­ture in this sport, oth­er­wise they will not want to play it. What is needed now are academies that will take care of their de­vel­op­ment and well-be­ing.”

“These academies need to have a proper aca­demic syl­labus for them, as well as proper sports train­ing, so that they can live full- time in hos­tels at­tached to them, and are taught dis­ci­pline and their skills are im­proved so that one day, they can play the sport and rep­re­sent their coun­try,” he added.

Al­though there are about 24 hockey clubs in the coun­try, there is lit­tle grass-roots de­vel­op­ment in the sport to speak of, and Ahmed, who also rep­re­sented his na­tion at the 1990 World Cup and the 1992 Olympic Games, was keen to shed some light on how the Sul­tanate would ben­e­fit from bring­ing lo­cal tal­ent through the ranks.

‘Fo­cus on in­door’

“What the Oman Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion needs to do now is look at what is most im­por­tant to help grow the sport in Oman, oth­er­wise it will con­tinue to stay at this level,” said Ahmed, speak­ing ex­clu­sively to the Times of Oman, ahead of the fi­nal of the Friend­ship Cup. “It can get very hot in this coun­try, so there needs to be more fo­cus on in­door hockey, with train­ing on out­door pitches pro­vided to them when the weather out­side is bet­ter.”

“There is no need right now to play on big pitches, which is what is cur­rently hap­pen­ing,” he added. “Young Oma­nis need to play on smaller pitches, so that they get the ball ev­ery five sec­onds and gain con­fi­dence with it, so that they know what to do with it. It is un­for­tu­nately a sim­i­lar case back home as well, be­cause Pak­istan has been out of con­tention for the World Cup for a while, so when our younger play­ers get the ball, they don’t know what to do with it, they make mis­takes and they give the ball away very eas­ily.”

Long-term change, said Ahmed, could only hap­pen with a stream­lined coach­ing process across lo­cal and na­tional level.

“If you look at the best teams in the world, such as Aus­tralia and the Nether­lands, they have a very or­gan­ised sys­tem in place,” he re­vealed. “Their teams will never fluc­tu­ate in qual­ity, but stay at a con­sis­tent level through­out. Right now, Oman needs coaches who can aid in the de­vel­op­ment of their play­ers at a young level.”

“If they can in­tro­duce the sport in schools and gen­er­ate in­ter­est in boys, who are maybe be­tween the ages of 13 and 16, there will be a fu­ture in this sport,” added Ahmed. “It is also im­por­tant to have lo­cal coaches, be­cause for­eign train­ers will com­plete their two or three-year em­ploy­ment con­tract and go back home and the play­ers will re­turn to the same level they were at when they be­gan play­ing hockey.”

– Sup­plied photo

FRIEND­SHIP CUP: Shah­baz Ahmed is in the Sul­tanate to take part in the Friend­ship Cup or­gan­ised by the Em­bassy of Pak­istan and the Oman Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion .

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