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Talib K Al Wahaibi strives to lift Oman hockey (10/27/2018)
--Shashank Gupta
Hockey in Oman is alive and kicking. It has set tangible targets to become a force to reckon with in Asia to start with. Considering the rise of countries like Ireland and Japan, who have recently upset the apple cart of traditional biggies to carve out a niche for themselves, the days are not far off for this country to rise. The optimism stems from the fact that the Oman hockey has a strong man at top to steer to success from where it is now.

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Talib K Al Wahaibi is the man of the moment. He heads Oman Hockey Association, which is hosting biggest event on its soil, the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy.

He is a multi-faceted personality. A Merchant-Navy Captain, a sailor at heart, a hockey-player by hobby, he emerges as colourful as person could ever. Proficient in many Indian languages (Kannada, Marathi and Hindi) besides Arabic, a coach, a visionary, the man who runs Hockey in Oman, invite your attention as the Asian Champions Trophy is progressing here in the Gulf.

“You are in a peaceful country (Oman). Hockey is our message of peace to the World,” says Talib K Al Wahaibi, the President of Oman Hockey Association (OHA).

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Oman, apparently, had considerable presence of Hockey in the 70s and 80s. Numerous clubs were playing hockey back then. But slowly, it conceded space to football which remains to the most fascinated sport in the country. Hockey is only second to it, currently.

Oman has 8 synthetic turfs. They want to capitalize on the help they are getting from the Government, FIH and AHF to improve things.

Wahaibi also has support from Tayyab Ikram, (in pic with Wahabi), the CEO of the AHF to realize his dream of lifting Oman by a few notches. He fondly addresses Tayyab as brother, a sign of bonhomie between the two.

Oman is currently ranked 33 in World Hockey. Wahaibi has a big task at hand to improve the rating. He believes that the children must be initiated to Hockey early-on. So, the Association is now promoting Hockey at the school-levels.

"Our focus now is schools", he says fittingly

Oman hockey's goal in the next 2 years is to develop two national age group teams, 12-15 years and 16-19 years.

Oman also wants to up their ranking in Asia, from 7th to 6th to start with.

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Wahaibi has fond memories of his hockey career, and was fascinated by the game of his contemporaries like Indian stars Mukesh Kumar and Dhanraj Pillay. Amongst the current lot, he mentions the name of Rupinderpal Singh in awe and much admiration.

A thorough professional, Wahaibi tells that he won the elections democratically, acknowledges the work of previous administration and admits that he is building from the platform that was offered to him.

Hosting Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat, Oman has been a proud moment for him. He hopes to further the visibility of Oman-Hockey at the Asian-level.

Asia nowadays is hub of world hockey. With the rise of Malaysia and Japan, the dynamism of the powers is on cataclysmic change. Will Oman be able to cash in on the current euphoria and build a strong national teams is a question the hockey world will be looking for in the coming days.

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