Oman says it has been a “rollercoaster ride” to ready itself for the sport’s first ever Hockey 5s World Cup in 100 days, as the sultanate aims to become a training and hosting hub for the sport in the region.
Oman’s capital city Muscat will host the inaugural event in January — as well as FIH Olympic qualifiers for the 2024 Games a week before — with hockey chiefs looking to follow the template of Sail Oman in raising participation, competing at a world-class level and attracting tourism.
The draws for the men’s and women’s events were released last month for the 16-team tournaments in the shortened format of the game.
At Al Amerat, a new hockey turf will be laid on the main pitch, with two Hockey 5s pitches along with training facilities. It will be a 5,500 capacity venue and is being built next to the existing Oman Cricket Academy grounds.
After the World Cup, there will be two full-size pitches inside the stadium and one outside the complex to make-up the high performance centre for Muscat.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride since we were approved to host the Hockey 5s,” said Oman Hockey Association chairman Dr Marwan al Juma.
“We have been planning from scratch with our new stadium which we will achieve by hosting the tournament.
“The legacy we want is to have a future hosting international tournaments and growing the game.”
As well as a state-of-the-art facility and two pitches, Al Juma said there would be space to host other forms of the sport such as beach hockey and a mooted indoor facility in the future.
“Our big legacy as an association is to have our own facility after all these years in hockey,” he added. “We can have a facility which we will use as a hub for hockey events and, with the geographical location of Oman, it links between east and west and we want to take advantage of that.
Oman is also looking at starting its own hockey academies.
Al Juma, who became the first Omani to be elected vice-president of the Asian Hockey Federation, said: “We want to start playing high-end hockey. We want to master hockey after 50 years in the sport and we want to reach the top level and perhaps one day reach the Pro League.
Oman has a women’s team and the association wants to push both genders to the top echelons of Asian hockey. It has also started its hockey development programme, with 21 centres around the country, 14 male and eight female, which is developing hockey between the ages of eight and 12.
Oman is not new to hosting world-class sport thanks to the efforts of the Oman sailing federation over the last 15 years.
Al Juma said: “Today, it has reached that goal [of hosting big events and pulling in tourism] and we hope hockey can reach that goal, not only promoting the sport but Oman and tourism as well.”
Oman Sail was last year awarded gold for Best Sport Event Organiser and silver in Best Sport Event of The Year at the Middle East Sports Industry Awards last year.