Dhofar eyes record HM's Cup title
Oman football giants Dhofar will be aiming for a record-equalling eighth title as it takes on first division side Al Ittihad in the final of His Majesty's Cup Football Championship 2011 at the Al Saada Sports Complex in Salalah on Monday.
The seven-time winner displayed good form since the start of the championship under Egyptian coach Aimen al Ramadi. However, the club's decision to part ways with the coach soon after its semifinal victory in the second week of December may play a role in Monday's clash.
Speaking to Muscat Daily on Ramadi's departure, Sheikh Badr al Rowas, Dhofar Club chairman, said, “Ramadi was released after the second leg semifinal against Salalah earlier this month. He has joined another club in UAE but offered to work with our team till the final. However, we decided to release him. The team's long-time assistant coach Ali Salim al Hadhri will lead the side in the final and the club management has full confidence in him.”
Dhofar last won the title in 2006 and is just a title away from Fanja's record eight crowns. Its task of equalling Fanja's record will be put to test by an unheralded Ittihad team.
Dhofar, which boasts of Oman internationals in Hussain al Hadhri, Badr Naseeb, Ali Salim, Hashim Saleh and Hani Dhabit, are up against a team, coached by one of Oman's earliest football heroes, Younus Aman.
Ittihad, like its much-famed rival, is based in Salalah, and had toppled three-time HM's Cup winner Sur in the semifinals. The win has boosted the morale of the team and Dhofar is wary about the threat.
“Of course, we know that Al Ittihad cannot be taken lightly. For that matter, any team that reaches the final of HM's Cup cannot be taken for granted. Ittihad is playing in the first division league but made it to the title clash after recording wins against formidable Omantel Elite League teams. The club has nothing to lose and will go all out but we have the players to beat them,” said Rowas.
As part of its preparations for the title clash, Dhofar organised a conditioning and a training camp in Muscat to let the players be away from spotlight.
Al Ittihad travelled to Al Ain for training and played couple of practice matches against Oman's top division club Al Nahda.
Al Ittihad has made it to the final only for the second time in tournament's 40 year old history. It lost to Seeb 4-0 on penalties in the 1997 final.The winner of HM's Cup this year will be richer by RO95,000 while runner-up team gets RO65,000.
Sheikh Naif al Marhoon, Al Ittihad chairman and Oman Football Association vice-chairman, said, “The team is ready for the final. Dhofar is a big team and it will be tough to beat them, but it is our golden opportunity. We have reached the final after a long time. There is a lot of money at stake and the players are keen to win it. A victory will not only help the players but also the club.”
Marhoon hinted that the timing of Ramadi's departure may not have been right. “The Egyptian coach had guided the team to the final. But it’s the club's decision. I believe Dhofar is the favourite and will be under pressure. We have nothing to lose. To reach the HM's Cup final is in itself a big achievement,” he said.
“No one expected Al Ittihad to reach the final but we did it. We will try to make the most of this opportunity that we have created for ourselves,” said Marhoon.
H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, will preside over the final. The match begins at 7pm.
Road to final
Al Ittihad beat Sohar (1-0 agg)
Dhofar beat Ahli-Sidab (3-1 agg)
Ittihad beat Sur (3-3 away score)
Dhofar beat Salalah (3-1 agg)
Winners list (last ten years)
2010 Al Arouba
2008 Al Suwaiq
2005 Al Nasr
2002 Al Nasr
2001 Al Arouba
4 Al Nasr
3 Al Arouba
1 Al Suwaiq
1 Al Talee'a