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Ahli-Sidab eyes third HM’s Cup hockey title

Defending champion Ahli-Sidab Club will be looking for a third title since its revamp in 2004 when it faces Muscat Club in the final of the 42nd His Majesty's Cup Hockey Championship at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Tuesday. The match will begin at 6pm.

Coached by K K Poonacha, Ahli-Sidab will be making its third straight appearance in the final of Oman's premier hockey tournament. It won the trophy in 2005 and 2011. Prior to the merger, Sidab had won the title five times, the last of which came in 2002.

Muscat, coached by Ali Hassan, won the title in 2004.

Speaking to Muscat Daily, Poonacha said, We are ready for the big match. I am confident we will be able to defend the title.

On its way to the title showdown, the fancied Ahli-Sidab side edged out four-time winner Al Nasr Club in the last-four stage. In the double-leg semifinals last week, Ahli-Sidab won 3-2 and 2-1. Muscat entered the final on better goal difference against Seeb Club after winning 4-2 in the first semifinal and losing 0-1 in the second.

Poonacha said, Al Nasr was the toughest opponent for us and we beat them in the semifinals. Muscat is also a good team, but we have a better set-up and we are in form.

The core of Ahli-Sidab's line-up comprises a trio of Indian players - forward Lalit Upadhyay, who played for Bhopal Badshahs in the 2012 World Series Hockey (WSH), midfielder Nikkin Thimmaiah, who turned out for Pune Strykers in the WSH, and dragflicker Darshan Dalavai, who plays for Sports Authority of India. Upadhyay was voted 'rookie of the year' in the 2012 WSH.

Ahli-Sidab will also bank on five national team players - Aiman Abdullah, Salah Nasser, Ashraf Talib, Abdullah Hamood and Ali Salim.

Muscat coach Hassan believes his team is prepared to give Ahli-Sidab a tough time. No doubt Ahli-Sidab is a big team. Unlike them, we don't have any national team players, he said. But we reached the final with whatever we have, we won't give up easily.

Muscat will rely a lot on its Egyptian troika of Mohammed Sameer, Mohammed Hosni and Mustafa Khalil.

Hassan said, Sameer is a brilliant dragflicker and has performed well in the tournament so far. I hope he will do well in the final. After the semifinals, we played two practice games against the UAE national team in Sohar. We are well-prepared.

H E Mohammed al Rumhy, Minister for Oil and Gas, will be the chief guest at the final. The winning team will bag RO45,000, the runner-up gets RO28,500 and the third-placed side receives RO17,500.

Indian umpires Pankaj Tyagi and Naved Zia will officiate in the match.

muscatdaily columnists