Omani hockey official Yaqoob Mirok al Balushi has been appointed as the Tournament Director for Round 1 of the inaugural FIH Men's World Hockey League (WHL) in Doha from November 27-December 2. It will mark the 66 year old match official's first event as director of the tournament organised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Balushi, a former Oman Hockey Association (OHA) board member, has served as the director in several international tournaments sanctioned by the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) over the past. Balushi said, “It is a great honour to be appointed as director for an FIH tournament. I have experience in the post and as assistant tournament director in AHF tournaments.
The Doha trip will only add to that experience.” The Doha leg of the FIH's new international league, which will be played on two-yearly cycles, initially comprised seven teams and was later reduced to five teams following the withdrawal of the UAE and Uzbekistan. Round 1 now features Oman, Qatar, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan. Speaking to Muscat Daily before leaving for Doha, Balushi confirmed the pullout of the two teams and added that the tournament will be played on a different format.
“The late withdrawal of Uzbekistan after the UAE has forced us to change the tournament to a round-robin league. A new schedule has been prepared and the winner will qualify for the second round,” he said. Balushi added that Oman will begin its campaign on November 28 against the hosts.
On the opening day, Sri Lanka meets Turkey, followed by Qatar taking on Azerbaijan. Balushi's first stint as assistant tournament director was in 1994 at the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan. He worked in the same capacity at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, and at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games in Doha and Guangzhou, respectively.
Balushi has served as tournament director for the Southeast Asian Games, U18 Asia Cup and U16 Asia Cup. The former Seeb Club player has been associated with the OHA for 25 years and has served as chairman of competitions, umpiring and medical committees.
WHL Round 1 fixtures: November 27: Sri Lanka vs Turkey, Azerbaijan vs Qatar; Nov 28: Azerbaijan vs Turkey, Oman vs Qatar; Nov 30: Sri Lanka vs Oman, Turkey vs Qatar; December 1: Azerbaijan vs Oman, Qatar vs Sri Lanka; December 2: Oman vs Turkey, Sri Lanka vs Azerbaijan.