Hockey fans in Oman can look forward to a mega-clash in October when arch-rivals India and Pakistan meet in the 2019 Asian Champions Trophy.
The Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat will provide the stage for the fifth edition of the championship from October 18 to 28.
Following a round-robin match between defending champion India and Pakistan on October 20, the teams could still meet again in the semifinals or final, giving fans in Oman a great opportunity to watch some of the continent’s best players.
Besides the two heavyweights India and Pakistan, the six-nation biennial tournament will feature South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and hosts Oman.
Matter of Great Pride
Talib al Wahaibi, president of Oman Hockey Association (OHA), said, “It is a matter of great pride for Oman to host Asia’s top-most tournament that comprises the best teams of the continent.
“This is the first time that OHA is hosting such a top-class event and I thank the Ministry of Sports Affairs, Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) and world hockey governing body, FIH, for their support.”
Feast for India-Pakistan Fans
While the tournament will kick off with a match between Malaysia and Japan, the opening day will also witness Oman take on favourites India.
Wahaibi said, “Considering the huge number of Indians and Pakistanis working in Oman, the championship will be a real feast for hockey lovers.
Tayyab Ikram, CEO of AHF, said, “With no bilateral series between India and Pakistan in recent years, Asian Champions Trophy hockey provides the perfect platform for one of the most widely viewed events in the world. The India-Pakistan match viewership at the Asia Cup in Dhaka last year had a much better viewership than any other FIH event and was even more than the hockey matches at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Event to boost Oman’s sports tourism
“The event is certain to boost Oman’s sports tourism as there are a large number of followers of the Indian and Pakistan teams.”
“With a live telecast assured across 100 nations, the Asian Champions Trophy is the blue riband event of the AHF. We at the AHF are making attempts to bridge the gap between top-tier and second-tier teams and as part of this endeavour, we had the Asia Cup in Dhaka and now will have the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat.”
World Cup 2018 Preparations
The event will also help three World Cup-bound teams – India, Pakistan and Malaysia – prepare for the FIH World Cup in Odisha, India, from November 28 to December 16, 2018.
In Muscat, each team will play a total of five round-robin matches between October 18 and 25 with the top four teams qualifying for the semifinals that will take place on October 27. The remaining two teams will play each other in a qualification match for the fifth spot on the same day. The final and bronze medal matches will take place October 28.
India (World No 5) is the top ranked team according to the FIH rankings and is followed by Malaysia (No 12), Pakistan (No 13), South Korea (No 14), Japan (No 16) and Oman (No 33).