The first edition of Oman Professional League is all set to kick off next week.
Football fans in the Sultanate are in a state of delirium. They cannot wait anymore to watch the on-field actions. All the 14 top flight clubs in the country have strengthened their sides, hired experienced players from home and abroad and roped in new coaches to boost the players' morale and change the fortunes of their sides. The battle lines have already been drawn for the first Oman Professional League (OPL).
When the actual battle begins on September 13 in five different venues across the Sultanate, they will not only get an opportunity to watch keenly-fought clashes but also witness history unfolding before their eyes. They will experience a touch of professionalism in every aspect of the game. OPL is definitely going to be the 'game-changer' in Oman's sporting scenario.
"The launch of Oman Professional League is an important step towards bringing full professionalism in football in Oman. We have put in a lot of hard work to achieve the target. The new season will see professionalism in the organisational level, in the fixtures, on the match days, on television, and in many other areas. It will also see Omani teams taking part in the Asian Champions League in March 2014. Once we professionalise the league, we will target to make all the clubs professional," OFA chairman Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi said.
But OPL is not a copycat of its big-spending counterparts in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, where huge amount of money is being spent to hire glamorous and world famous coaches and superstars who are past their prime.
Instead, the visionary OFA leadership drew up a unique model that suits the needs of Oman. So they want the professional league to be the best community-driven league in the world, which makes OPL stand out from the leagues elsewhere. "We plan to achieve many targets with the OPL. The ultimate aim is to turn football in Oman into a thriving industry. We also want to become the world's leading professional league in terms of contribution to our country. It will take a long time to achieve the target. But, the plans we have in place and the targets we have set ourselves mean that each year we will move forward," says Shabib Al Hosni, the new Chief Executive Officer of OPL.
"For the time being, our target is to make sure that the league is run professionally and that clubs and fans see and benefit from the changes we are bringing in," he adds.
Thus, the OPL has set a realistic target to contribute in the growth of the country. It aims to create over 2,000 jobs for Omanis across clubs and league and open the door for establishment of small business units that will spring around the league. It will raise the technical and administrative level of the clubs and players.
But the major objective is to transform all the clubs into community hubs. "If the 43 existing football clubs are transformed into community hubs, it will help in transforming society. These centres will host events that will benefit children and youth. Besides, the clubs can teach youngsters the nuances of the game. At present, most of the clubs are concentrating only on football. But the scenario should be changed. People should get a feel that the club in their area belongs to them. That is the only way to achieve our target of becoming the best community driven league," opines Sheikh Hazza Al Saadi, Chief Executive Officer, OFA.
Nic Cartwright, Commercial Director, OFA, adds, "For example, clubs can send their top players to schools to give messages on healthy eating and accident-free driving. The awareness will help the kids lead a healthy lifestyle. The clubs can also conduct camps for youngsters to spot the talent."