Muscat: Raising the profile of Oman national team, overall development of leagues and ‘bringing together’ the Sultanate’s football fraternity will be high on the agenda of Sheikh Salim Al Wahaibi if he gets elected as the chairman of the Oman Football Association (OFA).
A member of prominent business family that has always been involved in and supported the sports, Sheikh Salim has previously served as the vice-chairman of the OFA. And with nobody else coming forward to enter the fray in the September 29 elections, he is virtually assured of realising his ambition to occupy the hot seat left vacant by the outgoing chairman — his ‘good friend’ and charismatic Sayyid Khalid bin Hamed Al Busaidi.
A director of Assarain Group of Companies, Sheikh Salim filed his nominations at the OFA Headquarters on Tuesday morning and a couple of hours later called a press conference at Hotel City Seasons to brief the media about his mission and vision for the Omani football.
But the initial and obvious queries were why he quit as vice-chairman back in 2011 and why he has now come forward to contest for the chairmanship.
“There is a misunderstanding among many about end of my tenure as vice-chairman. Everybody thinks I had quit whereas I had actually completed my four-year term and preferred not to seek another term.... though the reasons are many, some issues, family and work commitments,” Sheikh Salim said with a smile.
“Now why I am contesting for the chairmanship. Because I see the need and I think it is the right time to step forward and help in further development of national team and Oman football in general.”
Sheikh Salim, however, revealed that it’s not a decision taken in haste.
“I have been thinking about it for the last two years and during that time my interactions with officials of the clubs and those who love Omani football and sports made me realise the need to do my bit,” he added.
Speaking about his main objectives, he stressed the need to ‘bring the national team to the level they were before’.
“Over the past few years, the national team has not been doing that well. Their performance level has slipped considerably. I want to see the team get back to that former level and compete well at the GCC and Asian level.”
Attracting more sponsors to football will also be one of the major tasks Sheikh Salim wants to take up once he gets elected.
“We need more sponsors for Oman football to grow. Here we are not talking about just one main sponsor for the Premier League. There has to be backing of more sponsors — like venue and match sponsors in all the regions and sponsors for league and competitions. I would like to see the new board members and the clubs work towards that goal in harmony,” he explained.
Work in unity
Sheikh Salim also stressed the need for everyone involved with the game to work in unity for the cause of the Sultanate’s soccer.
“At present, there some differences with some clubs and sections of the media. But my primary objective is to bring everyone together and work for the development,” he said.
Asked about the financial situation of the OFA, he said: “If I remember correctly in the last AGM, the board had mentioned about some financial deficit. Every sports association faces such issues. But I don’t see it as a big issue. With right approach and support, these issues can be overcome.”
Asked about his opinion about the outgoing chairman Sayyid Khalid and the way he led the association, Sheikh Salim said: “Sayyid Khalid is a good friend of mine. He has done a very good job as the chairman of the OFA and turned it into a professional and corporate (business) entity. The professionalism that he incorporated into the system will help us take Oman football forward and to an even higher level”
At the same time, Sheikh Salim stressed there will be, ‘if required’, some changes in the set up.
“We will see how that set up is helping in the growth and if required we will do away with some departments if they are not required in the development process.
“There will be more ‘freedom and value to the people’ to work with responsibility. For example there is a CEO (of Omantel Professional League). The board members will make their decisions but the CEO will be running the day to day affairs,” he said.
Asked whether the new board under him will set sights on Oman qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he said: “Our national team came close to qualifying Athens Olympics (2004) and then narrowly missed the berth for London Games (2012). It’s too early to talk about the 2020 Games and 2022 World Cup. But we have to keep working.”