Oman football will always remain close to my heart: Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi

Sports Tuesday 27/September/2016 22:39 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman football will always remain close to my heart: Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi

Muscat: After dedicating nine years of his life, working not less than 14 hours on any given day, either executing plans or travelling extensively to meet the who's who of international football and more importantly dealing with the media as well as the critics, all aimed at the development of Oman football, Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi is all set vacate the hot seat and bid adieu to the Sultanate's most followed sport.
The man, who took on himself the responsibility of guiding Oman football into a professional era -- for some 'golden era', remember the maiden Gulf Cup triumph in 2009 -- that too with much success, described his eventful years as the Oman Football Association chairman in simple and humble word: privileged.
Just last week, around 500 officials and fans gathered at a ceremony organised in Saham to accord a long standing ovation to the outgoing OFA chairman is testament to the tireless efforts he made for the betterment of Oman football.
It is definitely a fitting honour for a person who set out to transform Oman football into a profitable industry. “I was very touched by their reception. I became quite emotional seeing their love and support,” Sayyid Khalid said afterwards.
There were days when I used to wait for months for an interview with Sayyid, as he is affectionately called. This was the case with every journalist who had to patiently wait to get an appointment with the man who has left a lasting legacy. Oman football will surely miss this remarkable man who had done so much for Oman football.

Excerpts from the interview:

When you took over as OFA chief nine years ago, the challenges were plenty. The path to reforming the association was a long one. How did you tackle it?
Yes, there were certainly lots of challenges to overcome. Sport is an unusual industry in that (on pitch at least) there will always be a winner and a loser. And often even though you perform to your best, you do not get the result that you want. I knew that we had to work hard and look at the long term process that would be needed to overcome these challenges. Whilst there is still much to be done, I am proud of the progress we have made, and we have had many positive results along the way. Key to this success has been investing in excellence, both in bringing into the association some people who have good experience and skills in the core areas, but also in building partnerships with organizations that enable the activity. These include FIFA, and sponsors, but also partners we have worked with along the way. The most important attribute is to be patient and to always strive to motivate all stakeholders to help us in our journey. We have worked hard with our key partner the Ministry of Sport Affairs and we have tried to encourage the staff at the OFA to work hard to help our dream become a reality.

Your dream was to make football in Oman an industry and the primary goal was to professionalise the game in the country. To what percentage you could achieve this effort?
In many areas, the OFA is very professional now. You will have seen in recent days, the OFA signing deals with QNB (Qatar National Bank) and with Coca Cola. These are two of the most important brands in world sports – and they do not get involved with organisations that are not professional. So we are very happy to have been able to complete those deals in time for the end of my term. But certainly the OFA has many more ways to go to achieve the level of professionalism right across the industry that we want. The partnership with Oman TV that was announced earlier in the summer is the start of a plan to drive increased revenues for the association – as much of what is needed is increased funding. The level of investments that you see in China (recently) and the big power house countries in the Middle East – show how expensive football can be. And whilst we realise that we cannot hope to compete with those nations in terms of income, we can compete in terms of professionalism. The OPL was a major step and it is one that has been both very encouraging (with many clubs moving on significantly) and frustrating (with our dream not being as far advanced as we want). The clubs are the most important part of OFA and we have tried to build everything from within the clubs.

Your nine-year term has seen many positive changes including the U16,U19, U21 and beach soccer teams winning their own versions of Gulf Cup and of course Oman winning their first ever Gulf Cup in 2009. Are you pleased with the overall performance of our national teams?
Overall, I am pleased with the performance. But there have been many disappointments (as well of course many highs). As a nation, our immediate neighbours include countries that are far more well resourced than us (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE) -- and I think we have done well overall to compete – and beat these nations in many ways. You can always pick individual games when teams do not achieve the successes or results that you want – but you must remember you are fighting against opponents who also want to win. I firmly believe that if we get the systems right – our ‘natural resource’ (Oman’s love of football) – we will be able to compete with countries that may have more resources than us in other areas. I was disappointed that our World Cup campaign for 2014 World Cup ended without qualifying for Brazil, as I felt that the team had a real chance of achieving history. But I think they showed on many occasions – that Oman has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with. Our junior teams doing so well show that the future is bright.

The failure of our national team to qualify for the final round of 2018 world cup qualifiers saddened you? What is your advise to the new board to improve in this area?
Our campaign for 2018 was not as successful as the one for 2014 World Cup. I felt we were unlucky in many ways (our group was tough) and we finished as the second ranked team (in other groups second round team qualified) – having been the second ranked team in the group. But in qualification, there are often factors beyond your control. To do well we need to get the maximum we can out of the whole set up. Both players and coaches, but also supporters cheering the team on, facilities and investment in processes for the team to improve. Moreover, many of our players do not experience the same amount of high level football as other Asian teams (either in local competitions or in playing in foreign leagues) –and I think long term success will come from most of our players playing more at a higher level (either with the OPL or overseas).

During your stint, the revenues at OFA has surged all time high. You brought sponsors and you showed the nation that football is the right place to invest. What more needs to be done in this area?
The key to building revenue streams is to always show a good return on investment for any partner. The commercial team at OFA are tasked with driving value for all our partners (new and old) and it is testament to the work OFA has done that majority of our partners are long standing ones. The major issue OFA faces is that the revenue from Television is very low to what would normally be expected. This is due to many factors that are impossible for OFA to control. However – we have agreed a partnership to work together with PART (Oman TV) and this is the key progression that OFA needs to make in the coming years. A professional approach presented to the corporate bodies in Oman will reap big dividends. Football all round the world is funded by corporate sponsorship (via Television) and Oman is just starting this journey. I urge all Omani companies to get in touch with the OFA team and see how football can help your company.

Looking back, you have left a lasting legacy. How was the journey for you? Are you satisfied with the overall work you have done?
Satisfied is a difficult word to use, as my expectations are high and are always growing. (laughs). Certainly I am pleased with my efforts and with many of the results. There are frustrations in certain areas, but overall I am pleased. Satisfied, I think is more difficult to say – as I feel that so much is possible if the whole nation gets together and works towards common goals – with football as the tool for the good of the nation.

Where can we see Sayyid Khalid now? Will you miss OFA & Oman football?
I will need to take some time before I find out if I will miss the OFA. (laughs) Certainly I will miss many of the people within the OFA and I want to put on record my thanks to the Board and the staff of the OFA for all the efforts they have given for me and for the OFA in my term. There are some very good people who work very hard behind the scenes to drive the OFA on and I wish them well with the new board. I will not forget Omani football – so I cannot miss it – as I will retain a keen interest from the sidelines. I will always love Omani football and my love for the country is not quantifiable. Everything I have done has been driven by a desire to benefit the country. That will not change.

If you would like to send a message to the upcoming team what would that be?
A: Please do your best to keep pushing Omani football on. With the right direction and the right effort, football has the power to deliver real benefit for the country of Oman and its people. I wish the new Board all the best in their journey and I wish them every success as they face what will undoubtedly be a journey full of ups and downs.