Muscat: Defending champions Saham as well as record nine-time winners Fanja are expected to have easy outings in the first round of 2016-17 His Majesty’s Cup Football Championship, which is scheduled to kick off on November 17.
Title holders and two-time champions Saham were drawn to face Oman Football Association (OFA) First Division League side Bidiya when the draw ceremony of the Sultanate’s premier sporting event was conducted under the auspices of His Highness Sayyid Fatik bin Fahr Al Said, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, at the Grand Millennium Hotel on Tuesday.
Fanja, whose last of nine titles came in 2014, were meanwhile drawn against another First Division team, Al Ittihad.
The first round matches are scheduled to be played across the Sultanate on November 17, 18 and 19.
OFA chief Sheikh Salim Al Wahaibi while thanking the private sector for supporting the event, especially main sponsors Qatar National Bank, said: “I think there were some interesting match-ups. I should say the draw was fair to everybody.”
Saham Club chairman Adil Al Farsi was visibly happy with the draw and said: “With all respects to Bidiya, I think we will have an easy first round match. We are hoping to start our title defence with a win.”
“But our main target is to reach the final. Hopefully we will achieve that goal and go all the way to defend His Majesty’s Cup,” he added.
Fanja for change
Fanja Club vice-chairman Ahmed Al Busaidi refused to take their first round opponents lightly.
“There are no easy teams in HM’s Cup. Even small teams can make life difficult for the experienced sides because of the prestige involved with the tournament. Due to the nature of the format (knockout matches), the smaller teams will be looking to play defensive game and take the match into the penalties. So it’s not going to be easy,” he added.
Asked whether Fanja, who also won nine league titles but are currently languishing in the ninth place in the ongoing Omantel Professional League, are capable of aiming for the title, he said: “We are now looking to improve our set up. We have already decided to end our contract with Portuguese coach (Manuel José Alves Ramos). Assistant coach Suleiman Al Mazroui (former Oman national goalkeeper) will guide the team in the coming months.”
“We are also planning to bring in four new players.. two from outside. Hopefully the new people and system will work for the team.”
Meanwhile, Dhofar, who will be hoping to match Fanja’s record nine titles, will start their campaign against former champions Seeb while fellow Salalah giants Al Nasr will play their first match against Al Shabab.
HM’s Cup 1st round match-ups (to be played on November 17, 18, 19): Al Wusta vs Jalan, Rustaq vs Al Nahdha, Saham vs Bidiya, Al Arouba vs Bausher, Salalah vs Al Hamra, Muscat vs Al Bahla, Ahli-Sidab vs Al Mudhaibi, Yanqul vs Suwaiq, Majees vs Oman, Sur vs Al Salam, Sohar vs Mirbat, Al Musannah vs Al Khabourah, Fanja vs Al Ittihad, Nizwa vs Al Ittifaq, Dhofar vs Seeb, Al Nasr vs Al Shabab.