Muscat: Since the Blessed Renaissance of July 23, 1970, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said ensured that resources were distributed to various sectors for holistic development of the nation. One such sector was youth affairs and sports.
Saiyed Ali Sibtain Naqvi, who came to Oman 36 years ago to establish the Omani national hockey team, has seen how much and how far sports has come in the Sultanate, thanks to His Majesty’s vision and determination to put Oman on the world sporting map. The greatest milestone in this regard is the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, a project that Naqvi was associated with.
“In 1983, His Majesty issued the Royal Decree for the construction of the Sultan Qaboos Complex,” he recalled. “The contract was given to Taylor Woodrow. Bausher, the place where the stadium is now, was a desert back then. The ground was reclaimed. Margaret Thatcher flew to meet His Majesty in this connection.”
“After its completion in 1985, when it was opened, the International Federation, Arab Federation, GCC Federation, and other tournaments were organised,” he said proudly.
“Our sports complex was the most modern. Unesco even awarded the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex as the best in Asia for having modern facilities. We are still using the same complex, which has helped raise the standard of Omani athletes.”
After the main sports complex in Bausher, a number of other stadiums were built across the Sultanate.
“Thanks to HM’s vision, this complex and other complexes have been built in Nizwa and Salalah,” said Naqvi.
“But the first complex, which got the Unesco award, is a great honour to His Majesty and the Sultanate. I am proud to be associated with this project as technical adviser.”
Prior to the 1970s and 80s, Oman wasn’t heavily involved in international sports, but that became history after His Majesty decided to give it priority.
“I arrived in 1982 on deputation by the government of India,” remembered Naqvi.
“The Omani hockey team wanted to participate in the 9th Asian Games in Delhi. When I arrived, Oman had just started its development and sports facilities were not on par with international standards. The Al Falaj ground was used for hockey, football, and athletics. But later on His Majesty gave priority to youth activities.”
“When I came, they were playing football, hockey, handball, and swimming,” he said.
“But they were not recognised by the International or Asian Federation. They were only playing under youth affairs. When I came, I suggested that there be an Oman Olympic Committee, which is the base to promote and develop His Majesty’s sporting goals.”
Naqvi has taken the hockey team to many prestigious international events, including the Olympics and the Asian Games.
“From 1982 to 2003, I was in the Oman Olympic Committee,” he revealed. “During this period, I had the honour of being in the delegation for the Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney Olympic Games.”
Soon, it wasn’t just about participation, and Oman started bringing home medals.
“In 1986, we participated in the Seoul Olympics and got one bronze medal,” recounted Naqvi. “In 1990, Oman got its first gold medal in the 400m race.”
Naqvi attributes all the success that the nation and its young talents have achieved over the years to the vision of His Majesty. According to him, none of this could have happened without his strong will and support.