Oman Football Association ‘relieves’ Le Guen of coaching duties after Oman’s loss to Turkmenistan
November 19, 2015 | 3:18 PM
by A. SESHAGIRI RAO [email protected]

Muscat: The Oman Football Association (OFA) on Thursday terminated the Sultanate’s national football team coach Paul Le Guen’s contract two days after Oman’s 1-2 away defeat to Turkmenistan in a crucial Group D qualifying match of the 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup.

The experienced Frenchman’s sacking came as a surprise as the OFA’s top brass has always been backing the coach despite heavy criticism of his coaching methods and his failure to ‘improve’ the team’s performance during his tenure.

The Sultanate’s soccer governing body, which usually prefers to ‘part ways’ with coaches instead of sacking them, has announced their decision in a simple one line tweet ‘OFA decided to relieve coach Paul Le Guen from his duties as Head Coach of the First National Team’. Interestingly that tweet came in English hours after the OFA tweeted the news in Arabic.

What is more surprising is why the OFA has decided to terminate Guen at this juncture of their World Cup/Asian Cup qualification campaign, especially after supporting him and keeping him in the job even after the Frenchman was linked with a move to UAE club Al Wuhda.

That was back in June, when Oman were just about to launch their qualifying campaign with an away match against India.

But until Tuesday’s defeat to Turkmenistan, Oman had not lost a match in Group D, winning three matches and drawing two. They now have 11 points against group toppers Iran’s 14.

No doubt, the defeat has left Oman in danger of not able to clinch the direct berth into the next round of the World Cup qualifiers, provided Iran win both their next games. However, Oman still have a chance to clinch the top spot in the group if they defeat Guam and Iran in their next matches.

However, as one OFA official, said ‘it’s not the defeat to Turkmenistan’ that led to sacking of Le Guen.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: “It’s not about our defeat to Turkmenistan but how the team as a whole has been performing during his (Le Guen’s) tenure.”

Summarising what he termed as ‘general belief’, he said: “Everybody believes that there is nothing to show during his four-year term. There has been no improvement in team’s performance if one looks at overall outlook in these years.”

Meanwhile, the OFA has also announced in another one line tweet: “National Teams Committee has been asked to present options on the next Head Coach of the National Team.”

Though Oman will be playing their remaining matches, against Guam and Iran, only next March, it won’t be a surprise if the committee recommends to hand over the team reins to an Omani coach.

It will be interesting to see if the committee will consider Hamad Al Azzani, one of the experienced and successful Oman coaches who has previously coached Oman under-23 teams. If that happens it will be kind of a poetic justice as back in 2008 Le Guen was given charge of the Olympic team after the Omani coach guided them till the Asian play-offs of the London Olympics football competition.

For the record, under Le Guen, the team won the Asian play-offs but lost the inter-continental play-off and with that the final Olympic qualifying berth to Senegal.

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