The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 is fast approaching, and as the countdown to the tournament continues the Omani Football Association has just organised two special events with the support of world football's governing body.
At the end of August no less than 18 local coaches and 20 match officials, including two international Beach Soccer referees, gathered for a training course focusing on the issue of discipline. Leading the course were coaching specialist Angelo Schirinzi from Switzerland and refereeing expert Mohammed Saeed Al-Shanasi of the United Arab Emirates, both of whom passed on their experience and know-how to their eager students.
Among the interested observers was the Chairman of the Omani FA, Sayyid Khalid bin Hamed Albusaidi, who opened the training get-together. "The idea behind the event came as a result of our national team's victory at the first Asian Beach Games in Bali last October," explained the head of Omani football.
"We won the gold medal with a team that had only been put together a few weeks before," he continued. "We had no structure in place to promote the sport, but having seen the potential at our disposal we have decided to offer training to the country's referees and coaches, with the advice and support of FIFA."
Theory and practice
Another distinguished guest was former Morocco international Mustapha El Hadaoui, a veteran of the 1986 and 1994 FIFA World Cup™ finals. Now doubling up as the coach of the Moroccan U-20 and beach soccer teams, the ex-midfielder was on hand to lend his experience in a country he knows well, having ended his playing career in the Middle Eastern state.
"Oman has got all the resources you need for this sport," he told FIFA.com. "It's got the beaches and there's a strong football culture throughout the country. Like the other instructors, my role is to pass on my knowledge of technical, training and tactical aspects of the game of beach soccer."
The success of the four-day programme was immediately put to the test when the each of the coaches took charge of teams competing in a beach soccer festival. And as you might have guessed, the event was refereed by the match officials attending the course.
"After two days of theory and blackboards, it was time to put things into practice out on the sand," said El Hadaoui. "They were all very receptive during the course and it didn't take them long to apply everything we'd been trying to get across to them."
Training and passion
A total of 40 teams took part in the tournament, which was spread over two days, with several members of the national beach soccer team turning out for some of the sides. FIFA did their bit for the event and for the continued development of the game in Oman by sending over two beach soccer pitch kits, complete with goals, posts, lines and pegs.
As the competition coincided with Ramadan, matches were held between nine in the evening and three in the morning, which is common practice in a part of the world where some 30 football tournaments are held at this time of year. With music by local performers adding to the atmosphere, the night-time event, which was won by a team coached by one of the course participants, proved a great success.
When it was all over a suitably delighted Sayyid Khalid bin Hamed Albusaidi said he hoped that the combination of learning and passion generated by the programme would help the Sultanate become a major power in the sport. "We have 1,700 kilometres of beaches and the Omanis play beach soccer for fun every day," he commented.
"In the absence of grass, sand is our natural surface. Beach soccer has tremendous potential in this country and it could well become a driving force for developing all aspects of Omani football, which remains our priority."
In the next stage of its development Oman will host the Asian Beach Games in 2010, where the national side will aim to retain the title they won last year and also generate even more support for the game from the Omani FA and the country as a whole.