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Oman's Untapped Potential (23/07/2011)

Oman’s Untapped Potential Interview with K.K. Poonacha, Oman’s National coach on his team’s chances 

By Eddie dos Passos/HKHA(23/07/2011)

Oman coach K.K. Poonacha taking charge as he fine tunes his team ahead of the 3rd Men's Junior AHF Cup at King's Park. Picture by: Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

The last 18 months have been testing times for Oman coach K.K. Poonacha who is taking his side into unchartered waters as they seek a place in the Junior AHF Cup and other major international events.

Poonacha has 52 international caps playing for India, collected among other tournaments including World Cup and Champions Trophy action.

He even had a crack at Olympic glory when he had international duty but his side failed to make it past the qualifiers for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

This time around, he is eyeing to take his team to the next round of play in this U21 Asian tournament in Hong Kong, which will serve as both a qualifier for next year’s Junior Asia Cup and the 2013 Junior World Cup.

He is realizing the opportunity to showcase his chargers to the world. Having last played for India in an Olympic qualifier for the 1996 Games, he knows what it is needed to survive in the boiler-pressure atmosphere of international hockey.

“They are good enough skill-wise and are very talented boys,” he said.

To make sure they survive Hong Kong’s notorious humid and hot weather, the crafty Indian coach, took his chargers on a 10 game trip to his beloved Indian State of Bangalore to ensure his squad acclimatize to conditions here and be prepared as best they could.

“The weather conditions in Bangalore are similar to Hong Kong and it has worked out well for us,” he said, comparing the heat in Oman, where temperatures can reach as high as 40 degrees.

He conceded that domestically the league was not as good as many developed hockey nations but that it was shaping up and coming to terms and was slowly improving with the limited number of teams available for the game to climb up a gear.

He said that events like this can only help his adopted country to advance to reach beyond their shores.

“Only through good competition and good exposure can the boys  help improve the game. These are a good group of boys, only aged between 16 to 21, very young and talented, so they have a long way to go on the international arena,” he said.