Oman's military coup: This week in Middle East football
On Saturday night, at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Oman became the football world champions.
Wait, what? If this sounds surreal to you, it might be because you haven't heard about the International Council for Military Sports (CISM), or its more common name - the World Military Cup.
This international competition for military football has been taking place every four years or so since 1946, on and off due to global issues, as part of the general World Military Championships. In 2013, a first edition of a four-year cycled football competition was founded and played in Azerbaijan, under the name CISM Football Cup, or as mentioned – The World Military Cup.
After finishing second both in the 2013 CISM Football Cup and the 2015 World Military Championship, hosts Oman grabbed the cup with both hands. With significant home support, Oman notched up a semi-final victory against Egypt.
In the final, the hosts met regional rivals, Qatar. Neither team could find the goal, and after a dull 0-0 draw, the Omanis won 4-1 on penalty shootouts.
In the bronze medal battle, Syria's army defeated Egypt's 6-5 on penalties after it was 2-2 after 90 minutes, leading to a clean sweep for the top four Arab nations in the competition.
Among the notable players were Oman's goalie, Fayez al-Rashidi, who won the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament, Qatar's Abdullah al-Haddad who won the competition MVP and Syria's Mohammed al-Waked, who was the World Military Cup top scorer with six goals.
Oman's victory didn't go unnoticed, with local football legend and Reading FC's goalkeeper Ali al-Habsi - tweeting his feelings and sharing respect for the military team.
|Read more: Oman hosts military football tournament featuring brutal dictatorships|
2019 Asian Cup Draw
The 2019 Asian Cup Draw took place in Abu Dhabi last Monday. The competition, to be held in the United Arab Emirates, starts its qualification rounds with Middle Eastern representatives facing opponents from across the continent.
Lebanon were drawn into group B along with North Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Jordan will struggle in a difficult group C against Vietnam, Afghanistan and Cambodia. Group D sees two Middle Eastern teams with Palestine and Oman drawn together with Bhutan and the Maldives. Meanwhile, Bahrain will play with Turkmenistan, Singapore and Chinese Taipei in group E, as Yemen will try to set aside the war in their country in matches against Nepal, Tajikistan and the Philippines.
Al-Ain is al-mess, but hope prevails
Earlier this week, Al-Ain was preparing for its most important match of the season. League leaders Al-Jazira, with all their stars on top form, were coming to town - and nothing but victory against them would be accepted.
The position of Zlatko Daljic, Al-Ain's Croatian coach, was reportedly in jeopardy, with the team struggling in every single competition.
Omar "Amoory" Abdulrahman hasn't been happy with the way the the Emirati mega club is playing, neither have been the fans.
Daljic tried a new format for the crunch match, with a 3-3-3-1 strategy becoming 3-4-3 in an attacking style of play, but it wasn't enough.
Al-Ain dominated, but couldn't finish its chances. Mohammed Fawzi - formerly of al-Ain - scored for Al-Jazira, and put the Islanders1-0 up at half time. In the second half Brazilian talisman Leonardo, who seemingly can't stop scoring since his arrival from Asian Champions League winners Jeonbuk, made it 2-0.
In the 84th minute it looked like al-Ain's messiah had awakened. Amoory tricked four players to score a beautiful goal, and it was 2-1. But Ali Mabkhout finished the story in the late 89th minute, making it a 3-1 win for Al-Jazira, who now open a six-point lead at the top of the table.
It was the last straw for Daljic, who resigned after three years of coaching al-Ain. His departure sparks a hot competition for potential replacement coaches. While there are more rumours than reliable reports, it is better to wait for the official club's announcement.
Meanwhile, the team itself went on to win its next match, a lucrative game against reigning champions Al-Ahli Dubai, with Amoory scoring another decisive goal in the 2-1 victory.
So who will be Amoory's next coach? Who will instruct the best footballer in the world outside Europe?
It would be best to be someone who will help him to organise the team's game plan - someone who will be determined to catch Al-Jazira, who are speeding to the title.