It may just have been a symbolic gesture. But then the Omani club does share one common story with the famous Premier League side - passionate fans and glorious history. It took more than two decades - 23 years to be precise - for Fanja to regain the most coveted football title in Oman, the HM's Cup.
No wonder Saturday's historic triumph witnessed Fanja's fans going delirious along with former players and the club's administrators.
Till Saturday, it was a tale of so-near-yet-so-far for Fanja as it had lost to Al Arouba in the HM's Cup final in 2011.
Fanja had been sharing the record of eight crowns with Salalah giant Dhofar for a pretty long time.
A dominating and comprehensive 2-0 win over inaugural Omantel Professional League (OPL) champion Al Nahda this time took the yellow-and-black brigade to a record ninth HM's Cup title.
Speaking to Muscat Daily a day after the famous win, Talib Hilal, captain of the 1991 HM's Cup-winning Fanja side, said, “It feels great to witness my club win the HM's Cup after 23 years. It has really been a long, long time. This win is a result of good club administration over the past few years.” Talib, who was also the Fanja captain when the club won the GCC Club Cup title in 1989, added, “This team deserved to win as it went into the final with a positive mindset. The players attacked from the start. The team under the new coach [Italian Guglielmo Arena] looked well-organised.”
Fanja, nicknamed 'the Desert Bees', remains the only Omani club to win the regional club competition, though Saham had gone close this year. It reached the GCC Club Cup final and lost to UAE's Al Nasr. Saif al Sumri, Fanja club's chairman, said, “The HM's Cup title win is a result of hard work over the past seven-eight years. We have had a good team and good support staff. The fans were superb, too. The teamwork, which has been a hallmark of the club, enabled us to achieve this glory.”
Sumri added, “We started the season with a few goals. We wanted to win the OPL, enter the AFC Cup knockouts and then take the HM's Cup. But the schedule was too packed and the boys were affected by it. Once we figured out that we were no longer in the race for the OPL title and narrowly missed the AFC Cup knockouts, we shifted our focus to the HM's Cup.”
The Fanja chairman said the club will soon hold a gala ceremony to honour the players. Plans are also in place, he said, to hold a victory parade. Hamyar al Ismaily, Sumri's predecessor and now the honorary club chairman, has been one of the key forces behind Fanja's success since it won the top flight league and the Super Cup in 2012.
In May 2011, Fanja gained promotion to the top flight following an 11-year absence and impressed in the next season with the domestic title triumph. Established in 1971, Fanja was relegated to the second division for the first time in 1992.
The club bounced back with promotion to the elite league in the 1997-98 season before slipping back down in 1999-2000 for an 11-year-long stretch. Ismaily was in charge of the club for two of Fanja's promotions to the top flight - from 1997-1999 and then in 2006.
“Success is like growing a date palm tree. It takes a lot of time to bear the fruit, but when it does, one relishes it,” Ismaily said.
“Over the past couple of years, our focus has been to help Fanja regain its glorious past and earn the respect of the fans, who had been disappointed for a long time in the past. “We are proud of our latest