And it was no surprise that a sea of blue flags welcomed its home club players on Thursday night and on Friday during the victory parade, after Sur lifted the 47th His Majesty’s Cup Football Championship title for the fourth time at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) in Muscat.
Fanja fans certainly outnumbered the supporters from Sur at the SQSC, but that didn’t seem to affect Sur players as they displayed never-say-die-spirit to rally back from a goal down to beat nine-time winners Fanja 2-1 in extra-time.
Sur regained the title it last won in 2008. It had previously won in 1992 and was one of the earliest winners, having lifted in 1973, when HM’s Cup was held only for the second time. Ahli-Sidab has the honour of winning the inaugural edition in 1972.
Sur coach Mohammed Khamis al Araimi credited the players’ fighting spirit for the team’s success. “It was a difficult situation for players ahead of the final. We are facing relegation battle in the Omantel League [top-flight league]. To add to our challenge was conceding an early goal. At half-time, I gave my players a pep talk and it worked. They fought bravely and not only equalised but got the winner in the extra-time. I am really proud of them.”
Fanja went ahead in the 35th minute when Mohammed Mubarak’s free-kick was deflected off Sur’s defensive wall leaving its goalie Ahmed al Qulhati wrong-footed.
The match that never rose above mediocrity found some life after Sur equalised with eight minutes to go for the final whistle. Fanja goalkeeper Mazin al Hasani made a hash of a header following a free-kick as he fumbled to collect a feeble header from Sur’s Khalid al Araimi.
An alert Sur’s Juma Mubarak capitalised on the lapse to slam the ball in to draw level and force extra-time as the scores were deadlocked at the end of final whistle.
As the game moved towards a possible penalty shootout, coach Mohammed Khamis’ earlier decision to bring in fresh pair of legs in the 78th minute turned out to be decisive as substitute Aiman al Mukhaini turned out to be the hero.
Fanja goalkeeper Mazin, disappointed once again, as he failed to make a clean save off a cross from Saud al Farsi leaving Aiman to just tap in the ball for the winner in the 95th minute.
In his post-match comments, Fanja’s interim coach Haitham al Alawi expressed his displeasure over the refereeing. He also blamed his players for going defensive after the opening goal.
“We could have done better. Congratulations to Sur,” he said.
Fanja chairman Hamyar al Ismaili said, “It was disappointing not to have won the tenth title but it has been a decent season for us. Reaching the HM’s Cup final and returning to Omantel League is satisfying for the new board as we took over the club only last November.”
Later H E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhi, the Minister of Oil and Gas, presented the glittering trophy to Sur captain Al Moatassim al Mukhaini.