OFA launches Mazda Cup for OPL teams

L-R: S Kasthurirengan, Riyadh Ali Sultan, Sayyid Khalid al Busaidy and Sultan al Zadjali

In a boost to the 14 clubs in the Omantel Professional League (OPL), the Oman Football Association (OFA) on Sunday announced the launch of the Mazda Professional Cup, which replaces the previously-held OPL Cup.

The competition will kick off on November 14 and is expected to end in late January next year. Featuring 49 matches, it will be played entirely on a knockout basis.

After the OPL, this is the second instance of a corporate group title-sponsoring a top domestic football competition in Oman. It underlines the steady progress the OFA has made towards roping in the private sector's support for promoting football.

A four-year deal for the Mazda Cup sees Towell Auto Centre (TAC), the sole dealer of Mazda in Oman, join hands with the OFA in organising the three-month tournament.

After signing an agreement with Riyadh Ali Sultan, director of TAC, Sayyid Khalid al Busaidy, the OFA chairman, said, “The clubs are the direct beneficiaries of this deal. I believe this partnership will open more doors for the private sector to come forward and support the game. The clubs will also receive Mazda vehicles on a four-year lease as part of the deal.”

He added, “The tournament will help the clubs play more matches in the domestic season and also gives them opportunities to test their bench strength as the Mazda Cup will be held when the national team will be busy playing tournaments or friendlies.”

The OFA chairman also said the top two teams will earn a 'bigger' prize money this season. In 2013-14, winner Saham bagged RO10,000, while runner-up Seeb took home RO5,000.

“We have not yet decided on the figure, but I can tell you that the prize money would be bigger than what it was last season. We are happy to support the clubs,” he said.

S Kasthurirengan, CEO of TAC, said, “We are delighted to be associated with Omani football in a big way. Football is the most popular game in the country and there cannot be a better platform for us to reach out to the youth.”

He added, “We have plans to nurture grassroots-level football and the next step will be to go down to the Wilayat-level or even the village-level. We want to spot talent and groom them into future stars with the help of the OFA.”

Also present on the occasion was Sultan al Zadjali, the OFA's newly-appointed general secretary and CEO.

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