(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) For new Fanja coach Guglielmo Arena from Italy, the going just got tougher in the Omantel Professional League (OPL) after his team was held to an unimpressive 1-1 draw by Musannah at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Thursday.
Fanja is in second place with 46 points in the league, behind leader Al Nahda with 51 points. Both sides have three games left.
With a contract lasting just till the end of the season, Arena is running against time to also put on a good show in two other competitions apart from the OPL - the His Majesty's Cup and the AFC Cup.
While the team goes into the second-leg of the HM's Cup semifinal on May 3 with a 2-1 lead against Bausher, it will need a big win against Kuwait SC in Kuwait City on April 23 to reach the knockout stage of the AFC Cup.
Speaking to Muscat Daily on the challenges he is facing, Arena said, ''I know our chances have dimmed a bit in the OPL after the latest draw, but things are even more difficult in the AFC Cup. We are not going to give up until we play the last game in either competition. In the OPL, Fanja will be fighting against some tough opponents in its next few games. So, it will be a fight to the end.''
Fanja next meets defending champion Al Suwaiq (37 points) on May 26 before taking on nine-time winner Dhofar (31 points) on May 29. It will conclude its OPL campaign against Sur (32) on May 7.
Al Nahda, on the other hand, takes on Saham (33), Al Arouba (29) and Al Shabab (30) in its last three games.
Fanja's task is not easy, considering the team plays a game every three days, according to the Italian coach, who resides in Switzerland.
''I didn't come to Oman with a set plan. I have a month and half with me and I will try to end the season with the maximum number of wins. I don't even have enough time to train with the players on the field. There is only time for rest, recuperation and preparation.
''For this reason, I have begun to train the boys in two separate groups, so that they don't tire out easily. I have brought along my fitness coach. We are concentrating on preparing the players mentally and technically for the
remaining games,'' said the 40 year old Arena.
The Fanja coach had previous stints in Burkina Faso, Benin, Morocco and Singapore before moving on to UAE's second-division team Al Orooba, which was his last assignment.
Arena finds the sport in the Middle East and Africa is distinctly different from what it is in Europe in terms of players' discipline.
''There is a structured and disciplined approach to football in Europe. I have not found that in the Middle East or Africa. Here, the players are more free to do what they feel like. But there should be a set of rules to govern them. Otherwise, they will go wayward and their talent will be wasted,'' he sai