(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The U14 national football team is in good form ahead of the upcoming AFC U14 Championship qualifiers in Muscat, following its victorious campaign in the Gulf Football Festival Tournament in Bahrain, according to Oman coach Wael al Sisi. The Oman U14s won the crown in Bahrain on Saturday. The team remained unbeaten in the regional grass-roots level competition and edged out Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Saturday's concluding league match. Sisi's boys are drawn in Group A of the AFC U14 Championship qualifiers with Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and UAE.
The qualifying tournament will be played at the Seeb Sports Stadium from March 2-8. After returning from Bahrain, Egyptian Sisi told Muscat Daily, ''I am very pleased with the team's performance in Bahrain. We are no doubt the best side in the region at the moment.'' On its way to the title, Oman played goalless draws with Kuwait and Bahrain before holding Qatar 1-1. Sisi's team then defeated UAE 2-0 and Saudi Arabia to clinch the trophy. Sisi said, ''It was a high-level competition. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE have proper junior league systems in place, but we don't have one here in Oman.
The victory has given my boys a lot of confidence. They can now beat stronger opponents.'' Sisi pointed out that the recent success of the team is due to the Oman Football Association's (OFA) grass-roots programme, which has been running in five centres across the country - in Muscat, Musannah, Sohar, Sur and Salalah.
The U14 coach said, ''We have 120-150 kids registered at each centre. So, to pick the national team, we have a pool of around 600 youngsters, and in the future these talented kids could go on to play for the senior national team.'' In the competition in Bahrain, Oman's Yousuf al Shiyadi won the best goalkeeper's award.
The Oman coach will now hold two camps in Muscat in the run-up to the AFC qualifiers. Sisi said, ''Only one team from a pool of six will qualify for the AFC tournament, which I think is a little harsh on the boys. We will play at home and I hope my boys can handle the pressure