Sunday, 29 December 2013

Oman to have Middle East's first sports science course

The Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat, Oman is set to launch the Middle East's first ever sport science programme. 

This course will be held in association with the Trafford College of Manchester in the United Kingdom, global non-profit football development organisation Kick Worldwide and the Oman Football Association (OFA) and is set to launch by September 2014.

Professor S.K. Pemma Raju, Director, Centre for Graduate and Professional Studies, Modern College of Business and Science. Reproduced with permission.
"Initially, we want to bring in sports-related programmes in a way to develop some activity in the youth," says Dr. S.K. Pemma Raju, the College's Director for Graduate and Professional Studies.

"It's not an organised way in which these sports have been [organised] particularly in terms of football, though the OFA is there. I think from six months back these guys (the OFA) have started giving proper training."

"Mostly the demand is for football," explains Dr. Raju. "That is the main thing, so we're starting with football and a couple of enquiries came for tennis.

Related Article: Q&A session with Chuck Martini, Head Coach, Muscat Football Academy

"Here, we don't have activities for the women," he adds. "Our other idea is to bring the Omani women into the sports field to provide them special facilities to do these things and a couple of girls are interested in trying to learn tennis to make their career. We are encouraging [them] on both sides."

Qatar 2022

One of the reasons the College - which has an affiliation with the University of St. Louis in the United States - has decided to invest in a sports science programme is because Qatar has won the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which has given sports in the Middle East a major boost.

Related article: Football development in the Middle East shows global popularity of the sport

Dr. Raju hopes that by that time the World Cup does come to the Arab world, Oman will have sports science professionals who will be on hand to assist teams that make it to Qatar 2022.

"Now we want to start something related to some courses relating to the coaching and the refereeing, particularly keeping the sports activities that are going to take place in Qatar," he says.

"Already, Kick Worldwide has started some sports activities in some interiors with school kids."

Between one and two thousand kids took part in those activities, and Dr. Raju says that the next segment of the organisation's target audience is the youth who are in the later years of school life, so that they can begin to train the next generation of adults at foundation level.

"We want them to become professionals in the longer run," he says. "[We will] provide them proper direction, give them proper coaching."


On completion of this short-term course, students will get certificates that are jointly issued by the OFA and the Ministry of Manpower.

"They get a qualification and they do a couple of units here which has a direct link for the Associate or Bachelors' programmes anywhere in the world," explains Dr. Raju. "They complete here, certain of the courses.

"This will have a link-up with the advanced modules in certain other countries so guys who want to pursue their higher education in sports, the courses [that] they do here, they can be transferred. That is the main idea."

Those who wish to have a career in sports will also benefit from this course, which will have 40% theoretical studies with the other 60% being practical in nature. Holders of this certificate can join schools as sport coaches and will be called upon to officiate local league football games.

Plans are under way to develop an AstroTurf football pitch at the College for practical purposes. Although the course now only offers a sports science qualification in football, Dr. Raju hopes that there will be other specialisations that prospective students can follow in the future.

"The real sports personalities, we would like to interact with them," he says. "In another way, what I can say is we want the trainers to train the trainers so let the real people who're on the field, the professionals impart their knowledge, their methods and all and we train the local talent.

"After sometime, possibly they can take over the training initiative," he adds. "That is the reason why we're trying with a good organisation, where they are already experienced in this field."

Educational hub

Dr. Raju hopes that this course will help make Oman an educational hub for such studies. "A strategic location would be Oman [because] it is a non-controversial and peaceful place so people can come down here and we want to make this as a centre, a hub of the entire Middle East."

"You don't have these sports related [courses], particularly with this line of thought: trying to offer and linking up these courses for further education if students are interested in sports careers."

"People now are [getting] convinced that sports can also become a career," explains Dr. Raju. "There are parents also now, seeing various ways of making their children's dream come true."

The College has plans to introduce an AstroTurf pitch on campus for the practical aspect of the course to be taught. Space for the same has already been allotted.
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image courtesy Wikipedia. com. 
The College also has in place long-term plans for such courses, says Dr. Raju.

"This is the initial step and if we see that there's a lot of future for sports as a career - you about the football celebrities, how much they are making - we want to make it in an organised way, linking up with the Oman Football Association.

"With their patronage, possible, there will be a continuity of the game, the activities on one side and in future we would like to associate with other sports bodies so something can be done in a better way for sports as a career," he finishes.