Muscat, March 18 –
Ali al Habsi has been Oman’s greatest sporting icon for the longest time, especially since they won their first Arabian Gulf Cup crown in 2009 precisely, and continues to remain one.
Although Ali was not part of the ‘Red Warriors’ team who recreated the magic again in Kuwait earlier this year, the Oman legend is gung-ho about the team’s prospects going ahead.
With Oman having qualified for the all-important AFC Asian Cup to be held next year in the UAE, Ali feels the team is in top shape for the challenge.
“I am looking forward to the Asian Cup next year, it’s a big competition for all the Asian teams. One of the biggest competitions, we are very prepared. The manager is doing a fantastic job. This time will be different because we will have 24 teams in the Asian Cup,’’ he added.
The former Bolton Wanderers and Reading goalkeeper was all praise for Oman’s spectacular performance in the Gulf Cup and the exploits of his understudy Fayez al Rushaidi.
“Of course, I have full confidence in Fayez, he put up a fantastic performance for the national team, it was a great achievement for the players and management. It should motivate the team and give us strength when we go to play the Asian Cup next year,’’ Ali stated.
Ali also spoke highly of the incumbent manager of the team, Pim Verbeek.
“He is a great manager, great person. He works really hard, I wish him all the best with the matches ahead,’’ he added.
Oman are scheduled to play Palestine on March 27th in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers game and Ali stressed on the importance of the game.
“Yes, it’s an important match and I will not be playing the game. The manager spoke with me and it’s between me and the manager. We have to win the game to be top of the group and this will be our first game after the Gulf Cup, so everyone looking forward to it,’’ he added.
“I’m always there for the national team and I’m fully supporting them,” Ali said.
Ali, who plays for Saudi Arabia’s domestic league leaders Al Hilal said they have a very important match coming up.
“We are top of the league and we have one of the biggest games of the season coming up against Al Ahli on April 7th. We are leading the league and we cannot afford to throw it away, we will be playing in front of 70,000 people. We can guarantee the league if we win so we have to put up our best performance,’’ Ali explained.
Al Hilal have not put up a great show at the Asian Champions League as well and Ali threw some light on the situation there.
“It is a very important competition for us. We did not start well but the last two games we need to perform and do well to qualify for the last 16.
The game against Al Ain will be a tough one away from home and Esteghlal in Kuwait. It will be a very difficult month for us but the team will use this pressure to make something important and exciting,’’ he added.
Talking about his experience of working with three other goalkeepers in the Al Hilal squad and the atmosphere, Ali had wonderful things to say.
“Al Hilal is a great club and it is a fantastic experience for me to be there and the way they treat me there is special. There is a lot of respect as a person and as an experienced player. I am very happy about that,’’ the legend revealed.
Muscat, March 18 –