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Octogenarian footballer dreams Oman team in World Cup

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"I am dreaming of the day the Sultanate of Oman team plays the Fifa World Cup one day. Someday, some generation will make it happen," said Mohammed bin Abdullah al Balushi, an avid footballer, who popularised football among past generations.

Al Balushi dreams of the Sultanate of Oman coming up with flying colours in the future World Cup tourney. He is optimistic his country will lift the coveted title one day.

"We won the Gulf Cup a decade ago, and nobody had predicted it. The Oman team has the potential, and we have brilliant players. It's only a matter of time before we can lift the Cup one day."

Al Balushi, aka Diesel Balushi, who is now in his eighties, introduced football in Oman in the sixties along with his friend Dawood Jamal Dilwish.

Together they played in the farms and rocky mountainous terrains, and knowingly or unknowingly, they were inculcating the game among the youth.

"Together with my friend Jamal, I played on empty lands and tried to train the youth in a new culture during our youth," said Al Balushi, who runs a shop that sells curios and souvenirs.

He recollects that he was born in Pakistan's port city of Gwadar, and football has been his passion since childhood. He came to Oman in 1956 and started doing odd jobs.

Al Balushi dreamed of fine-tuning his skills in football and gathered some friends who shared a similar passion. This ended up in forming a football team, and needless to say, he was the leader.

"That's how the 'Team Bijli' was born, and we played every evening on empty grounds and on different terrains. The team helped many young Omanis learn their first lessons of playing this game," Diesel said.

Those days, the youth used tennis balls to play, and their game was confined to either Muttrah and Jibroo until they met with the then UK ambassador, who invited Al Balushi to play football as he had heard about him through his friend, Ahmed Gheilani, who was working for the diplomatic mission then.

With the support from the UK ambassador, Al Balushi and his team continued to involve themselves deeply in the game, and that legacy continues till today. Al Balushi is seen juggling with a football in the corridors of the traditional buildings of Muttrah.

On why he was called 'Diesel', Al Balushi said he was the "last hope" for drivers and seamen or those who ventured into the deserts. They used to seek his help when a diesel tank fell off a moving vehicle or ship or a car stuck in the desert. They started calling him 'Diesel Balushi' for his sheer size and strength.

"I enjoy the name Diesel Balushi because it is a kind of appreciation for my strength and ability."

Of late, his only worry is his failing health. "My health doesn't permit me to perform heavy tasks anymore, let alone play my favourite game," he laughed.

The truly humane Al Balushi donates food to the jobless youth and one rial every day until they find a job, and that has been the practice from the days he ran some restaurants in and around Muttrah.


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