Al-Habsi ready for the tough Indian challenge

Al-Habsi ready for the tough Indian challenge

Al-Habsi ready for the tough  Indian challenge

He is one of the strongest forces that drives this Oman side. With Ali Al-Habsi in the goal, Oman present a formidable challenge at the back. The Indians will get a first hand experience of his skills when the two face-off in the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.

The six-feet-five-inch tall goalkeeper, however, said that the game will not be a stroll in the park. “Trust me, we are going to have a tough game,” said Al-Habsi. “But I think we are ready. It’s always important to start the competition on a high. We know that India is improving. The game will need concentration and effort that last for 90 minutes and hopefully we will get what we want.”

Oman are grouped along with Turkmenistan, Guam, India and Iran in Group D and the 33-year-old was sure that his team will have to wave past some difficult games if they are to make it to the showpiece event in 2018.

“It’s true that everyone in the group will have a chance (to qualify). I believe there is no weak team now,”said the skipper. “Of course, Iran are the favourites. But, at the end of the day, if you work hard you will get what you want. I think in these kind of games, it’s important to get full points from home and that’s why India will be tough for us,” he said.
Al-Habsi has been regular figure in English football, plying his trade for teams like Bolton Wanders, Wigan Athletic and Brighton & Hove Albion. The Omani said the experience had helped him develop not only as a player, but also as a person.

“I am very happy that I have stayed in English football for so long. It’s really important for me, my country and even for Asia to have some players in England,” he said. “For a goalkeeper to play in England, it takes a lot of work and having played there, I carry plenty of experience back home,” he added.

Al-Habsi’s journey under the English sun was not a smooth sail. The Omani had to wait a long time before getting his first team start for Bolton, his first Premier League side. “My time in England taught me to be patient. I was benched for a long time before getting my first start. But when I got my  chance, I grabbed it,” said the former Wigan Athletic keeper.

The 2012-13 season was the highlight of Al-Habsi’s career when he helped Wigan reach the FA Cup final, but couldn’t be a part of the Cup winning side after being sidelined due to a shoulder injury. “Yes, that was a memorable day for me. I played the semifinal (against Milwall) at Wembley even though I struggled that season. I had a shoulder problem and after that game, I underwent a surgery so I could not play the final,” he said. “I have the feeling that I was part of the team that won the FA Cup (beating Manchester City) and that was the best moment of my life. FA Cup is the oldest Cup. To be part of that team that won at Wembley, I am very proud,” he said.

The skipper said he would like to continue in English football for few more years before heading home. “When I was young, it was my dream to play in the Premier League. Now, I'm 33. And I think I can get many more games in England. And this is my target, to continue,” said Al-Habsi who is out of a contract for the coming season.

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