Oman football: Al Habsi opens up about Al Hilal Champions League snub
August 17, 2017 | 2:18 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
Ali Al Habsi with his Al Hilal teammates. Photo: Ali Al Habsi/Twitter

Muscat: Legendary Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi has underlined his commitment to new side Al Hilal, despite head coach Ramon Diaz’s decision to not include him in the Saudi Arabian outfit’s 24-man AFC Champions League squad.

The decision was met with derision and disappointment by many Omani fans, but Al Habsi has since come out to clear the air on this matter.

“It is a technical aspect,” said Al Habsi, when quizzed about why he’d been left out of the squad. “What's important to me is to focus on what relates to me and be a part of the group in a positive way no matter what the situation is.

“These current circumstances are the sort of thing every player comes across, it's normal and it often depends on the convictions of a trainer,” added Oman’s national team captain. “As I mentioned, in my years as a player, and in Europe, I've seen circumstances like these, and perhaps tougher ones. You have to be with the group.”

35-year-old Al Habsi only joined the Riyadh outfit last month, returning to the Middle East from Football Championship club Reading F.C., despite having agreed a contract extension with Dutch coach Jaap Stam just last January.

Under the tutelage of the former Manchester United, Ajax and Lazio centre-back, Reading reached the play-off finals of the Championship, giving them a shot at returning to the Premier League on the back of a campaign which saw Al Habsi receive the club’s Player of the Season Award.

Despite beating Fulham 2-1 on aggregate, though, the Berkshire outfit suffered heartache when Huddersfield Town beat them 5-4 on penalties in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium, consigning the Royals to another season in the Championship.

With plenty of European experience under his belt, former Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic goalie Al Habsi is looking to aid his new side in the best possible manner.

“We are one group with united goals and ambitions, which is making this season a special one, whether in the league or the Asian cup, and hopefully in the King's Cup,” he revealed. “Like I said and repeated. I came here for three seasons. I hope to accomplish many ambitions, whether they belong to Ali al Habsi or Al Hilal.

“People say many things about why I left the English league, but I came here out of full conviction,” added Al Habsi, who was the first man from the Middle East to play in Europe, in addition to becoming the first man from the region to win the FA Cup, doing so when his Wigan side beat Manchester City 1-0 in the 2013 FA Cup Final.

“God willing, I hope to give it my all for three seasons, supporting players, and if the team needs me to help them, I am ready to serve,” he said.

Al Hilal’s Champions League fixtures see them play the United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in the UAE on the 21st of August.

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