Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Tuesday November 23 2010
Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi has been in great form of late and it is fantastic news that the Oman international is set to keep his gloves firmly in the UK this week and play for the Latics on Saturday at West Ham rather than line up for his country in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Oman are the current holders of a competition that sees countries from in and around the Gulf compete in a tournament that holds a great deal of importance in the region, this years competition is being held in the Yemen and Oman are due to play their opening game against Bahrain on Tuesday (22/11/10).
The tournament is set to run until 4th December and if he had decided to participate Al-Habsi would have been sorely missed back in Wigan with the form he has been showing this season.
Al-Habsi says that his heart and mind will be with Oman but he realises that it is important , on this occasion at least, to put club before country, Al-Habsi said: "To be honest, my mind and heart is over there with my country, and I wish them all the best.
"It is a big competition, with millions of people watching on TV.
"But I have made my decision and I want to concentrate all my attention on Wigan, because this is my team now.
"It would have been hard to fly back home for the tournament and then come back here and hope to keep my place.
"I`ll have to make do with watching on TV, but hopefully Oman can do well without me - and we are the reigning champions.
"As soon as I have finished training I`ll be straight off home to watch the games and cheer them on."
"I am enjoying myself and I know I have a job to do here"
"This is a great opportunity for myself, and one I have waited a long, long time for.
"This is what I want, and I am determined to get as much as I can from my season-long loan.
"I`m not just doing it for myself, I`m doing it for my country - because it`s a big thing for me to be playing regularly in the Premier League.
"Hopefully I can continue doing well here and Oman can win the Gulf Cup without me. That would be the dream for me and I`m confident they can win it because the squad is full of good players. But it`s a very tough competition to win, I promise you."
Latics boss Roberto Martinez says that with the club in the bottom three and struggling with fit goalkeepers it was important for Al-Habsi to stay
Martinez says: "We`ve monitored the situation until the very last minute due to our great relationship with the Oman FA, but in our present league position and the situation with our goalkeepers, it was impossible for us to allow Ali to go to the Gulf Cup.
"He understands, and the Oman FA understand as well."
Ali Al-Habsi in great form
Image courtesy of Bernard Platt/Wigan Athletic
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Date:Tuesday November 23 2010
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