Al Habsi yearns for Olympic spot
Ali Al Habsi
Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi has confirmed he intends to play in this summer's Olympics should Oman emerge victorious from Monday night's play-off against Senegal.
Al Habsi has not been involved in the qualification process so far but Latics boss Roberto Martinez gave Al Habsi permission to join up with his fellow countrymen immediately after Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Fulham. For now, his presence is purely motivational.
However, should Oman make it through, Al Habsi wants to be involved in the first major tournament his country would ever have reached.
"I would love to be part of the Olympics," he told Press Association Sport. "I have played many games in the Premier League but this is something different. It would be the first time in our history we had ever qualified for a tournament such as this.
"That is why I want to be with the Olympic team this week and be behind the players, so every time they look, they will see me. It is going to be far harder than any game I have played. It is a dream and everyone involved has to give everything."
Victory will not be easy. After all, unlike Oman, Senegal have a history of reaching major competitions and, in Wigan team-mate Mohamed Diame, Al Habsi knows there will be at least one colleague at the Ricoh Arena not rooting for the Asian nation.
However, it does mark another step forward in the advancement of football within the Middle East, which has been lagging behind whilst other areas of the world have made rapid progress in challenging the traditional superpowers of Europe and South America.
"As a region, we are late starters," said the 30-year-old. "But small things are making a difference for everybody.
"Sheikh Mansour is doing amazing things at Manchester City, Qatar has the World Cup, which is amazing. We had the Under-20s World Cup in UAE and Qatar.
"Now all the young players watch me a lot in the Premier League. They have the same dream."