To host the Gulf Cup is something special, but we want to make our country feel proud by winning this tournament. Losing the last two finals to Qatar and the UAE was very disappointing. It is a feeling you don't want to have again. We thought we could have won both those finals, but we did not. That is football and whether you lose by penalties or one goal, you just try again. You need to work hard, and you need luck. Hopefully this will be third time lucky for us.
We have a good chance. Our preparation has been fantastic, but the country can get behind us and give us the inspiration. Everything feels right. Just looking around Muscat you can see what it means. The cars have Omani flags on them, the people are excited and talking about it, telling us we must win. Our supporters will give us a lot of power. There will be pressure on the team, we know this, but we also hope the fans will lift us.
I saw this happen in Qatar in 2004 and the UAE in 2007 when they both won at home. In the Emirates, people did not expect them to do so and maybe they did not play the best football, but the team raised their game to become champions and the fans helped. It is hard to say who are the favourites because this is not a competition like the Asian Cup. This is an Arab country against another Arab country, a derby match, so there is a lot of pride at stake and if you lose one game, you could be out.
We want to do this for our people. We know how much it will mean to them - just like it did for the Emirates. When one wins for the first time, especially a smaller team, it lifts everyone and helps football develop in that country. That is what we hope for and we need because we want to grow, to create good players for the future. We have a tough group, the toughest. Iraq are the Asian champions; you cannot forget that and they still have the same players who helped them win that in 2007.
Bahrain have given us some tough games in the World Cup qualifiers and they will be strong again while Kuwait have won this competition nine times before. In Group B, the Yemen will find it very hard against the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. All these teams have a chance of winning the cup. They have good strikers like Ismail Matar, Yasser al Qahtani and Sebastian Soria and that can make a difference.
But we are working well as a team. Our new coach, Claude le Roy, has been fantastic so we feel confident. We need to win something to give everyone in Oman a lift and deserve to win something after coming so close. I hope this will be our time. I have not been playing in the first team for Bolton this season, but I have been training hard and played in the friendlies. You have to be ready to play at any time and I am ready. I have won the Best Keeper award in the last three Gulf Cup tournaments and I hope I can do it again.
In November, His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, conferred the Oman Civil Order (4th class) on me in recognition of my service to sport and it was a great honour. I am the first sportsman to receive this medal and now I want to repay my country with the Gulf Cup. firstname.lastname@example.org