x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ali Al Habsi: 'The time for Omar Abdulrahman to move is now'

Wigan No 1 Ali Al Habsi says Al Ain playmaker will make it in Europe.

AL Ain's Omar Abdulrahman.
AL Ain's Omar Abdulrahman.

WIGAN, ENGLAND // Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman should move to Europe immediately. That is the verdict of Wigan Athletic's Omani goalkeeper, Ali Al Habsi.

"The time is now for him," said Al Habsi, who left Oman to further his career with a move to Norway a decade ago when he was 21, the same age as Abdulrahman now.

"He's still young enough. If he waits, then it will be too late for him.

"He needs to be surrounded by the best players possible, the best coaches and the best professional environment, which you would get at a good European club."

Playmaker Abdulrahman had a trial with Manchester City, the Premier League champions, last August and the club remains interested in him, though he returned to Al Ain.

Several European clubs are reportedly watching him and last month he revealed he had turned down a one-year loan move to Portuguese giants Benfica.

Al Habsi is not surprised European clubs are scouting the UAE star.

"Abdulrahman has all the qualities to make it as a top player," he said.

"He has quality throughout his game to make the step up, but he'd have to work on his fitness and become better physically. He certainly has all the skill though, he's fantastic."

Al Habsi proved that a Muslim footballer from the Gulf can establish himself in a top league like the Premier League, despite the cultural differences.

"If Abdulrahman has an offer for a team in Europe, then he should take it," said Al Habsi. "From my experience - and I talk of someone from the same religion who had to leave my family - I would say that he has to be prepared to move. If you want to be a top-level footballer, you have to go for it. You have to have a target and aim for it. Everything else comes second and you have to work around it."

Al Habsi found the move to Norway difficult, but now says he is very settled in England, where he is the only player from the Arabian Gulf region in the top flight.

"Had I stayed in Oman, my career would have stalled," he says. "I had to make the next step up to Norway - and then another step to England, which he thinks would be the best option for Abdulrahman.

"People think that it might be difficult to be a top footballer in Ramadan, but it's not. I was used to it and so was my body, it was no problem.

"It's no issue for other players, either, because the Premier League is very cosmopolitan and England is a tolerant society.

"That's one of the best things about living in England. Respect is given to you, no matter what your religion or colour."

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