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Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

Oman's Ahmed Mubarak was named man of the match in his side's semifinal victory over Bahrain in the Gulf Cup. (AFP)
DUBAI: Oman captain Ahmed Mubarak had triple reason to celebrate on Tuesday. He reached the Gulf Cup final, was named man of the match and became a father.
“I dedicate this win to my dear wife and my new born baby,” he said following Oman’s 1-0 victory over Bahrain in Kuwait. “We haven’t named him yet, so we have to look into this now. I was a bit nervous but I finally received the good news [about becoming a father] before the match. I am glad to have been named man of the match. Credit goes to my teammates who have all fought hard and helped me play well. Bahrain were a strong team and applied a lot of pressure on us, especially in the second half, but we managed to get the all-important win.”
Naming his son will probably be the easier task for Mubarak than facing neighbors and favorites UAE in Friday’s final. The two contested the 2007 final, with the Whites lifting the trophy on that occasion. Oman will be out for revenge.
Mubarak has fond memories of facing the UAE on Kuwaiti soil, having scored his maiden international goal in a 2-0 win against the Whites at the 2003 Gulf Cup. He is optimistic of repeating the result. “I hope I can bring the trophy home,” he said. “It would be a great gift for my family and for our fans.”
The veteran midfielder, 32, was a key cog in the Oman sides that reached the Gulf Cup final in 2004 and 2007, losing twice before finally winning the title on home turf in 2009 alongside the likes of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Al-Habsi missed the opportunity to make a fourth appearance in the final, as his club side Al-Hilal refused to make him available for national team duty, but his replacement Fayez Al-Rashidi has been one of the stars of the tournament.
Oman’s No. 18 is yet to concede a single goal from open play in the tournament. In fact, the only player to beat him was UAE’s Ali Mabkhout from the spot in the opening match. Al-Rashidi’s heroics between the sticks ensured Al-Habsi was missed by the Reds.
“Whether it is me or Ali, we all just try to represent the Sultanate in the best way possible,” said Rashidi. “I am thankful that I was able to step up and perform so well in this tournament. We did a good job against a difficult Bahrain side and made it to the final. I would like to thank our fans who turned out in good numbers and supported us. I hope we see even more fans in the final. We are now very close to the title and we will give our best to win on Friday and do our fans proud.”