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)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

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.”


From Wembley to Drew Brees — What we learned from Week 8 in the NFL

Updated 23 October 2018
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From Wembley to Drew Brees — What we learned from Week 8 in the NFL

  • At the sixth time of asking, London finally delivered a game of gridiron worth watching
  • Drew Brees became the third quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams

America’s Game was back in London and Drew Brees once again added to the record books. Here is what else we learned from Week 8 in the NFL: 

London lights it up
At last. At the sixth time of asking, London finally delivered a game of gridiron worth watching. The Titans and the Chargers played out a nail-biting 20-19 thriller at Wembley, delivering a contest the expectant British crowd had been longing for. The main talking point, however, was Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s decision to go for a two-point attempt after a late touchdown. Had he sent out Ryan Succop for the extra point the game would have gone into overtime — beyond that, who knows? It was a gutsy call, that worked earlier in the month against the Philadelphia Eagles. This time, it did not come off. But it made for great drama and a game the London fans will remember for a long time.

Brees brilliance
We cannot stop waxing lyrical about Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints star just keeps getting better with age. Already a colossus of the sport, he joined an elite club of quarterbacks after his side’s exhilarating 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. After completing 22 of 30 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams, he now has 501 touchdown passes in his career. Brees now ranks alongside Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Tom Brady (504). For some, including me, his legacy may be slightly tarnished owing to him only having one Super Bowl ring, but if he continues on this trajectory, the statistics will silence even his harshest critics.

Pathetic punts
Those less familiar with gridiron look at kickers and see one of the easiest jobs in sport. Rarely challenged by distance, never challenged with an angled kick — a kick in NFL does appear to be one of sport’s certainties. But this week, we got a reminder that an NFL kick is not quite as certain as death or taxes. First, the Ravens’ Justin Tucker inexplicably missed the first conversion in his career, which meant the Saints gifted Baltimore the win. Then Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher got the raw end of a snap infraction penalty against divisional rivals Washington, which meant his 52-yard kick (that should have been a 47-yard one) struck the post. Two games settled by bad kicks. Who says NFL kicking is easy?

Rams on the charge
We really need to start taking the Los Angeles Rams seriously as Super Bowl contenders. They might have surprised us in the first few weeks, but after their demolition of the San Francisco 49ers at the weekend, Jared Goff and his offense are genuinely the real deal. The Rams are the only 100 percent team left in the league, and unless they have a disastrous second half of the season, the City of Angels might well be celebrating its first Super Bowl success since the Raiders’ win in 1984.