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
0

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.”


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 21 April 2018
0

Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #WengerOut believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.