football

End of an era as Ali Al Habsi leaves England

Pioneering Oman goalkeeper says goodbye to Reading as he joins Saudi’s Al Hilal

16:07 July 17, 2017
Ali Al Habsi

Dubai: Oman keeper Ali Al Habsi signed up for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal from English Championship side Reading, it was confirmed on Monday.

The 35-year-old Omani posted on twitter: “Today I officially announce that I am moving to Al Hilal, one of the greatest clubs in Saudi Arabia and Asia.

“It was surely a tough decision to take. I have spent a great two years at Reading. It felt like home with friends, family and teammates.

“No one can imagine the support and love that I received from the fans and club. It was a one of a kind experience.

“I am sure that Reading will do great next season, especially with a perfect manager like Jaap Stam, you will push forward and will have excellent results.”

Reading just missed out on promotion to the Premier League last season, losing the Championship play-off final 4-3 on penalties to Huddersfield at Wembley.

Saudi Arabia have also just allowed their clubs to sign foreign goalkeepers for the first time this summer.

Al Habsi was the first GCC footballer to make it in the Premier League, signing for Bolton Wanderers from Norway’s Lyn Oslo in 2006. He went onto join Wigan Athletic on loan in 2010 and later permanently in 2011 before a loan spell at Brighton in 2014, followed by his move to Reading in 2015.

The highlight of his career is perhaps dodging relegation with Wigan in 2011/12 before going onto win the FA Cup with the Latics the following season, although he was on the bench for the final.

Wigan were also relegated from the Premier League the week after their FA Cup Final win over Manchester City. Another memorable moment of his career while in England includes saving a screamer from Franck Ribery in a 2-2 draw away to Bayern Munich in the Uefa Cup group stages while at Bolton in 2007.

Al Hilal are record 14-time Saudi champions and two time Asian Champions League winners. Al Habsi will make his debut when the Riyadh-based club take on UAE-side Al Ain in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League on August 21. The club are currently in Austria on a pre-season camp.

Al Habsi, the captain of the Omani national team, has 118 caps for his country,