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Stand-in skipper Ali reflects on ‘a proud moment’

17 April 2016

Stopper discusses donning the armband and defeat in Leeds

On Saturday afternoon, Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi became the first Arab goalkeeper to wear the captain’s armband for a professional English club.

In the absence of club captain Paul McShane, the Omani stopper was handed the armband for the afternoon as the Royals took on Leeds United at Elland Road.  He has over a century of caps for his country, most of which have been earned as the skipper, but it was the first time he has led the team out of the tunnel for a club fixture.  After the fixture, Ali discussed his pride at having the chance to captain Reading.

علي الحبسي أول لاعب عربي آسيوي يصبح قائداً لنادي إنجليزي اليوم في مباراة ريدنج أمام ليدز يونايتد. 🇴🇲

— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) April 16, 2016

“It is a very proud moment for me and for my family to be a captain of this football club,” said Ali.  “It is a huge thing for me and I am so pleased to have this opportunity to be captain of the team.  Thanks to everyone who gave me their confidence and I hope to give more for this club.

“I have been the captain of the national team for a long time, but this is a big moment; I think I am the first Arab player to be captain of an English football team, and so that is a big moment for me.

“It is great for me to have the confidence of the fans, the manager, the staff and the football club.  The most important thing for me now is to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep working hard at every single moment. 

“We’re not in the position that we want, but that is football.  You always have to work very hard.  But I am very happy to play for this football club and today is a big moment for me and my family, both here and at home in Oman.”

Indeed, Reading slipped behind Leeds in the Championship standings on Saturday as the hosts edged a five-goal thriller.

The Royals went ahead through Jamaican defender Michael Hector late in the first half – but after the break Toumani Diagouraga and Chris Wood each netted with headed efforts to put the hosts in command.  Deniss Rakels pounced ten minutes from time to level up again and give Reading hopes of getting at least a point, but Wood capitalised on a slip to net Leeds’ decisive third.

“The result is very disappointing, especially after what we showed in the first half,” Ali said.  “It was a fantastic performance and we scored the first goal and we had a lot of chances to score more goals and then control the game in the second half.

“The second half didn’t start the way that we wanted; they scored two goals from crosses, but we came back into the game and scored ourselves.  But then they scored again in the last five minutes – it was unlucky.

“Sometimes when you are away from home and you don’t take the chances you have – especially like the ones we had in the first half – you can get punished.  They didn’t have a lot of chances but they scored three goals.

“So we’re very disappointed.  In midweek we had a great performance but we lost the game in the last minute, and today it was the same kind of scenario.  But we have to keep going and keep working really hard in the last four games.  We have another game this week against Hull City so hopefully we’ll have a good recovery and be ready.

“When you show this form, the results will come.  We had two games away from home and put in two very good performances, but got nothing.  We have to keep going until the end of the season and we will try to make the fans happy on Tuesday when we play Hull at Madejski Stadium.”

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