Legend Ali Al Habsi's legacy lives on at Wigan Athletic
It’s more than six years since Ali Al Habsi left Wigan Athletic, but his legacy lives on in the rebuild under Phoenix 2021 Limited.
Chairman Talal Al Hammad even namechecked Al Habsi in his opening statement following the completion of the takeover, as a reason why he’d first become aware of Latics.
And Al Habsi – a national hero in Oman, a neighbouring state to Bahrain – sees only good things ahead for a club and a town he still affectionately refers to as ‘home’.
“Yes, it was a very, very proud moment for me to hear that from the new owners,” said Al Habsi, speaking exclusively to Wigan Today from his home in Oman.
“Things like that mean so much to me, because I was representing my people in England.
“And it’s not just Oman...it’s also the other gulf countries like Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia.
“It meant so much to have someone playing in England, representing them in the Premier League.
“They would follow me, following Wigan while I was there, and obviously some will continue to do so as a result, which is great.
“The people here all want to see Wigan get back into the Premier League one day.
“And I think under the new owners, that is something that we can all dream about.”
Having watched on from afar with horror as his former club almost went out of business, Al Habsi believes Latics can now start to dream of a bright future again.
“I definitely see good times ahead for Wigan,” he said.
“The owners have already sent money to get the right players into the club. The facilities they have there, the stadium, are all fantastic, everything is set up to do well.
“It just needs a little push in the right direction.
“It was so difficult to see what’s happened over the last year – both at Wigan and in the world as a whole.
"But hopefully things are now starting to get better, the fans are back inside the stadium and the outlook is more positive.”
Al Habsi retired from football last year at the age of 38, but any notion of stepping back from the limelight is a total non-starter.
“Everywhere I go I get recognised, which is very nice,” he added, with pride. “It’s great to have that love and respect from the people, I enjoy it.
“To have been the only player from Oman to play in England, in the Premier League, it’s different.
“Most of the players there will have come through the English Academy system, but my journey was different.
“And that’s why it means so much to the people here, because they saw what I had to do to get there.
“They followed me every step of the way, and it was special for them as well.
“All the sacrifices I made were worth it, because of the good times I had at Wigan, and also Bolton and Reading.
“And I hope to visit again soon to see everyone.
“Things have obviously been very difficult travel-wise over the last year or so.
"But I hope to be able to come back ‘home’ and say hello.”
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