Wiganâ€™s Omani goalie Ali Al Habsi just may be the finest Muslim goalkeeper in the world. He is certainly starting to make his mark in arguably the finest soccer league in the world, the English Premier League. Currently still an employee of Bolton of the EPL, Al Habsi has been on loan to fellow English League members Wigan since July of 2010. And most recently, Al Habsi was instrumental in helping Wigan to a 1-1 draw with EPL power Liverpool. For his recent efforts, Al Habsi was voted Player of the Month for Wigan Football Club by its fans, garnering 91% of the vote. He would have to be considered the odds on favorite for Wigan Player of the Season as well, with his stellar play since arriving there last summer.
The 29-year-old Al Habsi started playing professionally in his home country before going abroad to play in Norway in 2003, thus becoming the first Omani to play international football in Europe. And in 2004, as a member of the club Lyn Oslo, he was named Norwegian Goalkeeper of the Year. In January of 2006 he was purchased by the Bolton Wanderers of the English Premier League. He did not receive regular action until the 2007-2008 season, and he continued to play sporadically with Bolton even after that, before being sent to Wigan on loan in July of 2010. And it is at Wigan that he has really blossomed, so much so that Wigan are keen to acquire him on a permanent basis, as they try to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The Muscat-born Al Habsi has 70 international appearances for his home country. And he has been named the top goalkeeper in four installments of the Gulf Cup of Nations, including in 2009 when he did not allow a single goal in the entire tournament. Ali will likely have retired by the time Oman hosts the soccer World Cup in 2022, but he is doing his part to put Oman on the tips of everyoneâ€™s tongues in advance of that glorious event. He may be playing for tiny Wigan Athletic at the moment, but he is getting noticed by the big boys. And he just may strike the fancy of one of those big clubs one of these days.