A TV grab of Reading FC goalkeeper and Oman captain Ali al Habsi lying on the ground at Wembley on Monday night - his gloved hands covering his face in despair following the loss to Huddersfield Town on penalties in the English Championship playoff final - left hundreds of Omani fans heartbroken.
The final had generated a lot of interest in Oman with football fans hoping that the 35 year old Habsi and his team Reading would make it to the English Premier League next season.
However, it was not to be as Huddersfield edged past Reading 4-3 in a shootout that not only promoted David Wagner's side, but also gave the club a windfall of at least US$219mn over the next three seasons for earning the promotion.
A dejected Habsi later told Muscat Daily that he and his teammates 'have to be very proud' of themselves despite the heartbreaking shootout defeat.
After a goalless draw in regulation-time, Habsi's Royals led 3-1 in the shootout after the Omani star had saved Michael Hefele's attempt. But misses from the spot by Liam Moore and Jordan Obita gave
Huddersfield the initiative and Christopher Schindler shot in the winning spot-kick to fire Huddersfield to the Premier League.
“Sometimes, you do your best, but results just don't come. It’s very hard to take,” said Habsi. “We have to be very proud of ourselves. We’ve been fantastic all season, everyone in the club. Players, staff and fans worked really hard to reach the final.
Habsi’s season was spectacular as he made 149 saves, the most by any stopper in the Championship.
“In the game, we did really well for 120 minutes. One team has to win and I want to say congratulations to Huddersfield and wish them all the best in the Premier League.”
Habsi said the players have to use Monday's defeat as a learning curve. “Hopefully, this makes us come back stronger next year. I’m sure we will be stronger. We believe in our manager [Jaap Stam] and we believe in ourselves. I’m sure we can do it again.”
Habsi thanked his fans in UK and Oman and said, “To all our dear fans and supporters, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with us throughout the season. We should never give up, no matter how hard the situation is, we will always believe that something beautiful is going to happen.”
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