Al Jazira shot-stopper thanks former Arsenal keeper for his constant encouragement
Al Ain: Al Jazira keeper Ali Khaseif credited his goalkeeping coach Manuel Almunia — the former Arsenal keeper — for his inspired performance between the posts on Wednesday. The Emirati shot-stopper won the Man of the Match award for his clean sheet against Auckland in Al Jazira’s 1-0 Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final play-off win at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
“I managed that with the help of God and our goalkeeping coach,” said Khaseif of Almunia, who played over 100 games under Arsene Wenger between 2004 and 2012. “He gives me so much encouragement in training. And my teammates’ performances are also a source of motivation.”
Almunia said of Khaseif’s heroics: “Ali was exceptional and showed remarkable confidence. He played really well. This competition is the perfect fit for him, because he’s a top keeper, as he proved today.”
Al Jazira were playing with a young side but the 30-year-old keeper-captain kept them in it, surviving a second half barrage from the Kiwis.
“I tried to pass on my experience on to the younger players during the match, as a lot of them are performing at this level for the first time.”
Al Jazira are now through to the quarter-finals and play Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds at Abu Dhabi Zayed Sports City on Saturday, but Khaseif isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“We know Real Madrid are coming, but we are focusing only on our next game and only; after we pass that, can we think about what comes next,” he said.
Urawa Red Diamonds qualified to the Fifa Club World Cup by winning the Asian Champions League, a tournament within which UAE league champions Al Jazira couldn’t even get out of the group. With that in mind Urawa will be favourites, but that doesn’t take into account Al Jazira’s home support.
“There are no minnows in this tournament and we saw what Urawa are capable of in the Asian Champions League,” said Khaseif.
“Now that we’ve conquered our fears, we must represent Emirati football with honour.
“I thank the effort of my teammates for allowing me to win this man of the match award, thanks to God, we won,” he said of the Auckland game.
“Now we can rest a little and tomorrow start preparing for the next game.
“Al Jazira doesn’t just represent itself but also the whole of the UAE now, and I would like to thank our leadership and extend this win to them, we also remember our martyrs and remember them in this victory.”